I lived in New Orleans for a year, and it’s quite unlike any city I’ve ever experienced. In the short time I was there so many odd things happened that I have particularly sharp memories of those days. Just two blocks away from my apartment a Tulane student was murdered (a professor I knew – a man who always dressed in white – discovered her body); the case was never solved. I met a young woman who allowed birds to fly freely throughout her apartment. I often wandered around the French Quarter, where I bought a perfume called Pirate’s Gold and walked through the shops that sold everything from “voodoo dolls” to animal teeth in magic shops. I went to Mardi Gras and caught necklace after necklace of shiny green, purple and gold. I went to the World’s Fair, drank coffee with chicory, dated someone whose father had so many Mafia connections I never had to pay a parking ticket and who became the center of an infamous murder trial (he was accused of killing his wife. Imagine my astonishment when I couldn’t sleep one night and turned on “The New Detectives,” only to see an episode on this very case). I ate so many snow cones with the most wondrous flavors (I liked wedding cake.)
Living in New Orleans I felt alive.
All the colors, the tastes, the sounds of this city have stayed with me so perfectly. And sometimes, when I want to wrap myself in the past, I simply take out my tiny container of Pirate’s Gold perfume and smell, and there I am.
New Orleans also is famous for its pralines, which are called prah-leens, not pray-leens, as anyone who ever lived there will tell you. I ate plenty of these, too. Here’s a recipe I received from my grandmother:
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup cream
1/4 cup cream sherry
3 Tbsp. butter
1 cup pecans
Boil sugars, sherry and cream to soft-ball stage. Add butter and pecans. Beat until it starts to get thick, then drop by spoon fulls on wax paper.