“Fish, glorious fish!,” said the travel brochure I read, “Seafood restaurants in the French Quarter of New Orleans have the best on the Gulf Coast”.
Because I love fish, I got all excited, imagining a week of feasting on delicious tuna and salmon, sea bass, haddock, cod, fillet of sole, etc., yum-yum. Before Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans’ French Quarter was a bohemia of jazz, antique shops, vintage bookstores, tourist shops, and seafood restaurants. That is when my visit took place.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered that seafood meant shellfish, namely shrimp, crab, lobster, eels, oysters, mussels, cockels, caviar, and escargot. Because the others were too expensive, I only ordered shrimp, lobster, clams, crabs, and one meal of oysters.
I ate tiger, regular, and baby shrimps, pink and white shrimps. Shrimp resembled a curly seashell, although unlike seashells which are partially covered and have one open side, shrimp was folded lengthwise and completely closed. It tasted very salty. Lobster is known as a crustacean. It has a head, body, arms and legs, and a tail. Its skin tends to be tough, but the fish inside is tender, white, and fluffy. I had a rough time cutting the fish from its shell. The lobster also tasted salty. Clams resemble a round case that opens on one side. The fish comes out when you open the shell. The clams did not tasted salty but tasted fishy. My favourite seafood in New Orleans was the clam.
Crabs have bodies with arms and legs and resemble a crescent moon, also tasting very salty. Oysters in Louisiana were expensive, so I only ate them for one dinner. They are a shell that is opened up to be eaten. My dinner contained five oysters which I ate with my hands. Tradition has it that before oyster shells are harvested for food, they contain pearls which are removed by the fishermen. Many a fisherman will become wealthy and leave fishing for a life of leisure if he finds a valuable pearl. Beef and chicken were available in Louisiana, but they tend to be adorned with one or both of two hot sauces containing tomato.
One day, I took a tour of the swamps and bayous in the backwoods concessions of Louisiana, located behind New Orleans. Here dwell the Cajuns who are descendants of the original French settlers in Louisiana and French settlers from Quebec and the Maritime Provinces of Canada who left after the British took over New France in 1763. They are called Cajuns because of the distinct dialect of French that they speak.