She's a picky vegetarian, and therefore uninterested in fish with any sort of head still attached to it, or shrimp with legs still on, or cold seafood in general.
"Just order the noodles," we keep saying, but she doesn't listen.
She always orders an exotic-sounding appetizer from the Tolstoy novel of a menu and it remains cold on the table while we give her little plates of our noodle dishes.
"They should tell you that the shrimp are going to be COLD…" she said at our most recent outing there, enthusiatically suggesting we all get dessert because she's still starving.
I know how she feels. I've ordered the wrong thing before.
Take last year, when I ordered the wrong thing at a fancy restaurant with my best friend Meredith.
I chose the duck because nom nom nom nom ILoveBirds, but Meredith's fish dish with its crystal hot sauce "beurre-blanc" was hands down way more tasty than my duck, especially when I found out that foie gras was not French for figs.
It's hard to figure out what to order all the time. Figuring out the absolute best option when you're presented with a million of them.
This was the challenge for Jazz Fest, and any music festival, really, where there are literally hundreds of options in terms of food, music, art, stages, modes of transportation, type of alcohol you plan to sneak into the fairgrounds ….
(uh, for example.)
AND GUESS WHAT??? I ORDERED ALL THE RIGHT THINGS THIS YEAR!!!! (No heads on shrimp)
(haha sorry joy)
For those who don't know, the food at Jazz Fest is a close second to the music.
I don't know if this is the case at other big music festivals, but probably not. This is New Orleans. We must offer good food options or else no one would show up.
(What do they serve at Coachella? Kale smoothies? Twig peppermints?!??)
For the four days I attended Jazz Fest, I had, in no particular order: Pecan Catfish, Crawfish Strudel, shrimp and grits, yakamein, Crawfish Monica and a mango freeze.
All good choices!! And aside from the crawfish Monica, it was all food I had never eaten at Jazz Fest before, a big move for someone slightly less picky than my twin sister.
A friend recommended the crawfish strudel, but everything else I ate was just by chance. Oh, look, I like pecans. Pecan Catfish it is! And it was actually the most delicious thing I've ever eaten. Truth.
I will dream about it for the next 365 days.
Several people I talked to didn't order the right thing.
An Australian guy I met said he ordered a fried pork chop po-boy and it was dry and gross.
"WHY THE HELL WOULD YOU ORDER THAT???" I asked, imaging a bone-in pork resting on a bun. "BLECH!!!!!"
(WHO APPROVED THAT ITEM???)
Another friend said he was disappointed with the soft shell crab poboy because the crabs were small and it cost $10 this year. Ain't nobody got time fa that!
But aside from the food, I also ordered the right things in who I saw perform, too. (I know! I HATE ME TOO!)
The week leading up to the festival, I poured through all the artists on the schedule (YouTube-ing some even) and made a list of the ones I wanted to see.
Being from New Orleans and living in New Orleans, I tried to choose artists I've never seen before and who I might never see again.
As such, blues legend Taj Mahal beat out local Trombone Shorty to close out the fest for me.
Local Kermit Ruffins I told myself to catch later that weekend playing at the bowling alley and instead salsa danced at the Congo Square stage during his set.
Unlike years past, where I've watched artists while saying WTF to myself (Simon and Garfunkel minus Garfunkel's voice??? Wyclef, have you been using a voice double all these years?? Bruce Hornsby…wait, no, he was actually really good)
I never once thought WTF this year, even though people did say The Black Keys dropped the ball.
(I'm not a super fan, I couldn't tell.)
Walking into Jazz Fest is so nostalgic, like going to the same summer camp every year and you remember what all the bunk beds look like and the figuration of the paddle boats or whatever.
I've been to more Jazz Fests in my life than not, and could walk to every stage with my eyes closed if I wanted to.
I hopped around to almost every stage, certainly every tent and saw, in chronological order: Voices of The Wetlands, Lost Bayou Ramblers, Magary Lord of Bahia - Brazil, Mississippi Rail Company, Big Sam's Funky Nation, Juan Luis Guerra y 440, Dave Matthews Band, B.B. King (epic), Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes, Henry Butler and Friends, an African Dance Performance from kids through the non-profit I worked at, Theresa Andersson, Shamar Allen and the Underdawgs, a special reprise of a play One Mo' Time (went with my parents, cute), Val and Love at the gospel tent (with my mom, cute), The Pine Leaf Boys, The Black Keys and Taj Mahal.
Ask me about them! They were all great.
But my favorite, favorite, favorite moment of jazz fest was on the "locals" Thursday.
One band I'm particularly fond of -- uhhhhh to a point of being creepy groupie gagagagagaga -- is a band called Johnny Sketch and The Dirty Notes.
I see them play almost every time they have a show, and they were one local act I was looking forward to hearing on the glorious Jazz Fest stage.
On that Thursday, all of our friends descended upon that stage to hear them as a meeting place because that day served as a memorial and tribute to Meredith's dad, who passed away exactly one year ago on that day.
(The Jazz Fest tribute to Mr. John had been decided months in advance. One big second line. We all took off work, Meredith's brother and his wife drove to town from Memphis.)
Members of Johnny Sketch know Meredith, and knew about our gathering.
It was almost at the end of their set when they surprised everyone by dedicating a song to Meredith and her family.
We all froze when we heard the name "Meredith" through the speakers and the words "special" and OMG the song was about sun coming through and shining down on special people and that was just a perfect metaphor for Meredith and her dad and no effing joke, the sun actually peeked out from the rain clouds when the song was played.
It was magical. It was a magical Jazz Fest moment.
So yea. We totally ordered the right thing.
I should have bought the whole band some pecan catfish.
Until next year.
Taj Mahal and 10 tubas, blues tent
Me and my mamma at Taj Mahal