The scale of the wreckage caused by Hurricane Katrina is immeasurable -- at least for now. While the official death toll stands at 59 according to the New York Times, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin has warned that as many as 10,000 people may have died. Add to this tragedy the huge refugee crisis, and the enormity of the event becomes difficult to wrap one's head around. The least that can be done right now is to help support the relief effort, and I have added links to the right to make online contributions to the Red Cross and America's Second Harvest.
Amid this enormous human upheaval, what happens to the culture of New Orleans? It's too soon to make a realistic assessment, but one must assume that a great deal of it has been permanently lost, submerged under so much dirty water.
This being a food blog, I have asked oral historian, photographer, and painter Amy Evans to contribute to The Food Section as a guest editor and provide some insights into the gastronomy of New Orleans and also consider what is now at stake at this dire moment in the city's history.
As the resident oral historian for the Southern Foodways Alliance (SFA), Evans has created a number of fascinating documentary projects exploring Southern food culture. She recently produced a project on the "Bartenders of New Orleans," which included her interviews and photographs. Based in Oxford, Mississippi, Evans has also created oral history projects on Memphis and Tennessee barbecue, among other regional food traditions and folkways, for the SFA Oral History Initiative. In recognition of her documentary work, she was recently nominated to SouthernArtistry.org by the Mississippi Arts Commission and named one of the "most fearsome talents" in the food world by Food & Wine magazine in 2004.
I'm very much looking forward to reading Amy Evans' posts to The Food Section in the coming days, and I want to express my deep appreciation to her for generously agreeing to guest-edit this site.
Photo: Carl Mydans, Marketplace in the French quarters of New Orleans, June 1936 (Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA-OWI Collection).