Oct. 13, 2022, Jessica Cuevas
PCAC Session 1
After a long drive Wednesday evening to Louisiana, we were up and early to attend our first Academic Conference – The Popular Culture Association in the South! The three presenters for the Film and Noir session were Professor Yawn, Matthew Wysocki of Flagler College, and Lauren Mitchell of Vanderbilt.
Professor Yawn presented over “A Simple Plan,” directed by Sam Raini, (most famously known for the Evil Dead movies).
He argued that the film is best understood by looking at it from a tragic framework, with questions of free will and fate, the allure of the American dream at its center, and the tension between brothers.
The motif of “brotherhood” is seen again in “Only God forgives,” which Matthew Wysocki addressed in his presentation. More elaborately, though, it addresses the role of mother. Crystal, an untraditional mother if ever there was one, uses manipulation and raw power to gain even more power, abandoning all of what would normally be regarded as traditional maternal behavior.
Lauren Mitchell presented her paper over the movie “Hereditary. ” This film continues the theme of motherhood, highlighting the difficult time we have of seeing mothers as real people, who sometimes becomes mothers despite not wanting children, who sacrifice goals and hopes and dreams for others.
We successfully survived, and even enjoyed our first academic conference, and embarked on our way to our next stop!
Brunch at Elizabeth’s
This afternoon, we drove down to Elizabeth’s Restaurant right next to the Mississippi River. We started with an assortment of appetizers; boudin balls, fried green tomatoes, (some with seafood!), and possibly the strangest of the bunch, praline bacon. While we waited for the starters, we learned that many foods that we love in the US originated in New Orleans, either by invention or through trade. This includes pralines, which originated in France, but which was improved on in New Orleans, and then spread mostly through the South.
My favorite of the selection was the boudin balls, Morgan favored the fried green tomatoes, and for Yvette it was the praline bacon.
To maximize on adventure and try new (to us) flavors, we ordered four main dishes. For our main course, Morgan and Victoria ordered the shrimp and grits; the ratio of shrimp and grits was perfect.
Jessica played it safe with the avocado toast, with a poached egg. Although to her credit, the toast did have some NOLA spice to it, and she paired it with a side of grits.
Yvette chose the duck waffles, which she enjoyed but deemed too spicy, a recurring motif throughout the trip (and from what I gathered, throughout her life).
I picked the sweet meal out of the bunch and had banana foster French toast, which was delicious!
For dessert, we had bread pudding and pecan pie. The bread pudding was average, not the table’s favorite, but the pecan pie was amazing, better than any I’ve had in Texas.
Thoroughly stuffed and with high expectations for our next NOLA meal, we embarked on our adventure!
With a bit of downtime, we hustled over to a City Park, one highlighting civil rights. It was the site of Homer Plessy’s train ride, where he spurred a test case on Jim Crow laws.
Unfortunately, Plessy lost in 1896, and the doctrine of “Separate but Equal” became shameful precedent in the US, not replaced until 1954’s Brown v. Board of Education.
While at the Plessy site, we also looked over the rest of the park, taking in some of NOLA’s civil rights heroes.
Zooming through NOLA
We have concluded over three separate LEAP trips that there is no better way to learn more about a new city than by Segway, and we did just that in NOLA! Our excellent tour guide, John, with Nation Tours did a great job explaining the richness of history, architecture, and culture in New Orleans. So as the LEAP Ambassadors took their Segways through the French Quarter to the Mississippi River, we all gained a deeper understanding of NOLA.
John frequently time-traveled and described what the city was like in days past. Some of the tour was a refresher on previous history lessons, while other parts were new information. We learned that NOLA went through 4 major governing shifts. The city was initially founded by the French, taken over by the Spanish, fell again under French rule, and then finally doubled the size of the U.S. in 1803 with the Louisiana Purchase.
Next, we headed to Jackson Square. This central location is deemed such because of the “Hero of New Orleans,” Andrew Jackson, and his unexpected victory as General at the Battle of New Orleans in early 1815. This was a major win for the United States because it spared the US the prospect of the British having control over the mouth of the Mississippi.
Perhaps the prime feature of Jackson Square must be the stunning, almost 300-year-old, St. Louis Cathedral. This Cathedral is one of the oldest in the country and was founded during Spanish occupation!
Our jaws dropped when we discovered we were stepping in front of the oldest Cathedral. We could not miss a photo opportunity!
Up next, Bourbon Street! Here we learned more about the Spanish stock architecture and the fantastic bars that perform the best jazz in New Orleans. this blend of modern-day culture, with historic surroundings is the city’s largest source of revenue Pre-covid, NOLA saw millions of tourists each year, and now those numbers are significantly lower. In fact, without tourists, there is genuinely no thriving NOLA since no revenue is being made.
No matter your age, interests, taste, there is something to be found by everyone in NOLA!
New Orleans felt like its own country. The way the people, location, and everything else are something we are not used to. We are so grateful we were able to learn so much on the Segway Tour guided by John; thank you so much!
Dinner at Oceana
To conclude our evening, we stopped at the corner of Conti and Bourbon for yet another taste of NOLA. Oceana is popular for having a wide variety of NOLA standards, such as oysters, po’boys, and étouffée to name just a few.
To start, we stuck with our trend of an assortment of appetizers including, gator tail bites, boudin balls, fresh, Rockefeller oysters, and chargrilled oysters. For Ashley and me, this was our first time to try oysters and we had slightly different reactions. Ashley tried the Rockefeller oysters and determined they were not her favorite. I tried all three and enjoyed the Rockefeller the most! Everyone enjoyed the boudin balls, and we all agreed that alligator tastes a lot like chicken.
For our main meals, we once again mimicked family style, and tried many new flavors. Victoria and I split a blackened redfish, with a side of greens, Yvette and Jessica ventured out with the taste of New Orleans (creole jambalaya, crawfish étouffée, red beans and rice with smoked sausage), Ashley had the fried shrimp platter, and Professor Yawn and Stephanie split the Bayou Duck.
Verdicts were split on what the best entrée was, but at least three out of seven favored the blackened redfish. The flavors were once again unique but fantastic, a trip to NOLA could be made simply for the food.
Despite having little room for dessert (except for Stephanie because she effectively planned) we selected three options carrot cake, la boehme crème brule, and of course, bread pudding. The bread pudding was easily the favorite, but everyone enjoyed the sweet treats to end our wonderful meal!
We might have seen Bourbon St. during the day, but it was almost a completely new place after dark. Our steps fell in time to the bass of the music around us, and it almost felt like a runway with the flashing lights. If it is true that anyone can find something on Bourbon St, it’s even more true at night. Being only a Thursday night, however, we might gone at a slightly better time as it was not insanely busy.
Not wanting to linger on Bourbon Street and needing some sleep, we headed back to our hotels, to get rest for another day of learning and fun tomorrow.