New Orleans Tastes Like Root Beer (Pt. 1)
If there is a quintessential flavor that embodies New Orleans when you taste it, it is the taste of Barq’s root beer, which is made from sarsaparilla instead of from sassafras as other, inferior, root beers are made. Sassafras is filé. Everyone knows that. Filé is for gumbo. Everyone knows that.
The flavor of Barq’s is like everything else about New Orleans. It is familiar enough that you can feel your way around what it is all about but it is uniquely different enough to be uncanny. New Orleans will catch you off balance. Imagine what it is like to live here. It is like being self-aware in a Twilight Zone episode, one of the cheerful ones, and definitely not the one in which they all had pig faces.
Everyone is beautiful in their own way in New Orleans and everyone knows they are appreciated. Except for my nextdoor neighbor, who I don’t get along with, I have never met anyone in New Orleans with whom I haven’t gotten along. People in New Orleans, my nextdoor neighbor excluded, are exhuberant to live in this wonderful city we all call home. To be a real, breathing New Orleanian is to be a part of something bigger. Dead Orleanians have it easy. They’re just here, all of them, here, all around us.
New Orleans is untamable. What makes New Orleans special is ineffable. New Orleans tastes like the best root beer you have ever tasted.
Remember: the population of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina was officially zero. The city was evacuated. Everyone who lives in New Orleans now lives here due to a conscious choice to do so.
There was a time, in 2005, when no new New Orleanians were born on native soil. Babies stopped coming from Touro. There were no homes for the stork to make a delivery.
Death has always been heavy in the air in New Orleans. It is not a post-Katrina thing or a goth affectation for the tourists. It goes back to endemic yellow fever and growing up in a swamp. New Orleans is about man versus nature. People become their best selves in New Orleans because this resilient city has a long history of mortality. So many people have died in New Orleans because it was worth dying here. People who live in New Orleans know that this is true. This is why we stay.
I know what you think. You think the taste of New Orleans is a hurricane at Pat O’Brians, or a Sazerac, or a Neptune’s Punch with a hamburger at Port of Call, or absinthe, or something you had at the vampire bar. Maybe you think about New Orleans the way Homer Simpson does.
There is more to New Orleans than eating and drinking. There is more to New Orleans than Mardi Gras though the whole year in New Orleans revolves around Mardi Gras. We’re going to make Mardi Gras history next year!
New Orleans is hard to describe. Analogies are imperfect. Metaphors are opaque. Straight talk has neither cadence nor credence nor purpose in New Orleans dialect, the talk of the docks and the streets. Life is worth living in New Orleans. That’s why we’re here. We love the taste of root beer.
When you are ready to visit New Orleans like you live here, like you belong here, you know where you should stay. La Belle Esplanade is here for you. New Orleans really does taste like root beer. It tastes like the best root beer you have ever tasted in your whole life. You won’t be able to wipe that smile off your face. La Belle Esplanade is here for you.