And New Orleans may not be the only city that throws a party before Ash Wednesday, but we would be remiss if we missed this chance to highlight all the music, movies, books, plays, documentaries and even cuisine that wouldn’t exist without The Big Easy.
So we present 10 items from our collection that either are either from New Orleans artists or use the city as a setting.
Though it was created by David Simon, Treme is so much more than The Wire set in New Orleans. However, the two shows have this in common: Their settings are also their lead characters. For four seasons, Simon and his crew depicted the people of New Orleans—Mardi Gras Indians, musicians, chefs, human rights lawyers and more—trying to rebuild their city after Hurricane Katrina.
With its focus on music, cuisine and local culture, Treme is the best show about New Orleans—give or take Frank’s Place.
You cannot, cannot talk about the city of New Orleans without talking about the music. This is where jazz was born! And, yes, Louis Armstrong gets his name in the header, because he’s the greatest. But we could just as easily spend hours talking about (and listening to) Dr. John, Trombone Shorty, Fats Domino or Jelly Roll Morton.
You can download more songs from New Orleans’ finest on Freegal or stream their albums on Hoopla, both of which are free to use with a Mentor Public Library card.
Spike Lee is at his best when he has something to say, and one of the most important topics he has ever tackled is New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. This documentary examines the tragedy through the eyes of the storm’s survivors.
For another auteur’s take on Katrina, read Dave Eggers’ Zeitoun.
Crawfish and rice! Chanterelles! Gumbo! What to cook for Mardi Gras or Reveillon—the best of the city’s cuisine from a chef who grew up with it.
Also, for our younger chefs, may we recommend Tiana’s Cookbook: Recipes for Kids.
Speaking of Princess Tiana… Disney steeps this classic fairy tale in a southern sensibility. Don’t just borrow the movie; get the soundtrack too for when your kids inevitably have the songs stuck in their heads.
6. Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
It’s difficult to describe Toole’s singular novel in a single word or phrase. Picaresque? A comedy of errors? Let’s just call it a classic. Confederacy follows Ignatius J. Reilly—an overstuffed cocktail of intellect, buffoonery and free-floating hostility—as he pinballs against the colorful characters of New Orleans.
A manipulative hot dog vendor? A costumed detective? An ambivalent pants magnate? The French Quarter’s dandiest dandy? All fodder for Reilly’s jaundiced rants.
7. Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
New Orleans’ heat, headiness and Gothic architecture provide the perfect backdrop for Rice’s horror story.
8. A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
9. Gumbo Tales: Finding my Place at the New Orleans Table by Sara Roahen
Roahen was a stranger in a strange land when she moved from Wisconsin to New Orleans, and she figured the best way to learn her new hometown was by taste. Follow Roahen through po-boys and pho, Sazerac and braciolone. Then plan your own culinary excursion to The Big Easy.
After the Channing Tatum movie comes out, he’s going to be everyone’s favorite X-Man. So get ahead of the curve and read all about the kinetic mutant from Nolia.