Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Easter Weekend

It's not anything so dramatic as having been laid away in a tomb before rising again or anything but the weekend was so event-heavy as to cause me to unplug a bit for a few days. So I missed a lot of stuff, I'm sure. Anyway here's what happened in the meantime.

  • On Good Friday, I spotted State Senator Ed Murray exiting the Sheraton Hotel downtown. Murray had just picked up what I assumed were his and two other people's Crescent City Classic race numbers at the pre-race health and fitness expo. I had a moment where I could have asked Sen. Murray if he was entering this race to win it but I had to go pick up my number so I just let him duck out. Sort of like he did a few months ago.

    Here's a lame phone picture of the official artwork from this year's CCC which I was fond enough of to snap a photo but not quite enough to buy a poster.

    CCC poster original
    BTW, the artist's name is Christy Works-Boutte. Here's her site.

  • Besides, you are saying, aren't the participants supposed to "win" these posters through some feat of athleticism or something? Well, kind of. A few years back I was athletically feated enough to finish at or near the times at the end of this list of Top 500 Finishers (PDF) who qualify for free posters. But I'm getting a bit too old, slow and fat to take that challenge very seriously anymore. I will admit to one tactical error, however. I forgot to lie.

    In my self-consciousness about my deteriorating athleticism, I momentarily forgot that a great majority of unseeded race participants either haven't trained very hard or simply don't plan to finish the thing running anyway. And while there is a dedicated registration category for "walkers", many of these people just lie about their expected finishing times so that they can start further up the street. And so you have walkers, baby strollers, people with canes, people in giant chicken suits all lining up with or in front of people who expect to run at an 8 to 10 minute per mile pace.

    One way to manage this problem is to lie about your own time. Even if you're like me and have been running 6.2 miles in 55 to 58 minutes consistently for weeks ahead of race time, it's a good idea to inflate your grade and register in the 45 to 50 minute group. Otherwise, you'll spend the first mile and a half of the course covering as much ground laterally as you do moving forward. Think Reggie Bush trying to bounce an off-tackle play outside and losing six yards in the process. This was me on Saturday.

    Because I had forgotten to lie about my time, I had to push hop and spin through a forest of waddling old ladies, invalids, rejects from the cast of Biggest Loser, and I think the Philly Phanatic before I finally found room to hit a reasonable stride somewhere on Esplanade Avenue. This was, I think, maybe my 17th or 18th Crescent City Classic and here I had made just the dumbest rookie mistake possible. At least I didn't park my car in an obviously illegal spot and then whine about it in the newspaper.

    I ended up finishing in 55:46. Not terrible for an old fat guy but it was harder than it had to be.

  • In other sports news from the weekend, Donovan McNabb is almost as old as I am (but maybe a little bit fatter). I will never understand the why Eagles fans seem to hate their future Hall of Fame former quarterback so much. Good luck in the Kevin Kolb era.

  • In other news news from the weekend and early this week, I've been enjoying the spectacle of various members of Mayor-to-be Mitch's NOPD task force realizing that they've been used as cheap political props and walking out the door to save themselves further shame. I most enjoy following these developments at The Lens where Eli has a pretty good bead on the situation.
    The police search largely has been delegated to the International Association of Chiefs of Police, which has a contract to consult the Landrieu transition. The organization is screening the candidates and will whittle down the applicant pool before the task force will have an opportunity to weigh in on any specific individual. For some task force stakeholders, the police chiefs group has been far from forthcoming about the methodology used to whittle down the list. Some task force members appear to be more in the loop than others.

    I can respect the desire to be sensitive about the current positions of potential candidates. I’m not sure that I necessarily object to the IACP serving as the first filter for the task force. Frankly, I was never sold on the need for an official task force to help the Mayor-elect in the first place. Mitch Landrieu has said that this decision – who will lead the NOPD at its time of greatest despair – is his top priority.

    He’s right. The success of Landrieu’s administration absolutely hinges on his ability to curtail crime while restoring the community’s faith in the NOPD. The credibility of the department is, at this point, absolutely critical to the city’s national and international reputation and will in large measure determine the pace at which tourism and other investment can grow, or slow.

    If Landrieu had come out from the onset and said that he would consult privately with whomever he wanted to and that the selection of the new police chief would be his decision and his alone, perhaps he would have avoided this early headache.
    Basically what's happened here is Landrieu, who I agree has every right to just pick the damn chief himself, thought he could steal a tacit endorsement of his choice from as many "community leaders" willing to have their names printed on a list of Task Force participants as possible. Most "community leaders" are just self-important enough to fall for this. But at the same time, they're also sensitive enough to get their feelings hurt when they realize they aren't being listened to. And when that happens you end up with a situation where the people you brought in to create a fake air of consensus are now creating a fake air of discord as they have their individual temper tantrums. Overall it looks worse than if Landrieu had just ignored these people altogether.

  • In other news that really isn't news, Scott Cowen is your 2010 Times-Picayune "Loving Cup" recipient. Oyster and Ashley and and Fake Ashley from "Treme" are right. Scott Cowen is a mook. And the T-P's Editorial Board (Or Ashton Phelps' committee of one or whoever cups out the loving) is the mookiest mookfest in all of mookville.

  • In further news that really isn't news but is at least further along the line toward being news than the previous item and which involves smaller furrier animals, we... um... we got a new cat on Saturday. In June, it will have been a year since we lost Sovreign and, well, it was just time. This is Biscuit. He's about 8 weeks old.


And in the best news of the weekend, I made a Gumbo Z'herbes on Good Friday and took some photos of it while it happened.

Gumbo Z'herbes is a bit different from most of what people typically call Gumbo in that 1) It doesn't usually call for a thickening agent like file or okra. 2) Because it is a traditional Good Friday meal, practicing Catholics are encouraged to not put any meat in it. Because I did not check the practicing Catholic box on my Census form, I get to ignore item number 2 and add ham anyway and nobody will send me to Hell.

  • The first thing you do here is bring together as many different sorts of greens things you can pull out of your local Rouses. There aren't any hard and fast rules about which greens you use although some of these are fairly standard. Clay made one of these a few weeks back that included dandelion greens. I didn't have anything quite so exotic on hand. You are supposed to have at least seven and your total is supposed to be an odd number. I count eight in mine but, again, didn't check that box either. Try and damn me if you want to but it won't hold up in court. The important thing to remember is that most of these like the mustard greens in the photo below usually have a lot of sand and grit on them so they have to be cleaned thoroughly before use. This could take a while so it's good to have beer on hand.

    Mustard greens

  • This is my biggest stock pot stuffed as full as it will go with Turnip Greens, Collared Greens, Mustard Greens, Cabbage Leaves, Beet Tops, Green Onion, Leeks, and Parsley.

    Pot o greens

    Once everything is clean, add it all to the pot with maybe 1/3 or 1/2 cup of water and turn the burner up on high. When the water starts to boil, turn the heat back down low, cover the pot and let it simmer for maybe 20 minutes or so.

  • Strain the cooked greens, reserve the liquid and set it aside.


    Chop the greens up as fine as you can and set them aside as well.

    Chopped greens

  • In a great big cast iron pot, make yourself a nice roux. I won't bore you with the fine points of stirring and waiting on a roux. Just make sure you have more beer on hand to pass the time. When it's ready to go, you can start building your gumbo. Most Gumbo Z'herbes recipes call for just onions here, but I went ahead and threw in some bell pepper, celery and garlic too because... I was afraid somebody might send me to hell if I didn't.


    Add that to the roux and let it cook for a couple of minutes. Then go get your reserved stock and stir that in too.

  • Here's where all the rest of us sinners get to make this part of a complete breakfast by adding meat. Pickled pork or pickled tips would probably be great with the greens but I didn't have any so I just went with regular old ham seasoning which works just fine.


    Oh and three humongous ham hocks too. Here's all that heretical ham browning in the roux.

    2010-04-02 16.53.44.jpg

  • All that's left to do now is add the those chopped, cooked greens.

    2010-04-02 17.01.43.jpg

  • I probably could have used a bit more cayenne in this than I did so don't hold back. I also used black pepper and salt (obviously) as well as thyme (which really should just be automatic anywhere there is pork) and also some allspice and a couple of cloves which don't typically belong in a gumbo but then neither do all those greens.

    Yes, obviously, there's plenty left. I wonder if it freezes OK. Would be an appropriate item to resurrect, right?

    Gumbo Z'herbes

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