When May rolled in – particularly during third week of the month – my social networks swelled up with all the activities surrounding my alma mater’s commencement ceremony. Lovely birrete art, the second lines and music that only come from New Orleans, and Maya Rudolph’s hilarious address. It made me nostalgic for my own hectic graduation week, so I scoured the web and my own ‘archives’ for those memories from fifteen years ago.
On 2000, Tulane celebrated its second unified commencement ceremony for all the schools and colleges at the Louisiana Superdome. Walter Isaacson – editor in chief of Time Magazine at the time – included these wise words in our class’ address.
So here is the first thing you should know about graduation day: every day hence, you will appreciate more how lucky you were to be at such a magical place.
Of course, he also told us not to screw the relatively peaceful turn of the millenium, spend some time on the road appreciating what the previous generation did before us, while ensuring our legacy for the next one.
I do appreciate my luck, even if my NOLA visits have been sparse since graduation and my shelf only includes two New Orleans cookbooks. One is the gorgeous, memoir like My New Orleans by John Besh. The other is the literally Little New Orleans Cookbook by Gwen McKee. Armed with Besh’s rhapsodical descriptions of Creole ingredients and McKee’s practical recipes, I’ve conquered my cravings for those magical Crescent City flavors. All this longing, topped with a great trip to the farmers market, inspired me to make a vegetarian etouffée.
Etouffée literally translates to “smothered”. If we gumbo is analogous to the Puerto Rican asopao, the etouffée’s equivalent in the island would be a fricassee or stew. The etouffée is thickened with roux, the cooked flour and oil mixture that gives the dish body, plus that dark, nutty flavor associated with Cajun cuisine.