Ally Blake Romance Author - Blog

Latest news from Australian romance author Ally Blake, writer of fun, fresh flirty romance novels.

Friday, 11 November 2005

twenty-four hour hope

Walking around New Orleans whilst on my honeymoon five years ago, I continuously saw people carrying Cafe du Monde bags. A good little tourist I knew we had to find this Cafe of which they spoke, at least to see what was so interesting that every visitor had to go away with a memento. What was in the bags? What did a cafe of all things have to offer that made people need to take a little piece of it home?

Well the short answer is this: beignet.

Need I go on? Okay, I must...

Cafe du Monde sells beignet. Beignet (pronounced ben-yay) are rectangular donuts, lathered in as much icing sugar as they can carry. Oh and they sell chicory blend coffee as well. But nothing else. Not trendy salads, or cajun croc pie or turtle soup that many other establishments offer cashd up tourists hungry for food and local culture. Nothing.

I promise you, there is no earthly reason why they should sell anything else. These beignets are yummy delicious heaven. They are deep fried, messy as all get out, and sweet as sweet. Even my favourite online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, has Cafe du Monde mentioned under the meaning of beignet. The floor is concrete and there are no walls closing you in, and that is so that the lashings of icing sugar that fall from the beignet onto your lap and then onto the floor can be hosed away during quiet times. But the quiet times don't come often, because Cafe du Monde is open twenty four hours.

Well it was, until Hurricane Katrina threatened to close down New Orleans for good.

The shop closed at midnight on August 27th 2005 due to the city's mandatory evacuation. But now, unbelievably, Cafe du Monde is open for business once more. A bare six weeks after the devastation, she is resolutely cooking up her magnificent, addictive, once you try them you have to go back night and day donuts which are so popular those of us who have tried them have to go home with souvenir mugs, t-shirts, and even little dry packets of beignet ingredients so we can try to make them ourselves at home.

And that was the short answer!

The long answer is that Cafe du Monde offers you a glimpse into the unique experience that is New Orleans.

That little bag is a take home reminder of policeman on horseback chatting happily away to tourists layered in heavy beads drinking dark beer from plastic cups on Bourbon Street. Buildings that look innocuous during steamy hot days, which come alive as screaming jazz bars once the sun goes down. The French Market - long thin rows of market stalls, shaded but still completely unable to keep out the intense bayou heat. A reminder of a city steeped in idiosyncratic jazz, southern mystery, spiritual history, and a totally exotic and sinister attraction curling through her shady streets.

And I for one can't wait to return, walking the length of the French Quarter, giving up the comfort of my elegant air-conditioned hotel, sweat dripping down my back as I forge my way through the intense humidity, past hordes of new tourists carrying their little Cafe du Monde bags with remembrance of a mirage at the end of it all.

Sugar coated, deep-fried, cajun heaven, with an iced coffee chaser, in a haven of twenty-four hour hope as a grand old city rebuilds itself around me.