The New New Orleans, Part One:Mary Matthews

New Orleans native, retiree, Lambeth House resident


  We had fewer restaurants. And we had the old restaurants. You could go anywhere, Pascal's Manale, that's an old restaurant. Of course, Galatoire's, Antoine's, the St. Louis, Arnaud's — you'd go in and you'd ask for a demitasse and they knew exactly what it was. Nowadays, and it's because of all these new people coming in and new restaurants and people from all parts of the country coming down and opening restaurants, they have no idea what a demitasse is, and that's New Orleans. And it just seems such a shame to lose something that's so typical of the French or European.

  A demi is a little bit, and a tasse is a cup. It's a little bitty cup, that after you have your dinner, it settles your stomach. And it was usually black. Nowadays, you put milk or sugar. But usually it was black, very black, and a lot of times people would put a liqueur in it, you see? It would give a little spark to it.

  As far as restaurants go, they have no idea what it means to open a New Orleans restaurant. Like eating grits and grillades — those things are so typical of New Orleans. Everybody always had a demitasse after dinner, in people's homes. Nowadays, coffee has changed. People drink decaf, which is diluted. It's not strong.

  Coffee was definitely a part of New Orleans culture. It's very French and very Creole. There was an aroma all over town. You could smell it very definitely below Poydras Street, near the waterfront, say Magazine or Tchoupitoulas. There must have been a place there where they ground the coffee. ...

  [The new people] are also positive, because New Orleans was too satisfied with itself before. They didn't want to look out into the world. And now the people coming in have made a big difference. It's exciting. I think they don't research New Orleans but at the same time, they come and they think it's a unique place, which it is, there's something about it, and you read about all these people coming and saying how exciting it is, how different it is, the French element and the architecture. I think it still needs to keep that quality somehow. — AS TOLD TO JEANIE RIESS

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