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Where Y’Eat: For Heartbroken Who Dats, the Embrace of New Orleans’ Easiest Comfort Food

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Ian McNulty
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Red beans and rice, and some personal time with sports page Saints coverage, at High Hat Cafe in New Orleans.

Here’s one thing you can rely on in New Orleans: The result of a Saints game sways the mood of this town. Here’s another: On Monday, people are eating red beans and rice. This Saints season, I decided to join the two together.

The way this season ended left me feeling like one disheartened Who Dat. But I’m feeling grateful for the ride that got us there. We had 13 games that brought joy, and for Saints fans with any memory, that still means something.

Through most of the Saints season, I picked a different restaurant every Monday where I'd eat red beans and rice while reading next-day Saints coverage.

A session with the sports page is a sacred observance of personal time for me. Red beans are comfort food incarnate, and this ritual began because I assumed I’d need a heaping serving of comfort this season.

After Drew Brees went out with that injury, I thought the season was a wash. The Saints mean more than football here – it’s part of the social framework, and the thought of a bleak season was depressing.

My answer was red beans, because I trust that when the variables of fate get you down, the constancy of New Orleans culture can bolster you.

My new red beans and Saints ritual quickly showed the variety and value of the dish in the hands of many different cooks, all following the same general template, from longstanding institutions to bootstrap new ventures. I celebrated over this everyman dish as Saints wins stacked up, and took solace in them after the few losses we did take.

I wish the Saints would’ve continued. I’m sorry the country won’t see the team we love on football’s biggest stage, and I’m sorry they don’t get to see more of the Saints fans that I love. But I’m happy that I got to dig into another layer of our magnificent city by combining two of its pleasures that run deep and can be shared.

And remember, when you can’t count on game day glory, you can count on Monday red beans.

Ian covers food culture and dining in New Orleans through his weekly commentary series Where Y’Eat.

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