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Where Y'Eat: Crisis Reframes the Normal New Orleans Anchors in Tough Times

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Ian McNulty
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Empty dining rooms are a sign of the coronavirus crisis as restaurants are ordered closed.

New Orleans is so familiar with catastrophe, sometimes it feels like the way we answer it is part of our community character. We are defiant, we are resilient, we carry on, and we do it together.

The city that puts the fun in funerals has made revelry in the face of adversity a civic virtue, and has embraced hospitality as the front line of recovery. We need to reframe that part of our character as we get through the coronavirus crisis.

People everywhere facing the same stakes, so no one else can rally for New Orleans. The cavalry is not coming. We can only rely on our own community. Getting through this will be a local effort. And here’s why that's so hard now.

Social distancing is the prime directive from health authorities to slow the spread of coronavirus. One perversity of this crisis is how our reflexive instincts to come together will make things worse.

Even in the darkest days after Katrina, we could moments of levity and encouragement. Often they were in our familiar social settings, like restaurants and bars.

Now, we have to find new ways to support each other, to show our empathy and to continue our connectedness, in many cases now without actually connecting.

This crisis will be very difficult for everyone. The consequences will be especially brutal for the hospitality sector, normally our anchor and coping mechanism in tough times.

I don’t pretend to know the solutions. But I do have confidence in New Orleans people to get through it. Knocked down before, New Orleans has lifted itself off the mat because what we have here has always made it worth the extraordinary effort.

It is the culture that we build, preserve and share in this incomparable place.
We have shown we can be inventive and adaptable. We have to engage the same heart and grit and spirit, to support each other and bolster what we value in our community.

We’ve done it best when we did it together. For now, we have to find ways to do it together but apart.

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

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