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Where Y’Eat: A Year of Gratitude for What New Orleans Gives Beyond the Plate

Ian McNulty

We live in a city famous for its food. Just ask people from other places. They’ll tell you all about gumbo and beignets and the latest restaurant to be on a food TV reality show.

But what gives that reputation any legs? What keeps the food scene vital? What makes it worthwhile for us as New Orleanians and not just a pitch for tourist dollars? That comes down to people, and in my job covering New Orleans food I’m constantly finding fresh evidence for why.

This is the season for gratitude and reflection. So I'm here to say I’m grateful to live in a city that gives so much care and passion and attention to something we can share and appreciate every day. It is the food culture of our city. It’s a business too, of course, but it’s more than that. New Orleans people ensure that’s the case.

It’s the New Orleans people who safeguard our food heritage and also step up for its future. It’s the people who bring fresh energy from their own traditions, transplanted or evolved. It’s those who innovate to meet changing needs and grasp new opportunities.

Most of all, it’s the people who pour their personality and character into the story of New Orleans food.

This year, I found it with taco truck cooks and proprietors of historic restaurants and with families reopening old eateries to restore part of their own heritage. It's in the hands that make the bread for our po-boys and with the people who know New Orleans wouldn't be the same if they couldn’t wrap their hands around one. It's people who serve a devoted clientele and newcomers just hoping to make their name known.

Great food can stick with you. My waistline is a testament to that. But in a community like ours, where the connections between people and place and the passage of time is right there on our plates, it lives in your heart too. So for another great year I say, thank you New Orleans.

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