Where Y’Eat: In Hard Times, Building the Culture We Celebrate When Good Times Roll

Apr 30, 2020

With so much that we love in New Orleans shut down, it can feel like even our culture itself has shut down. But it’s quite the opposite.

Sure it’s quiet. But listen carefully, and you can hear what actually powers our culture working in low gear. It’s us, the people of New Orleans, who give that culture its value and energy. Right now, we are all woodshedding.

What each of us is doing separately to keep the traditions and vivacity of our city alive during the coronavirus fight, is what we will celebrate together later when the lid gets lifted.

We celebrate our culture and heritage in the good times. We rely on it in the bad times. It’s our rock when we need it most, which is also when we replenish its power.

Many of us learned this on the long road back from Hurricane Katrina. It's not just about appreciating something anew after missing out for a bit. Even in normal times, New Orleans culture wouldn’t last if we didn’t invest it with our time and money, our personality and creativity. That's still the case in these bizarre times of separation, though on different terms.

This week that would’ve been Jazz Fest shows people going off-script to carry its spirit to their homes and yards and porches.

Something similar happens daily with New Orleans food and restaurants. People are going far beyond merely meeting each other halfway. They’re stretching and creating new possibilities at the intersections they reach.

The value we wring from this experience doesn't end when the crisis abates. It feeds what comes next.

Yes, the places and ways we’re accustomed to celebrating together are on hold.

But the culture itself? The reason we have anything to build festivals around, the reason we parade through the streets, the thing we are truly toasting when we convene around our tables? That is pulsing.