Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Mulates and Zydeco

For our second to last night in New Orleans – the last free night, the last night where we didn't have to be doing things like packing and going to bed early – our friend Rose treated us to a wonderful night on the town. We started with dinner at Mulate's, where we savored what we knew would be some of our last Cajun and Creole food (for the time being) while listening to the five piece Cajun band set up on the far side of the dance floor. It's been really neat to identify elements in Cajun music that are familiar from other music I enjoy, like bluegrass and Québecois fiddle music. My grilled shrimp were delicious, Rose’s red beans and rice were exceptional, and we had fun trying different things on the Cajun appetizer sampler. Erika disliked the fried oysters, I thought they were OK, and Rose prefers to avoid oysters however they are prepared. We all liked the fog's legs, though they were almost too rich for me, and none of us liked the alligator. Seriously gross. Like chicken but greasier and with a slight hint of soap. Erika says it recalls burnt motor oil.

After dinner we made our way to a New Orleans landmark known as the Rock n' Bowl. It does indeed have a bowling alley, but we didn't make it past the dance floor. The zydeco band we come to see was in full swing when we arrived, and couples filled the area in front of the stage. Less than 20 seconds after I walked in the door, this goofy Cajun dance teacher swept me out into the crowd. Thank goodness he was a good leader -- I'd never danced zydeco before, and he had me twirling all over the place! The crowd was energetic, enthusiastic, and mostly unpretentious. It was also intergenerational (though 21 and up, because of the bar), and quite mixed in terms of race and ethnicity. The two things that everybody had in common were that they liked the music, and they liked to dance. And let me tell you, most people there could really dance!

For those of you who have never heard zydeco music, picture a spectrum with bluegrass on one end and New Orleans Jazz on the other. Zydeco would be somewhere in the middle. If you've never seen zydeco dancing, think Texas Two-step and swing, but Cajun, sort of. The beat is very specific. Anyway, the music and the dance are both great, and we had so much fun! It was definitely our best night out of the entire trip.

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