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Food Porn Friday: DEFEND METRY

Fresh salmon with apple, mango, wasabi roe and yuzu at Kanno sushi in Metairie.  Yes: METAIRIE.

Fresh salmon with apple, mango, wasabi roe and yuzu at Kanno sushi in Metairie. Yes: METAIRIE.

The NOLA corner of the Internet has been blowing up of late, particularly when it comes to the idea of cultural appropriation and the nature of authenticity.  First there was the Glambeaux controversy, about which I had a few feelings, but seeing as those feelings weren't particularly passionate, I decided to remain neutral on the subject and let others join the spirited debate.  Then, of course, is Kalegate 2014, based on an absolutely cringe-worthy piece by the New York Times about the perspectives on artistic transplants to NOLA and their musings on the city ("there's no kale here," said one), which, if you're from this town, is worthy of several million facepalms.  Kudos to Alejandro de los Rios for his takedown of the article in Gambit, and to Jarvis DeBerry for the same on NOLA.com.  Well done, sirs.

In the midst of all this outrage, I found myself discussing the idea of authenticity in New Orleans from another angle.  I'd written a pretty fun and relatively safe piece on the best new restaurants in New Orleans.  I spread around a fair deal of love, so this wasn't exactly troll-bait.  The list included Marti's, Broussard's, Noodle & Pie, Ivy, Casa Borrega and others.  Then, at the end, I decided to throw in Firehouse Burgers, which happens to be in Metairie.  That's where things began to get complicated.  Commented user Iona Lee (self-described as "The guest whisperer at The bars and restaurants of the world":

You had me interested until you put Metairie on this list. Unless you change the title to in the greater Nola metro or something a little more revealing. Throwing Metairie on the bottom of this list is the equivalent of a photobomb, only one that ruins the best pic of your vacation.

This immediately set my blood rising, as any good troll will do.  What does this lady have against Metairie?  Why all the hate?  What on Earth did Metairie ever do to you?  Were you crushed by a Black Friday mob at Lakeside Mall, Iona?  Did the traffic on Veteran's Blvd. finally drive you insane?

I think what bothered me initially was the fact that Iona originally hails from Maine, not New Orleans (with a stint in Chicago and an education in Nevada).  It seems that the people who most feel the need to define New Orleans, to pin her down, to tell everybody exactly what the city is and what she isn't, are people who are not from here.  These are people who didn't grow up in NOLA, didn't attend our schools, didn't sit at the top of a Mardi Gras ladder as a child, didn't learn the heartbreak of yet another 'Aints loss at an early age, didn't have fun checking out the new hurricane names every August to see if yours might be on there, didn't experience the joy of that first Roman candy or Hansen's sno-ball as a tyke, and so on.

Most people I know who were reared in this town have neither the need nor the desire to define New Orleans, much less blather on about it to other people.  It's just home.  New Orleans means too many things to too many people, and those of us who grew up here know that the thought of trying to catalogue and precisely identify what makes New Orleans New Orleans isn't just a difficult task, it's nigh impossible, not to mention that's it's essentially a thankless piece of work that doesn't seem like a whole lot of fun.  We'd rather just have another drink and keep dancing.

What also troubled me was the intimation that Metairie is not New Orleans, which a later commenter (originally from Huntington Bay, NY) actually wrote in the thread.  This is only technically true, though surely not in any philosophical sense.  I dare these people to tell someone who's from Jefferson Parish that they're "not really from New Orleans" and see what kind of reaction they'd get.  From a semantic standpoint, Metairie is, in fact, part of the Greater New Orleans Metropolitan Area.  But you know what?  That's a mouthful of word salad, and it gets in the way of writing economically.  So when I say "New Orleans," I  mean the greater metro area, yes.  That includes Metairie, as well as Algiers, Gretna, Marrero, even "Kennah, BRUH."

Most concerning of all, though, was the hatred in evidence here.  Iona wasn't just making a geographical distinction; there was real animosity in the direction of Jefferson Parish, a big stink-eye and upturned nose for the other side of the 17th Street Canal.  If you don't even have a shred of love for even one part of Metairie, Iona, than this native New Orleanian is going to tell you that you do not, in fact, know what this city is.  You don't get to define it for the rest of us.

So let me get to the task of loving on Metry.  It's just as weird, crazy, and distinctive as anywhere else in this town.  Said a friend of mine:

People made fun of me for working in Metry, but I was like, ahem, have you ever had a man pay you with his feet cause he has no arms? Have you ever broken up a fight involving six or seven Central Americans? Have you shared drinks with a guy who builds elephant cages for a living? Then shut yo trap!

Sure, Metairie has its flaws, but really, what part of this great city (I'm sorry, "Greater Metropolitan Area") doesn't?  You may not like the quiet suburban feel of its neighborhoods, or the chain restaurants and big box stores that line its major thoroughfares.  I'll remind you, however, that there's a Bubba Gump Shrimp Company eatery in the French Quarter.  How's THAT for authenticity?  Speaking of food -- and this is supposed to be a food column, right? -- if you've never tasted a roast beef po-boy at R&O, never had the genuine privilege of enjoying charbroiled oysters at the original Drago's in Fat City or a seafood muffaletta at Parran's, never bought boiled seafood from Schaeffer's in Bucktown...baby, you really don't know what New Orleans is and what she ain't.

That list, by the way, goes on and on.  Some of the best sushi in the Crescent City is actually at Kanno in Metairie (see above).  But you're not headed there anytime soon, are you, Iona Lee?  Well, good.  That leaves more of everything for the rest of us.  So I'll close with this:

DEFEND METAIRIE.  You ARE a part of this city -- an important, integral, wonderful part -- and we love you!

The seafood muffaletta at Parran's on Veteran's Blvd. in Metairie.

The seafood muffaletta at Parran's on Veteran's Blvd. in Metairie.

 


Native New Orleans food writer Scott Gold, author of The Shameless Carnivore, has written for Gourmet, The New Orleans Advocate, Gambit, ThrillistEdible Brooklyn, Tasting Table, The Faster Times, and other publications. His Food Porn Friday column for NolaVie offers a weekly mouth-watering photo essay designed to start culinary conversations in the Big Easy. Find him on Twitter @scottgold.