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Fresh Ingredients

Yesterday, we visited the local Farmer’s Market to buy ingredients for our cooking class! We walked from the cooking school in the French Quarter through the Central Business district. The small congregation of white topped canopies looked like a fleet of sailing ships on a concrete sea. Under them, tables overflowed with vegetables, fruits, flowers, meats, cheeses- vibrant, fresh, and tenderly stacked in bins and boxes. In contrast to the relatively quiet, sleepy streets we walked to get there, the Farmer’s Market was lively and bustling.

We split into groups and shopped for the dishes we would prepare in class. My group was responsible for making potato salad. The people running the stand explained to us that the eggs we bought were from chicken grown on a local farm, free of cages, and were laid two days ago. Unlike the bleached white eggs you buy from grocery stores, these eggs were shades of soft, natural browns and tans. We told them that we were looking for celery, and they didn’t have that, but they had a similar plant called Lovage. They tore off a leaf, “Try it!” I popped in my mouth and it tasted just like celery (but a bit stronger). Pleasantly surprised, we reached for our money to buy the eggs and Lovage, but they insisted we have them for free. So sweet!

We have learned that New Orleans culture is inextricably tied to a strong sense of place. Shopping for local ingredients helped us see that first hand. The cuisine is tied to food that is available and fresh. As the seasons change, so do the dishes on people’s tables. As the strawberries were irresistibly bright and fragrant, we incorporated them into a dessert. This type of cooking and eating embraces the complexity of the local culture, and brings it to the table for us to experience it together.

First Site Visit

Today we took our first look at the location we will be conducting restoration surveys throughout the rest of the trip. Matt and I were able to get in a quick flight with the remaining light we had left and checked out the vast forest from an aerial perspective. In addition to our field work on the ground, we will also be working on creating aerial maps of some of the locations in hopes of increasing the efficiency of our observation surveys. I am looking forward to benefitting this bottomland hardwood forest any way I can.

NOSC

Another year, another great class with the indomitable Chef Michael Devedts!

Live music

It is currently day two, and all of the musicians we’ve heard have been so amazing! It was so exiting walking down the streets and seeing a small band or one person simply playing a violin. It is evident that they are playing because they love what they are doing, which is truly heart warming to see. The music brings life to the city and all the people walking by. The people of New Orleans have such a beautiful appreciation for music, I have never seen anything like it coming from a city. There is so much love and joy coming from them that radiates to the audience. Seeing young children dancing to adults singing along to music they have never heard. I ended my day by sitting in a cafe, eating beignets, and listening to an amazing guitar player. Definitely excited to see more as the days go by!

Eye Opening

In order to summarize the day on all levels I would use the phrase “eye opening.” We started the day off early this morning on a mission to better understand the devastation that swept through New Orleans by visiting the Lower Ninth Ward, a heavily impoverished area that has not recovered even 13 years after Hurricane Katrina. As we drove into the ward, I could feel the sense that things were incomplete. My feelings were confirmed when we looked through pictures comparing the densely packed homes present before the Hurricane to the sprinkled homes built by relief groups after the disaster. The lack of resources and the traumatic experience combined with the Federal Government’s use of scapegoats convinced people to not return. I quickly realized I am only breaching the surface of what people have experienced.

We walked through the French Quarter during he later half of the day. I explained CSUCI’s commitment to restoring wetlands to curious shop owners and received open gratitude and thanks for our efforts. It is truly amazing to be supported by the local people, and I am eager to share my support as well.

Struggle of interagency resource management

Today we visited the Orleans Canal just below the sewage pumping station. Here we discussed the creation of the levee reinforcement flood wall that has been constructed along much of the canal. Yet, near the sewage pump station there is a break in the wall spanning approximately one hundred feet. This presents an obvious problem: if the reinforcement wall is meant to prevent flooding of surrounding houses, yet there is a large break in the chain, how exactly will this goal be achieved? One may also find themselves wondering: why invest time and money in creating an incomplete wall? The answer to the latter would be that the management of the sewage pump station believed that if the revetment wall was connected to the sewage treatment plant and a large storm occurred, the sewage treatment plant may be jeopardized resulting in contamination of the water within the canal.

Interestingly, when a storm event did occur this was not the location that was the cause of disaster. The gap between the levee revetment wall and sewage pump station allowed water to flow over the levee and onto the surrounding parkland as the storm surge passed resulting in minimal damage. It was further down the canal wall where failures occurred in several places wreaking havoc on surrounding homes.

It was here that we visited with grass roots organizer Sandy Rosenthal, creator of levees.org. Sandy and her son created levees.org in the days following Hurricane Katrina to shed light on the tragedy at hand and more importantly to ask why? Why did the levees fail when max capacity had not been reached? Why was the local levee board to be blamed for the faulty Army Corps Of Engineers levee design. To this day, the Army Corps Of Engineers has not been found responsible. We are optimistic that in the future agencies that manage public resources will better cooperate to prevent the occurrence of large scale disasters. Sandy Rosenthal of levees.org

New Orlean’s Lower Ninth Ward – Post Katrina

The concrete flood wall sitting atop a natural levee – protecting the Lower Ninth Ward from the waterway.

Driving into the Ninth Ward early this morning was a moving experience. Our first reactions were of curiosity when viewing an abundant number of post-modern styled homes, often laden with solar panels on the roof. There seemed to be something off by the whole area – as if it was a set for a movie. Then we arrived to a long concrete wall sitting atop a natural levee. This, we then learned, is where a massive break occurred during Hurricane Katrina, which caused a great deal of property loss in the Ninth Ward, and even worse – the loss of human life.

An aerial view of the extent of the service canal that flooded and caused the damage to the NInth Ward during Hurricane Katrina.

The concrete flood wall stands atop the natural levee as the last hope between the Lower Ninth Ward and the service canal, which fortunately has been upgraded to a more reliable model then that which was installed prior to Hurricane Katrina. In addition to the upgraded flood wall, most of the newly built houses are now being built with a certain amount of adaptation for expected flooding. This adaptation is seen by their foundations being raised upwards of six feet. This height will allow for safety when faced with minor flooding, but it still is not a permanent fix if the newly built flood wall does not do its job.

The service canal behind the flood wall protecting the Lower Ninth Ward.

After our visit to New Orlean’s Lower Ninth Ward today, we have gained additional realization about the tragedy caused by Hurricane Katrina and the effects that improper preparation can have when dealing with such a large possibility.