New Orleans Initial Thoughts

I’ve been in New Orleans for almost 48 hours now and found a bit of time for this quick update. Overall, the city is a lively place with an almost palpable atmosphere I would describe as that warm fuzzy feeling you’re having a good time surrounded by people who know how to enjoy life. Maybe this is what people mean when they talk about Southern hospitality. People here are friendly and never seem to be in a rush (except maybe the tourists).

For some background information, the reason I’m in New Orleans is to attend the 14th Annual Community Food Security Conference. I’m helping to represent the Toronto Youth Food Policy Council in leading a workshop on Monday afternoon on “Engaging Youth Within the Food Policy Framework.” While much of the time so far has been taken up with the conference, I did have some time to explore the town after I got in Friday night and a bit on Saturday afternoon.

For the most part, food, beverage, and jazz have been the dominating themes of the past little while. In fact, as I’m writing this, there is a marching band walking down Canal St (one of the main streets in New Orleans).


In regards to food, Southern food is full of rich, fried, morsels of tasty goodness. Some of the interesting things I’ve had while here is blackened alligator, gumbo, red beans and rice, crab cakes, Rockefeller oysters, cochon au lait , and biegnets. Things I have yet to try are jambalaya, crawfish, crabs and po boy sandwiches. Yes, eating and food is a passion of mine and I’m glad my metabolism still allows me to enjoy all of this without too many ill effects. Pictures, descriptions, and tasting notes coming soon. Food here seems to be more expensive than other cities (ex. a street dog cost around $5 or $6 from the French Quarter).


In regards to drinking, Friday night was by far one of the wildest nights I’ve had in a while. We started off with a local beer Abita I tried one of their “harvest” beers, a Sasuma Belgium Wit, which features local Louisiana ingredients. It was surprisingly tasty. An interesting side note is that it appears to be the case that open beverages are allowed and openly consumed while wandering the streets.

One of the more interesting things we tried to liven things up was a local cocktail named “The Hand Grenade”. It comes in a special plastic cup that the Lonely Planet describes as “a mix of melon liquer, grain alcohol, rum, vodka, and God knows what else. Suffice to say, two or more will destroy you”. It was a seriously strong drink. A few other things I want to try are the chicory coffee from Cafe du Mond, and some more local beers.


For jazz, I’d had the most excellent fortune of being in the right place at the right time (though that never is too hard for a city known for its live music culture). On Saturday, I followed my nose to Lafayette Square where a Blues fest was rocking away. Two stages were set up, and locals and tourists came prepared with their lawn chairs for an afternoon of blues music. Another very cool venue I stumbled onto was at the New Orleans Jazz National Historic Park. Free concerts happen on a regular basis, and I was lucky enough to catch the last one of the day and also the last one playing while I’m here in New Orleans and was treated to a concert by a brass jazz band. The musicians alternated between singing and playing their instruments and it was a great break from the extensive walking tour I took around the city that afternoon.

That’s about it for now. Pictures, better descriptions, and notes on the conference coming soon! Stay tuned.

Guelph Lake Triathalon038

June Reflections 2009

Wow! Another month has passed, and boy has it been a busy 30 days. And while it wasn’t as crazy busy as May was, there were still some highlights to share, lessons learned along the way, and goals to work towards in the future.

Memorable Events:
1. Guelph Lake Triathlon: The first half of the month I was finally able to get back into some serious training the for event on the 21st. Boy did it ever help! If you want to read about it, check out my post here (link being upated)

2. Board Game Nights: The most popular game this month was Munchkin. For those who haven’t played, this is a really fun and sometimes frustrating board game. The premise is to fight monsters, steal their treasure, and gain levels. The catch is that everyone gets interesting wild cards that can seriously hurt or help you in battles. Just wait until the first person gets to level 9 until all the big guns come out! This is definitely great negotiation practice combined with strategic thinking. Read more about the game here.

3. Raw Food Pot Luck: Last weekend I had the chance to attend a raw food potluck. And as the name implies, everything that you bring must be raw. There was so many interesting and tasty foods there, it was hard to believe that everything there was raw. Some surprises (in a good way) were “burger patties”, raw ketchup, two kinds of guacamole and corn on the cob marinated with olive oil and salt, I made some sun-soaked mint tea which was hungrily gobbled up. Thanks to Yafa for introducing me to the event. For more info, check out the link to the group here.

4. Toronto Jazz Festival: Right at the end of the month, I had a chance to go and check out the Toronto Jazz Festival. On two consecutive days, I went to check out different events – the first was an open air concert by Jamie Cullum and the second event was a world-record attempt to hvae the world’s largest saxophone ensemble (they were hoping for 1,000 people). Both were really cool and interesting in their own way and it was great to go and participate in some of the festivities happening in the wonderful city I call home. Check out some pics from the sax event here.

June Reflections
So in addition to the fun and interesting highlights, June was also a learning and growth period for me. I’ve been challenged a lot by recent work activities and have a couple of things I wanted to focus on:

1. Personal Development: At work, we had a performance review session reflecting on some things that have gone well and things that we can improve on for the future. I’m hoping to do something similar in my personal life as well in the next month or two.

2. Leadership: Such a broad and vague term, but I’ve got some specific things that I’m going to actively work on moving forward. (and maybe it’ll turn into another post later if all turns out well)

3. Have more fun! It’s summer and time to get out and enjoy the beautiful weather. If you’re free and want to hang out, let me know!

4. Summer Projects: I’ve got a bunch of stuff on my “When I have a spare weekend/It’d be nice to-do” list, it’s just a matter of finding/making the time and getting to it. Some things include selling my old hockey cards (anyone know someone who can help me out with this?) and going on a portage/hiking trip, and working on improving/refining my writing style, to name a couple.

5. Reading more. Lastly, I’m hoping to find some time this month to continue reading and expanding my mind through enriching, thought-provoking books. I’ll be sure to post some summaries when I’m done with them, and you can check them out at my facebook group (link being updated)