I run the risk of being attacked by angry mobs with pitchforks and torches by saying this, but, you know, that Karl Marx had a point.
He and his sidekick Friedrich Engels described how, as capitalism swept away the old feudal system that preceded it, nothing remained sacred.
“All that is holy is profaned,” they wrote.
Here in south Louisiana, we approach food with a religious fervor, so it was not surprising that people reacted when one of New Orleans’ signature creations was co-opted by Esquire magazine.
The publication reported on the “new po-boy,” which, according to the headline, is “roaring out of New Orleans.” The story, however, gives no evidence of a Crescent City cook conjuring up this thing.
The sandwich uses fried oysters — pan- instead of deep-fried — “on a bed of warm bacon and apple slaw.” If you’re laughing, wait, there’s more: The sandwich is made on brioche buns instead of French bread.
Since you can find the angry responses all over the Internet, I won’t bother to describe them. Let’s just say that now I know what it must have felt like when people south of the border first discovered that some crazy Americanos were putting pumpkin and chutney in salsa.
If oysters and apple slaw on brioche can be a thing, will cranberry-almond boudin be far behind?
I’m sure the negative reaction to this sandwich idea isn’t because of its excess. Combining bacon and oysters seems pretty mild compared with what we’ve done in Louisiana. Consider the turducken, composed of a turkey stuffed with a duck that has a chicken nestled inside of it.
I also don’t think the reaction is because it represents a change. Louisianians have always been open to culinary innovation. Look, for example, at the king cake, which now comes filled with fruit or cream cheese or chocolate, or all of those, covered in icing. People of a certain age will remember without fondness the older, simpler version of the cake.
I know, the old version has its defenders. “It’s like a brioche,” they exclaim, wielding that French word like a magical talisman to whisk away all manner of culinary sins. It was like a brioche, all right — one made with dry desert sand covered in finely ground pieces of purple, green and gold glass.
I think our negativity is due mostly to the word “new”; we’ve grown tired of its overuse. There’s the “new black” and the New Math and the endless age comparisons, as in “X is the new Y,” wherein X equals Y plus about 20 years.
I think we’re especially wary of “new” when it refers to food and drink. There was the New Coke disaster of a generation ago, and the nouvelle cuisine in French cooking, which was a bit too precious and, honestly, not very filling.
Maybe the new po-boy (I assume calling it a “poor boy” would not sit well with Esquire’s upper-demographic readership) will join those in the dustbin of history.
As for Marx, he must be squirming in his London grave at the news of a recent development, a smartphone app called Socialist.
This app isn’t designed to unite the workers of the world. Instead, Socialist says you can use it to “Create lists to organize the things you love. Restaurants, Films, Music, Shopping, Friends.”
If you add a restaurant to Socialist, it will “populate” with such things as location, reviews and photos. Presumably, it’ll also let you know if the restaurant serves “new” po-boys, or maybe pumpkin salsa.
Dennis Persica’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.