At last! As of earlier this week Carnival has officially begun, and the dawn of the first day found me eating king cake for breakfast. No, this is not a tradition in our house, and while I can earnestly say in my 39 years I cannot recall my first taste of the seasonal treat as a boy, my joy for this pastry in general spans decades, leaving me to weep for the scores that remain uninitiated. But then that’s New Orleans all over to me. Red beans on Monday? Every chance I get. Poboys for lunch more than once a week? Absolutely. Editing my overall caloric intake this winter holiday season? Well, let’s not get too hasty, ‘kay?
Thanksgiving circa 5 years gone now, my wife prepared a homemade chocolate cheesecake for the table. Needless to say, it was a hit. At our meal, half of it disappeared. The next day, the second half did as well courtesy yours truly. The next day without incident and out of habit I donated a pint of blood at Ochsner as I like to do every 8 or so weeks. Shortly after that the snapshot of my cholesterol came back via snail mail, and my numbers looked like a panicky core meltdown. In turn I visited my physician who screened me again at much lower levels while quietly instructed to curb my enthusiasm for sweets. I reluctantly acquiesced.
My entire life has been one lived in a steady, if not ongoing, maintenance of average weights to height ratio, mindful of family histories. But I do like to eat. A lifetime ago I had a boss in Texas that made light of my waistline more than once, stating to the world I had a hollow leg: that was where I kept all the food I ate. Not the best image to keep in one’s head, but she wasn’t wrong. I possessed a further reputation to giggles a plenty among my coworkers of eating two of any given item. Cinnamon scone? Deuce. Migas? El double down. I have never really been shy in my appetite, and eating and enjoying food in front of others has never embarrassed me. So nom nom nom I went, and therefore I still go.
But the gym visit proper and I maintain a sort of frosty across-the-room nods from each other. I don’t do spin class, I don’t lift weights, and you’ll never catch me on a treadmill. Honest. I walk. I ride my bike. I seek mobility and my own kinetic journey around the Crescent City. My 6 blocks to the streetcar happens to be the perfect number for me. I might be eating while I do it, but who cares, right? Am I fit? I guess. Am I running any 5Ks in the near future? No. And maybe I should. But maybe I don’t have to so long as keep the Philadelphia cream cheese consumption in check. And let’s be honest, that is no easy task in this town. For anyone.
I have a friend that visits New Orleans with some frequency, and we often chat about the city’s minimum of anytime fare. Sprinkled throughout the metro area are but a few 24 hour diners, an always astounding fact to him. An unusual status for a 24/7 town renowned for its cuisine? Perhaps. But then maybe it’s all we need too. I see little benefit in the possibility of destroying two cheeseburgers dressed at Camellia Grill at 4AM, but then the prospect of settling for the same at St Charles Tavern also leaves me queasy and unmotivated. Argle bargle, the paradoxes of our fair citizenry, n’est-ce pas?
This Mardi Gras season, and a long one she is, the key to survival like all seasons past comes down to the two Ps: pace and portion. Indulge, enjoy, and otherwise partake and at all hours, but keep your eye on the prize of Fat Tuesday. Then and only then, will you be alright, as they say.
Jean-Paul Villere is the owner of Villere Realty and Du Mois Gallery on Freret Street and a married father of four girls. In addition to his Wednesday column at UptownMessenger.com, he also shares his family’s adventures sometimes via pedicab or bicycle on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.