I could’ve ate and drank like a king traipsing along the path of the CTC Steppers second line but the Tet Festival in Village de l’est was calling out to me.
New Orleans Little Vietnam neighborhood is one of my favorite places to prospect for food, and the annual Mary Queen of Vietnam food festival is one of Louisiana’s best parties.
New Orleans has one of the largest Vietnamese communities in the U.S and and the concentration of Viet-grannies and aunties who know how to cook is profound. They also believe in keeping the margins low and the volume high on their cuisine.Tet Festival is well-priced for the working man.
After attending for the past few years I know where my favorite vendors are and I can vector in on the best cooks with ease. One lady I’ve been visiting for what seems like forever has her meatball recipe on lockdown and will sell you a fat kebab for $3.
The gal across the way marks her deep-fried egg rolls at a buck apiece. A squirt of supremely funky fish sauce is free.The cooks are hustling in the booths as queues form out front. People shout in Vietnamese as runners bring steel pans filled with all manners of hot chow onto the vending tables.
It’s slightly frantic and smells like heaven.
A cover band bleats out a Prince song as shrieking children chase one another whilst detonating fireworks at their feet. There are thousands of people afoot and the mood tilts towards joyous.
I got priced out of my goat soup vendor a few years ago when he went up to $18. I strode past his booth just to cop a smell of his elixir and gaped at his new tariff of $22! Goats are for the swells nowadays, I reckon.Two fried banana fritters will run you a full dollar and a pint of cold, sweet coffee is five bucks. I take my dessert standing near a cotton candy vendor as a cadre of ancient men huddle near me chatting and chainsmoking Newport cigarettes.
When I get back in my car two dragonflies are fucking on the dashboard. By the time I wrestle my camera out of its pouch the pair have finished and begin batting themselves against my windscreen in an effort to return to the out of doors.
The fields surrounding the Mary Queen of Vietnam church have been turned into vegetable gardens and the ecosystem has been well-nourished by the hands of the gardeners.
Rain begins to fall; an auspicious moment as it’s said in Vietnamese culture that the appearance of low-flying dragonflies portends rain. I wheel out of the grass parking lot and point west towards home.