This is the latest post in a series about a road trip to New Orleans that starts here.
Desra was waiting in the Shaved Duck when Lynn and I arrived. I immediately noticed that the music was deafening. The tiles floors and tin ceiling didn’t help. There was nothing else in the vicinity and Desra had picked the restaurant so I didn’t want to dis her choice, plus I didn’t want to be one of Those Old People who complains about loud music.
I wasn’t sure what the concept for the Shaved Duck was. Was it code for something? “Shaved duck” suggested something vaguely naughty.
On the back of the menu it stated that the place was “a smokehouse and gathering place.” The menu featured Slow Smoked Duck Breast, Smoked Meatloaf, and Loaded Smoked Potato Wedges, which were essentially French fries covered with pulled pork, baked beans, bacon, white cheddar cheese, and Bourbon barbeque sauce. As is the trend, there was a fancy version of macaroni and cheese, this one topped with duck and jalapeño chili. I was pleased to see an iceberg lettuce wedge salad on the menu, a classic that’s making a comeback. The one at the duck added bacon and cherry tomatoes and came with ranch dressing; in my opinion it should just be really fresh, crisp iceberg lettuce with Roquefort dressing.
I had a vegetable and smoked Mozzarella sandwich, and we shared some buttermilk cornbread and crab cakes. What I really wanted was shrimp ‘n’ grits, but my health-conscious conscience was saying I should ease back into my healthy eating habits. I keep myself on a pretty tight leash. But I still had two days left of the vacation. Why couldn’t I just order what I really wanted? Sigh.
I caught up with Desra, who I hadn’t seen since we finished grad school 10 years earlier. Her master’s degree was in Urban Planning and mine was focused on Foreign Policy. She reminded me she had run for Minneapolis City Council, which isn’t for the faint of heart. She then led a nonprofit neighborhood association until she met her husband and moved to St. Louis a few months earlier. Her husband taught African-American history at a community college and was working on his PhD, which I assume will get him onto the tenure track at a university.
She had a huge, blindingly brilliant diamond ring which I admired. I sighed inwardly when she mentioned how old she was—the same age as Vince. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if my son could meet such an accomplished, upbeat, beautiful bride?
I hadn’t realized she was originally from New Orleans, so Lynn and I talked about that—or rather shouted. I described our visit to the civil rights museum, which she hadn’t visited yet. We talked about real estate prices in St. Louis vs. Minneapolis. Desra was job hunting and seemed positive she would find something soon.
The duck was packed, and there was a raucous group near us with one woman who kept braying loudly, “Har, Har, HAR!” Do restaurants crank up the volume to create a festive atmosphere? Or maybe they want us to hurry up and leave so they can turn more tables?
Sometimes if I am on my own turf I will ask a server to lower the volume. But again, I didn’t want to be an old fogey. I also began to worry that maybe I had some early hearing loss.
Much of the conversation touched on race issues. All the subjects above—from a recent Minneapolis electoral race to real estate to the higher education system. This brought us to the question of fraternities and sororities.
“Yes,” asked Lynn, leaning forward to make herself heard, “We don’t have them in the UK. What’s their origin? Were they designed to exclude black students?”
I could hear one out of five words Desra said. She hadn’t belonged to a sorority, but there were certainly black sororities and fraternities, so the Greek system wasn’t inherently racist, but of course it depended on the campus.
We exited the restaurant Desra exclaimed, “I can’t believe how loud it was in there! I feel like I’m deaf now!”