On his dock along the banks of Bayou Yscloskey, Darren Stander makes the pelicans dance.
More than a dozen of the birds have landed or hopped onto the dock, where Stander takes in crabs and oysters from the fishermen who work the bayou and Lake Borgne at its mouth. The pelicans rock back and forth, beaks rising and falling, as he waves a bait fish over their heads.
At least he's got some company. There's not much else going on at his dock these days. There used to be two or three people working with him; now he's alone. The catch that's coming in is light, particularly for crabs.
"Guys running five or six hundred traps are coming in with two to three boxes, if that," said Stander, 26.
In honor of Mardi Gras, the Southern Foodways Alliance celebrates the unique food of New Orleans. Today's story comes courtesy of Sara Roahen, author of "Gumbo Tales: Finding My Place at the New Orleans Table." It should also be noted that many sno-ball stands are closed at this time of year, but that's not stopping anyone from dreaming about them.
First things first: a New Orleans sno-ball is not a snow cone - a pre-frozen, rock-hard concoction like those sold from ice cream trucks and concession stands elsewhere. As each of our New Orleans Sno-Balls oral history subjects attest, New Orleans sno is a product of locally made, carefully stored, and expertly shaved-to-order ice.
The sugary syrups that color and flavor a New Orleans sno-ball are equally important to the final product, and each sno-ball maker protects his own syrup recipes. In fact, a majority of the recipes at Hansen’s Sno-Bliz in Uptown, Williams Plum Street Snowballs near Riverbend, and Sal’s Sno-Balls in Old Metairie have survived several generations of ownership.
(Editors' Note: We originally ran this piece on August 29, 2010 - the five-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. With our beloved New Orleans and Gulf Coast in the path of Hurricane Isaac, it seemed fitting to share this reminder of why this region is so dear to our hearts and vital to the world. Want to help? CNN's Impact Your World has a great list of resources.)
To pay our own tribute to the New Orleans spirit, we rounded up a celebrated group of people from all walks of the Louisiana living tradition to share their own stories on why the region's food culture should not - and will never be - washed away.
Five Reasons to Eat in Louisiana
The home of New Orleans's beloved Hubig's Pies was destroyed by a fire early Friday morning in a "total loss," according to the New Orleans Fire Department.
The five-alarm fire at the historic bakery began around 4:28 a.m. in the Faubourg Marigny neighborhood, CNN affiliate WWL-TV reported.
An employee noticed smoke coming out of the fryer room, where the fire is assumed to have started.
Andreas Preuss is a Supervising Producer at CNN. He's based in Atlanta, but New Orleans is his happy place.
For the next two weekends, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is ground zero for music lovers, food enthusiasts and anyone who wants to soak up the culture of South Louisiana. There's a lot to offer on all these fronts. For me, as a native New Orleanian, it's the best two weekends on earth.
You really can't go wrong at the Jazz Fest; there are food booths setup in strategic locations around the site at the New Orleans Fairgrounds. Locals know how to navigate the field and for visitors it's a bit of delicious hide and seek.
One of the best ways to meet and eat is by sitting with some fellow festival goers. There are small tables set up around the food booths – and they can quickly become a sort of buffet of what people are eating. You hear a lot of "What's that?" and "Where did you find it?" and the inevitable "Wanna try a bite?" I tend to be nomadic in my Jazz Fest feasting. And just like exploring the city itself, there's a new food adventure around every corner.
Carnival season ends Tuesday with Mardi Gras, and for the past eight days, partygoers have taken over the French Quarter in New Orleans, reveling in beads, booze and well, that other five-letter b-word.
For those of us looking for a way to celebrate Fat Tuesday from the comfort of our homes or the lameness of our offices, have no fear. There is a cure to the “I’m-Not-in-New-Orleans” blues and it’s called the King Cake.
The popular pastry is rich to the taste buds but it’s also rich in history, explains Arthur Hardy, the self-proclaimed "World’s Foremost Authority on Mardi Gras."
Hardy says the exact history is not certain, but like many things in New Orleans, the King Cake is believed to have originated in France as part of the Feast of the Epiphany, a celebration for the three wise men who visited Christ twelve days after Christmas.
Laissez les bons temps rouler! It's Mardi Gras time in New Orleans, and to us that means an excuse to down as many muffulettas, oysters, bowls of etouffee and gumbo, and glasses of brandy milk punch as we can fit in our mouths.
It's also a time for New Orleans' residents (and many fans) to celebrate the resilient spirit of a city that refused to give up, despite a series of tragedies that threatened to destroy their way of life forever.
Fill up a Hurricane glass, grab a beignet and get a taste of life in America's most delicious city.
What NOT to Do During Mardi Gras - Lu Brow advises not to bargain for beads and shares the importance of a Popeye's run with strangers
Five Cocktails I Enjoy Creating and CONSUMING During Mardi Gras - but Lu certainly knows how to cut loose, too
What we ate in New Orleans - and you should, too.
iReport: The best bites in New Orleans - We asked, and you shared your must-try foods all over town.
The food that got them through - New Orleanians love to talk...and argue...and educate...and opine about food. It's who they are, and what has kept them going, even when their very way of life was in danger of being swept away forever.
Kate Krader (@kkrader on Twitter) is Food & Wine's restaurant editor. When she tells us where to find our culinary heart's desire, we listen up.
If you fall somewhere in the middle - if you want to drink some Hurricanes or Abitas, and wear some beads but keep your shirt on - and can’t make it to New Orleans for the parades, here are a few places around the country that might almost make you feel that you’re there. And hopefully not worry about finding a clean bathroom.
Editor's note: CNN Travel will focus on facets of a different American city each month in their Destination USA series. Next month they're looking at Miami, Florida.
Fat Tuesday is rolling up fast, so we asked for your recommendations for New Orleans' very best dishes.
"Excess is the new moderation," one iReporter proclaimed. Debatable, but not a bad mantra for a trip to diner's paradise. If you're not hungry now, you will be.
Destination U.S.A.: New Orleans
iReport is taking a closer look at what the United States' most vibrant cities have to offer, and we need your help! Over the next year we'll put the spotlight on a different city each month, collecting your insider recommendations for the best those hot spots have to offer. We want to get the nitty gritty of what you like and why. We'll have a few assignments each month asking for something specific about the featured destination.
First stop: New Orleans, Louisiana