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A Cajun Farewell

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The Charlotte Hornets are now officially the Cajun Hornets. All it took was several years of disingenuous negotiating on the part of the Hornets, inept leadership on the part of the city, fiscal shortsightedness on the part of the league, and a classic case of fans cutting off their noses to spite their unsaved face and zip zip, it was done. Talk about a can-do project.

So it's down the Mississippi by way of Kentucky, Norfolk, and a final loss in the Meadowlands that the Bugs go. You do have to give New Orleans credit; they apparently sealed the deal to land the team with a case of Mardi Gras beads, likely be used by ownership as Bourbon Street barter to get new Honeybee hopefuls to flash their boobs. Unfortunately, the New Orleans Hornets still haven't figured out a similar barter plan to get people to flash their Visa cards on a sustained basis.

Maybe it's sour grapes on my part, but somehow the new name just doesn't sound right. When I think of New Orleans, I think of food like Red Beans and Rice or Muffulettas. Hornets in New Orleans make about as much sense, logically and financially, as does Jazz in Utah. Go figure.

Regardless, the Hornets are history and Charlotte will miss the team if not the ownership. Here are some food ideas from around town to help you say a final goodbye.

Muffuletta, (Jason's Deli): A muffuletta (usually called a muff for short) is the Creole take on a Sicilian sub sandwich. You've got to figure that at least one of the Hornet owners will be searching out the best muff in New Orleans as soon as he gets there. If you're looking for a real New Orleans muffuletta in Charlotte, Jason's Deli is probably the best place to go. Jason's version is ham, salami, and melted Provolone cheese with homemade olivada spread served warm on New Orleans muffuletta bread.

Pros: The meat and cheese are piled thick and the homemade olive spread -- which along with the bread is what makes or breaks a muff -- is great.

Cons: Now that I've discovered these, I'll have to drive to Pineville, Huntersville, or David Cox Road on a regular basis, which of course still beats having to drive to New Orleans.

Price: A whole muff (ham or turkey versions) is $8.95, 1/2 is $5.95 and 1/4 is $4.50. The Muff Special is a 1/4 with choice of soup, red beans, chili or fruit for $5.50. Sweet tea is $1.25.

Fun Facts to Know and Tell: The muffuletta sandwich was invented by Lupo Salvadore at Central Grocery on Decatur Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans in 1906. It was purportedly named for the baker of the round Italian bread on which the sandwich is served.

Red Beans and Rice, (French Quarter): In New Orleans, the traditional Monday meal is Red Beans and Rice. Monday was also laundry day in old New Orleans and a pot of Red Beans and Rice could simmer away while the laundry was being done, using the leftover bone from the traditional Sunday ham dinner as its base. In keeping with that tradition, the French Quarter in Latta Arcade features Red Beans and Rice as its Monday special, though your laundry remains your own problem. The special comes with sweet tea and a slice of garlic bread.

Pros: The sweet tea leaves you teetering between a sugar buzz and diabetic shock; just right for my taste. The huge helping will fill you up for lunch with some left for dinner. Comes with lots of little weenies, possibly in honor of New Orleans' newest corporate citizens.

Cons: A bit on the bland side for my taste. The rice should be a complimentary flavor, not the overriding one. Definitely needs the hot sauce. Frantic pace at lunchtime, the staff does a good job but has little time for pleasantries. If you sit at the bar, expect to be cramped by people queued up to pay their bill.

Price: Including tip, about $7.

Fun Facts to Know and Tell: Jazz legend Louis Armstrong used to sign his personal correspondence: "Red beans and ricely yours." The average American eats more than 15 pounds of beans and a little more than 21 pounds of rice each year. Asians eat as much as 300 pounds of rice per person each year.

Franco-American Spaghettio A to Z's with sliced franks: Spaghettios may very well be the original convenience food targeted specifically at kids. They were created by the Campbell soup company in 1965 as "something different" to compliment their other fine canned pastas.

Pros: There are many assorted letters per serving and there are two servings per can. This means that from a single container it is very likely that both George and Ray can eat C-R-A-P and D-I-E. Consider it Charlotte's going away gift.

Cons: Nasty aftertaste, due mainly to the letters C-F-E-G and N-B-A.

Price: About $1.49 per two-serving can.

Fun Facts to Know and Tell: There are more than 1750 O's in a 15-ounce can of traditional Spaghettios, about equal to the expected average nightly New Orleans Hornets' home attendance in 2007.

You can e-mail Gene Lazo at [email protected]. *


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