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No Stopping the Hungry


Warning! Planet New Orleans is a danger zone every day of the year

Here we are on the cusp of summer, the polar opposite time of year from the traditional holiday season when Americans usually gain the most weight. Yet all the feasting, partying and merry whatnot that dominate the cooler seasons wind up being the least of my worries as far as packing on the pounds goes. While food-centric days like Christmas and Thanksgiving certainly pose their share of threats to my hips, thighs, buttocks and waistline, I really start to fret about gaining weight immediately after the New Year. Yep, at a time when renewal, motivation, fasting, cleansing, exercise, portion size and weight control fall seamlessly into place for many, that’s when I begin to worry about going up a few dress sizes by the time summer arrives. And being that you too, dear reader, are probably finding yourself somewhere in the New Orleans area as you read this, you most likely share my problem and subsequently feel my pain right about now.

That’s because for the weight conscious, New Orleans isn’t the most conducive place to be on January 1st, the day we clamber out of bed (or off the floor) and decide to get with it. After several hair-of-the-dog mimosas for good measure, we religiously follow Sugar Busters or some other popular diet plan for a few excruciating days until we reach our penance saturation point, high-tail it to Randazzo’s Bakery first thing on January 6th and dig our claws into a coveted fresh king cake to ring in the Mardi Gras season, ravaging through the plastic wrap and devouring the whole cake out in the parking lot. And the momentum of dangerous eating in New Orleans just continues to snowball, making me believe that the days of turkey and cranberry sauce may just be some of our more skinny times to savor.

That’s because along with brazen king cake massacres in broad daylight, we continue to pork out at Mardi Gras parades, cramming every daiquiri and fried chicken leg we possibly can down our open maws. We repeat these actions at Sugar Bowl and Super Bowl parties, plowing through vats of taco dip and swallowing burgers whole. On Valentine’s Day, we drop major coin at restaurants going hog wild on French wine and raspberry soufflés because, well, you know, Valentine’s Day only comes once a year! The Confirmations and Communions of young Catholics bring after-party trappings of homemade spaghetti and meatballs and cross cakes slathered in buttercream frosting. For Easter, seafood boils overtake backyards, and even after swelling up from sucking heads and drinking beer, everyone still dives into bunny baskets filled with Elmer’s Heavenly Hash eggs, because there is just no stopping the hungry.

Then there’s the non-stop festivals like the Jazz Fest, whose vendors offer remarkable gourmet platters at campground-type settings that turn on the most seasoned of foodies. Who cares if rock legend Robert Plant is belting his butt off to “When the Levee Breaks” when there’s yummy, gooey crawfish bread to jam into your feed sack! And the high school reunion dinners, fried fish nights benefiting churches, Mother’s Day brunches, Father’s Day barbeques … my Lord! If you’re not up to you neck in marvelous victuals by now, you are definitely not located on planet New Orleans.

Those of us who haven’t practiced portion control since January have gotten into Titanicsized consequences, thanks to the cruel intersection of deliciously ridiculous situational eating in New Orleans with the inevitability of skin-baring summer fashion. Each year as I topple the scale, BAM! INCOMING! Fashion catalogs overtake my mailbox, showing no signs of bulky, comfy sweaters, only page after page of bronzed flesh tricked out in bikinis crafted from pennies and dental floss. Recently as I imagined myself in these barely-there threads, frolicking on a beach, jangling in coins and twine, my entire being became enveloped in a warm glow, and not the kind you get from daydreaming of the sun. Nope, it was the warm glow of sheer, absolute mortification.

Bikini fear this time of year is the heavy price we pay for living in bona fide eating Mecca. It’s bad enough that my “skinny” jeans are mummifying at the back of the closet right now, so all bets are off that I’ll be at the beach flossing in a filament thong anytime soon. But I’m going to take things in my hands, though, and the next damn swimsuit catalog that appears in my mailbox chock full of buxom beauties wearing Scotch Tape and fishing line is going straight into the waste, right after I annihilate it with the same multi-purpose shredding talons I skillfully employ to tuck into king cakes. Then to welcome summer, I’m off to get a chocolate snowball doused in condensed milk, because Hallelujah! The heat is here and the snowball stands are finally open, luring the weary citizens of New Orleans into their icy lairs. I feel better already.