NoLa Diary #10 – the Muffuletta and the Mississippi

Just like the Hudson River is a character in the story of New York City, so the Mississippi River is a primary character in the story of the city of New Orleans. So what could be better than a picnic lunch right beside the mighty Mississippi? On a warm, sunny day like today, nothing could be better.

Today’s NoLa story starts in the French Quarter at 923 Decatur Street, where you can find Central Grocery Co. When people talk about Central Grocery, they get religious, frankly. Central Grocery is the indisputable home of the original Muffuletta sandwich. This sandwich is so famous it has it’s own vocabulary. You can get a full Muff, a half-Muff, and to complete your rite, the pilgrims drink Barq’s Root Beer.

Central Grocery Co. - home of the Muffaletta

There are two doors in the front of Central Grocery. One for people coming in – aka THE LINE – and the other one for people leaving. So I got on line (thankfully only about 10 people in front of me, at 11:30am on a Wednesday) and bought my half-Muff for $7.50, a bottle of Boylan’s Creme, and some Zapp’s Sweet Potato chips to round out my culinary experience.

Considering the size of the thing, a half-Muff is a full sized sandwich under ‘normal’ circumstances (not NoLa though, where portions run huge.) $7.50 is a completely reasonable price. It’s got a bunch of deli meats like salami, mortadella, plus provolone and their original olive spread on an Italian roll. They cut the thing in half (which they call quarters, haha), and wrap it in Central Grocery Co. printed paper.

The inside of Central Grocery looks it's full 100 plus years old

So I got my sandwich and made my way to the Waterfront Park, which is just on the other side of the French Market, across the Streetcar tracks and runs alongside the Mississippi River. Every few 100 feet there are benches to sit on flanked by garbage cans (conveniently) and street lamps.

I sat down on a park bench and immediately noticed this is NOT the Hudson River kids.  If the Hudson is the shy boy who sits in the back of the class, the Mississippi is the dish throwing girlfriend who beans you on the head with her beer mug on a bad day. This girl ain’t no lady.

I watched the turbulent muddy waters of the Mississippi whirling in vortices in the center of the river and thought uh, I wouldn’t want to captain a ship in those waters. The Mississippi looks dangerous, which makes sense because New Orleans looks dangerous too (and is, some of the time.)

One of the many working tugboats on the Mississippi

Watching boats on the Mississippi is like watching a wrestling match. You’ve got freighters and tug boats and ferries and paddle-wheel cruisers for tourists all jockeying for position in the center-most parts of the river where, I’m guessing, it’s more navigable.

Does this boat look big? I can tell you it IS, and on the river it's like a floating toothpick.

It’s quite a show to watch these big boys turning with the bends in the river and the water dashing against the rocks which line the sides of the river (I was sitting at the top of the “embankment” where the park is located.)

Great view of the candy apple red paddle wheel of the Creole Queen chugging down the Mississippi

And as I finished one quarter of my half-Muff washed down with my Boylans, I declared myself full, even though I had purposefully eaten no breakfast today.

Muffuletta consists of

 

I packed the other quarter (haha) into my rucksack and made my way down off the embankment and disappeared into the crowds in the French Quarter.

 

This big boy rounds the bend in the Mississippi and heads toward the bridge

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