Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Ole sober

My friend Sylvia, me, and Miss Linda
In New Orleans, Yakamein is a neighborhood thing, a dish you get at corner stores or markets. It's a take-out thing, a styrofoam cup of beef broth, jacked up with soy and hot sauce, laden with spaghetti noodles, some meat if you're lucky, and a half a hardboiled egg. No one really knows its origins - food writers and folkways scholars speculate it might have been an adaptation of recipes brought back from the Korean War theatre by returning veterans, or, alternately, an evolved artifact of New Orleans' 19th century Chinatown, once home to railroad laborers.

Today's Yakamein is a rich, salty tincture, buzzing with sodium and the chemical zing of concentrated beef bouillon. It's also known as Ole Sober, because this assertive salty brew is a touted remedy for that aching head and unsettled stomach that follows too much revelry.

We had spent Saturday night at the Krewe de Vieux and Krewe Delusion parades, followed by a couple of drinks back in the Bywater. This was a full weekend - our first Carnival season in New Orleans, plus we had a visitor, my friend Sylvia from New York - and we wanted to catch as much fun as we could.

Sunday there was a Second Line Parade for the Social and Pleasure Club Ladies of Unity, and though we didn't rise early enough to catch it at its start, we decided to catch it along the route. We parked the car on Miro Street, and then walked down Toledano hoping to encounter the parade.

We knew we were in the right place when we saw, parked up on the neutral ground by Roman Street, a barbecue smoker, fragrant smoke rising like incense, and a pick-up truck with two huge aluminum kettles in the back - Miss Linda Green, the Ya-Ka-Mein Lady.

Miss Linda's truck at the Undefeated Divas Second Line
A cup of beef Yakamein is $7, and when she ladles it up for you, her granddaughter hands you a plastic fork and napkin. Linda squirts in a dash of Crystal, one of Sriracha, and a jolt of soy sauce. The brew is thickly garnished with chopped green onions. The fork makes it easy to scoop the soft spaghetti noodles into your mouth, and you can drink the rich broth right out of the cup. 

Miss Linda's beef is tender and finely chopped - it's easy to eat, no gristle or tough chunks. I let the boiled egg steep in the salty broth till I'd finished most of the soup, so that the powdery yolk was infused with flavor.

It went down good. I have to admit, after the last two nights' revelry, I needed a good jolt of Ole Sober.

We talked with Miss Linda, and she showed us pictures of herself marching with her own club, garbed in finery - a march we missed in December. Miss Linda sets up her truck at many Second Line parades, and also has a booth at festivals in town. She is a food ambassador for New Orleans folk cuisine, and told us she has plans to travel to Nigeria to participate in a culinary exchange program - bringing New Orleans food to Africa.

Hooray for Miss Linda!! She's the best.

1 comment:

Karen (formerly kcinnova) said...

Looks good, so no doubt it tastes good!
You are living it up, Aunt Snow!