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Saints, politics and ya-ka-mein

January 24, 2010

One of the most moving parts of this research has been how warmly we’ve been welcomed into neighborhood bars where tight communities gather and the blues are kept alive.

This afternoon, we interview O.D. Raiford, who owns the Young at Heart Club in New Orleans’ Pigeontown neigborhood. It was our third visit to the bar, which every weekend hosts the Keith Lewis Blues Revue with vocalist Tommy Singleton. (In the photo above, a Young at Heart customer dances to yet another rousing version of “When the Saints Go Marching In.”)

The trajectory of the interview reflected the warmth of these bars. After we covered the “official” topics, the conversation continued for another hour, with Raiford’s sister and her husband joining in. We talked a lot about the Saints, of course, and then the conversation veered into race relations, politics, and the regional differences in Southern manners. This being New Orleans, we also discussed food—particularly ya-ka-mein, the beef-noodle-boiled-egg soup that’s said to be borrowed from Chinese-American merchants and perfected by African-American grandmas throughout the Crescent City.

Of course, we weren’t allowed to leave without consuming two large (and free) bowls of ya-ka-mein.

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