Ian McNulty

Ian is the host of Where Y’Eat and the Community Impact series at WWNO.

Each week, Ian shares his commentary on the intriguing food culture of New Orleans and south Louisiana with WWNO’s Where Y’Eat. He also shines light on the difference that innovative nonprofits are making across the New Orleans region through WWNO’s Community Impact series, interviewing nonprofit leaders and the people they serve.  Ian first became a WWNO contributor in 2009. He is a freelance journalist and a published author. A native of Rhode Island, Ian is a graduate of Rutgers University. He has lived in New Orleans since 1999.

When does summer start? Consult the calendar and you’ll see it’s still a month away. But in New Orleans the seasons aren’t necessarily tied to the conventions of solstice and equinox.

For me, the New Orleans summer always begins immediately after Jazz Fest, and it’s not the changing weather alone that marks the shift.

It’s the feeling that the long New Orleans train of one big celebration after the next has reached the station, and it’s time to hop off for a bit.

If you’re a vegetarian in New Orleans you’ve probably learned to ask questions before digging in and you know to never take the name of a dish at face value. 

This is a town, after all, where the key ingredient in traditional vegetable soup is beef. And it’s widely accepted here that when the cook tells you your beans were made with love, she means made with pork. 

Making a good run at a crawfish boil is a two-fisted effort that might even require some juggling. There's the twisting, pinching and peeling, the sorting and rummaging for sides and the concurrent demands of beverage management. 

That also makes the crawfish boil one of the increasingly rare aspects of modern life that remains cell phone free.

No two bowls of gumbo should be exactly the same. Heck, even when they’re served from the same pot the precise mixture of seafood and meat and seasoning may differ from bowl to bowl, based on the luck of the ladle.  This is certainly the case with Creole gumbo, a down-home style sometimes described as kitchen sink.

And yet, even for the endless gumbo variations out there, sometimes an overarching house style for a particular gumbo can speak to you in a voice you may recognize even years after your last taste. 

That’s just how food memories are wired, and that was my experience recently over a bowl of gumbo at Dunbar's Creole Cuisine. 

We talk about it with our best friends and with perfect strangers. We rant about it online and we dream about it at night. It's a natural fixation when we’re hungry, yet we still talk about it when our mouths are full.

    It's the food of New Orleans, compelling, often uniting, frequently divisive and never boring, at least not if you’re doing it right. May it always be at the ends of our forks and on the tips of our tongues.


From the most basic ingredients, bakers create wonders. It’s that pastry that makes up for getting up early, the cakes that become centerpieces of our celebrations, the anytime indulgences that get us through the day and, it’s even the unadorned loaves that are so tempting we have to tear off a piece before the bread ever makes it home. It all starts with age-old essentials, and the transformative potential of skill and craft.

In New Orleans these days, though, bakers are transforming more than just their ingredients.

For one weekend, the charity cook-off Hogs for the Cause transforms a big outdoor spread in New Orleans into something like a Southern-style never-never land.

Conjure the image of the small neighborhood grocery and I bet the picture in your mind looks pretty appealing – something hands on and small scale, with character and personality between the register and the grocery aisles.

As a business plan, though, maybe the classic neighborhood market these days looks like a flourish of old-fashioned retail romanticism.

It’s March in New Orleans, parades are again on the calendar and feasts are on the itinerary. Have fun, but for heaven’s sake, beware of flying produce and at all times, watch out for your teeth.

I’m talking about a different type of seasonal awareness for our food, and one that was brought home to me in a natural but still unlikely place – the dentist chair.

People in Louisiana are accustomed to finding delicious local crab everywhere – from fine dining restaurants to neighborhood joints to family affair seafood boils. But right now, Louisiana is finding its crab somewhere unexpected – and that’s off limits.

The state is in the midst of a first-of-its-kind closure of its blue crab fishery. It started just before Mardi Gras and continues through late March.

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