by Shawn Huegel
Once upon a time and long ago, a Queen lived cloistered below the city of New Orleans in an underground village, chosen Boudreaux. According to legend, her name was Queen Chicory and no other Queen in the history of New Orleans could compare to her grace. Her warm tone was the color of hazelnuts, and her heart larger than a hearty help of heaping Jambalaya.
For generations Creole parents told the tale of Queen Chicory arriving in New Orleans on Mardi Gras Day, sitting upon a throne, aboard her elected float the Krewe of Ghetar. Always meticulously adorned in her traditional Mardi Gras sequined gown, and feathered mask; Queen Chicory threw gold coins and purple cellophane wrapped praline candy to New Orleanians gathered in the streets.
Old folks say, that on the eve of Mardi Gras, Queen Chicory would reluctantly leave New Orleans and return to Boudreaux Village; seldom thought of by a living soul until the following year. Despite lemon summer suns and baby’s breath nights, Queen Chicory was very lonesome in Boudreaux Village; and her heart was worrisome, woeful and weary. Quieting her despair, Queen Chicory would leave Boudreaux Village as the sun hid behind the red roux stained triple moon. Clothed in shabby, shredded, scruffy clothes, Queen Chicory set out for the ‘The Hot Pilly-Pilly Café’ in New Orleans. In two shakes of lambs tail, she would gobble one Po-Boy, one Muffuletta, two plates of Creole Seafood Gumbo, two Mudbugs, one crispy Beignet, and a piece of King Cake for dessert; yet, she never gained a pound!
It has been told, a crafty and magical green Olive anointed Henri the Hierophant, lived on a branch from an evergreen tree outside of Queen Chicory’s palace. For years Henri would hear Queen Chicory’s cries of loneliness, and was very saddened by her sorrow. “Ah coo, what can I do?” he cried, as stuffed pimento teardrops fell from his hollow eyes. For many moons, Henri would view the settling colors of the sunset from his time-less tree, pondering a solution to Queen Chicory’s desperation.
One enchanted evening, in the twinkling of an onion the marinated juices in Henri’s skin tenderized his nutty brain, processing a rather clever idea. “Ah coo, Joie de Vivre, I’ve got it!” Henri proclaimed. “A potion that will transform all of Queen Chicory’s favorite foods into a moveable, magical and whimsical feast!”
As the sky did a Two Step with the lemon sun, Queen Chicory awoke to echoes of hard tapping hammers, swooshing paintbrushes and piercing prune shears. “Bayou biscuits! Who could that be?” she gasped. Quickly she ran down the spiral staircase and flew open the marble door. Awaiting her arrival on bended knees was Martine the Muffuletta and Picot the Po-Boy. In unison the duo announced, “Bonjou Queen Chickory! Please, do not be alarmed. Henri the Hierophant created us to bring you companionship and foodhood.”
“Who is Henri the Hierophant?” Queen Chicory inquired.
Martine calmly explained, “Your highness, Henri the Hierophant is a magical olive that dwells in the evergreen tree outside of your palace.”
Well, Turtle Soup! Queen Chicory thought, a magical olive that lives in a tree? Why, I never knew…
Gaining control and collecting her thoughts, Queen Chicory delighted in the revelation of her whimsical friends, and assisted the delicacies in setting up house. However, Queen Chicory was unmindful of the envy and arrogance that would soon exist amongst her newfound feasts.
Martine the Muffuletta and Picot the Po-Boy built homes in the first parish of Boudreaux Village. Martine and Picot knew they were the royalty sandwiches of New Orleans and Boudreaux Village; however, boasting, bitter, bad-mouth tastes, were uncharacteristic for their bread. Queen Chicory became very fond of Martine and Picot; and every night Martine played salty sweet sounds of Zydeco tunes from his accordion, while Picot and Queen Chicory danced in the spotlight of the orange tinted triple moon.
In the second parish of Boudreaux Village lived the Crispy Beignets, and the King Cakes. The Crispy Beignets were never rude publicly to the King Cakes, but in their sugary hearts they loathed them. Every morning the Beignet’s would sweep the powdered sugar from their front steps; their pleasantries were composed of politely, polished, and perfected waves never uttering a word. In their fungi, fermented opinion, the Beignets were the royalty doughnut of New Orleans and Boudreaux Village; and their actions were justified!
Elder Beignet would often remind the clan of their superiority. “Remember to knead, fold, and rise to your lineage,” Elder Beignet loudly proclaimed. “King Cakes are an aftertaste, a ring-shaped mess from mere cinnamon dough; splattered with icing, and speckled with purple, green, gold colored sugar!”
The Crispy Beignet’s knew their powdered sugar didn’t stink.
In the third parish, dwelled the Mudbugs and the Creole Seafood Gumbo; and they were as thick as thieves. The Mudbugs were similar to their kinfolk the Lobster. The Mudbugs were not as large as their great cousins, but they were no small fry; their meat soared with more sweetness to savor in. Legend has it, both were a mouth-catching bunch, but their salty spores were to the bone. Their beliefs were akin to the Beignets; however, they hated ALL of the foods in Boudreaux Village especially Martine and Picot! “What are we? Spoiled leftovers from a crawfish boil!” confided the Mudbugs to the self appointed King Gumbo. “Queen Chicory spends all of her time with Martine and Picot, never giving us a food thought!”
When the sauce of the triple moon whirled into a white roux, the Mudbugs and King Gumbo, covered their mouths with Chinet dinner napkins, and snuck into Martine and Picot’s parish. Carefully checking if the coast was clear, the sect used tomato paste to food paint cruel words such as “Po-Boys: Walk west until your bread floats” and ‘Muffa What?” on their neat white fences. Their next stop was the Beignets and the King Cake’s parish. Delightfully dancing in their deviousness, The Mudbugs and King Creole food sketched, “Stank a Wank King Cakes!” and “Saccharine Sappy Beignets - Go away” on their foodmobiles.
It so happened the following morning, Martine overheard the Mudbugs bragging about the unsavory grafooditi - when all food broke out! The King Cakes smeared icing on King Gumbo’s face and Picot dealt a brisk ladle to one of the Mudbugs head. Meanwhile, the Crispy Beignets decided to desert their smug zone and join the food fiasco. Hour’s later, pieces of Crawfish tails, powdered sugar, chunks of Gumbo and French bread were scattered on the village streets. It was truly a food mess!
Suddenly, the doughy white clouds turned the color of dirty rice, and the red bean sky gloomed over the village. Heavy rain rapidly fell on the cobble streets; and a gust of wind blazed through the village like brown flour sizzling in fat. The moveable feasts were frazzled, frightened and fumbled for their food parts.
Legend has it; Queen Chicory had observed the wicked weather and food battle from her bedroom palace window. “Andouille Sausage! What can this be?” she questioned. “I must seek Henri the Hierophants counsel. Surely he has knowledge of this distasteful affair.” Grabbing her rainbow colored feathered umbrella, Queen Chicory rushed to Henri’s mythical tree.
And so it was told, Henri the Hierophant confessed to Queen Chicory that he had caused the intense rain and bellowing winds, to scare some food sense into the whimsical feasts. “Ah coo, my dear Queen Chicory,” Henri explained, “Your moveable and magical feasts are jealous and hatefulness consumes their swamp cooler hearts!”
“Why Genoa Salami! How can that be? Queen Chicory passionately proclaimed, “I love all of them and you as well Henri, my delectable green olive. Would you please calm the rains and settle the winds, Henri? I must speak with everyone immediately, and I want the weather blissfully beautiful!” Queen Chicory pleaded.
“Your wish is my desire!” Henri peacefully abided.
That afternoon Henri the Hierophant and all of the moveable feasts gathered in Queen Chicory’s courtyard. Tearfully Queen Chicory apologized to her newfound feasts; unraveling how her loneliness had trapped her thoughts and self-pity had consumed her emotions. “My words are pure and I will never again choose one of you over the other; let us be a be a gentle whisper for one another.
And it was so, their wicked thoughts evaporated into thin air, and the magical feasts embraced each other under the Mardi Gras bead lit sky. Elder Muffuletta wrote a song in celebration of their newfound kinship:
Olive’s green, Olive black. No more worries on our backs!
Beignets and King Cakes getting along.
Elder Muffuletta singing a song.
King Gumbo doing a jig!
Henri swinging on a twig.
Hate has departed from our hearts.
We stand together - not a la carte!
Ancients say, Queen Chicory, Henri the Hierophant, and the moveable feasts lived happily, heartily, and harmoniously together, forever and ever.
Shawn Huegel lives in Bella Vista, AR. A former substitute teacher, she is married and has one son who is currently in college at Willamette University in Oregon. She is originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin and moved to New Orleans, LA, after graduating from high school. She lived there for five years and this story is a tribute to New Orleans - her second home.
- Charles Langley
- Charlotte Jones
- Christopher Woods
- D.N. Drake
- Dev Jarrett
- Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon
- Eric S. Brown
- Frank Roger
- James Patrick Cobb
- Jens Rushing
- Justin Sherman
- Keith Adam Luethke
- Lynn Pinkerton
- Mary Overton
- Matt Mitchell
- Michael Fontana
- Nick Cato
- Rupert Merkin
- Shawn Huegel
- T.J. McIntyre
- Thomas Head
- Walter Giersbach
- Wayne Summers