Harry Connick Jr. Talks New Orleans, The Perfect Po'Boy, and His New Album on Biscuits & Jam
About Biscuits & Jam: In the South, talking about food is personal. It's a way of sharing your history, your family, your culture, and yourself. Each week Sid Evans, Editor in Chief of Southern Living, sits down with celebrity musicians to hear stories of how they grew up, what inspired them, and how they've been shaped by Southern culture. Sid takes us back to some of their most cherished memories and traditions, the family meals they still think about, and their favorite places to eat on the road. Tune in every Tuesday for Season 2.
Episode 1: March 30, 2021
A star of music, television, film, and Broadway, Harry Connick Jr. trained under legendary pianist Ellis Marsalis, and became a household name in the 90's with crossover hit songs like "It Had to Be You." A winner of multiple Grammys and Emmys, he's starred in such films as Hope Floats and New In Town, and on television's Will & Grace and American Idol. In 2005, in the wake of damage and loss in his hometown caused by Hurricane Katrina, Harry led the fundraising charge to get New Orleans back on its feet, helping organize a national telethon and becoming an honorary chair of Habitat For Humanity. On today's show, Harry discusses his new album: Alone With My Faith– made up of spiritual standards and his own songs about faith– that speak directly to the struggles our country has managed this past year.
On His Favorite Places to Eat in New Orleans
"There's a bunch of places. There's a place across the river called Mosca's, which is a family-owned Italian restaurant with an amazing crab salad–and they have a great baked chicken. Mandina's is also great. There's a local restaurant in Lakeview called The Steak Knife, with great food. Restaurants like Brennan's are known for their turtle soup and Surrey's for the shrimp and grits breakfast… It's interesting, when I go to New Orleans, I don't really go all out for New Orleans food because my dad is 94, and if I'm really craving red beans or gumbo, he'll probably make that."
On Food Growing Up
"It was a huge part without my even knowing it. I remember coming home from school and on the days that my dad might have been home early or on a weekend, and he'd have a dozen crabs that he would be picking the meat out of so he could make gumbo. Or we'd eat things like red beans or shrimp remoulade or po' boys. That is just what we grew up with... I mean, New Orleans is the only place I've ever been where they plan the next meal at the meal you're at. You know, so if you have breakfast, people are like, what are we doing for lunch? So even now when I go visit New Orleans, I really have to pace myself because there's access to so much good food."
On His Favorite Po' Boy in New Orleans
"There's a restaurant called Mandina's, it has been there forever. It's on Canal Street. Not really in the downtown area, but if you travel away from downtown about eight to ten minutes, you'll see it. And I love their po' boys. They make them on French bread. They usually butter the French bread. I like the fried oyster po' boys. And, you want to request them dressed, which is basically everything on it: lettuce, tomatoes, mayonnaise, pickles, and all that stuff. So I love those…. They have a po' boy at Mother's called the debris po' boy. And after they cook that meat down, it turns into debris, really just kind of juice and a bunch of little pieces. And I love a roast beef debris po' boy dressed. That's a good order to make at Mother's."
On the First Words on His Title Track: "My life has changed, my world is uncertain. Everything's strange, everything's new."
"I remember looking at the news and thinking, what's happening here. Not only with COVID, but with everything else. And this has nothing to do with political affiliation. This just has to do with, as an American citizen, what is happening right now?...
A dear friend of mine has dealt with blood cancer for years and years. And she was literally on her deathbed when we were just finishing up mastering this album. I wanted to do something for her…But I didn't know what to do because I knew she couldn't eat, and she was bedridden…So I got a piece of paper and I wrote out, alone with my faith, to give it to her, as a gift.
My world has changed, but, you know, whatever the lyrics are, I felt like I was writing her experience, you know? And she got it. She appreciated it. But it was exactly what I was feeling, at the time. There's really not a lot of poetry there. There's not a lot of hidden meaning. It's just that I got to count on my faith to get me through this. It was very much a snapshot of what I was feeling in real time."
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