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The Dining Divide 

Before faubourgs were rediscovered, there was only Uptown and Downtown in New Orleans. Cultures -- and even cuisines -- were different, as shown in the following menus. I am most experienced with a typical Downtown menu, so that will be given first. The contrasting Uptown menus will follow.

Downtown: To prick the appetite, begin the meal with a panoply of heavily salted food groups which will promote the athletic events being televised. I am partial to a mixture of Shur Shine Mixed Nuts (contains less than 50 percent peanuts) and Smartfood popcorn, white-cheddar-cheese-flavored. The latter contains whey, an ingredient common in nursery rhymes, but uncommon in real food.

These appetizers should be supplements by several bottles of Mike's Hard Lemonade, a malt beverage with a fruity bouquet. Because of its scarcity, however, a case of Bud Dry longnecks should always be kept close at hand.

Uptown: Recommended starters include the Athenos Gorgonzola or the Roquefort from Societ.... If familiarity should stale the palate, try a toothsome mortedella. With any of these cheeses, try the Louis Jadot Pouilly-Fouss....

Downtown: Gourmandizers will want to move on to MaMa Rosa's pepperoni pizza, two-pack size. If you are dieting, you might want to consider Mini MaMa's party pizzas, four-pack size. If you have relaxed your diet, add Patio's bean and cheese frozen burrito.

At this point in the meal, empty the contents of an Odom's Tennessee Pride country sausage pack into a pan over a very high flame until the contents are exceedingly hot. Periodically sprinkle with bits of bacon fat and stir with a serrated bayonet.

Simultaneously begin the preparation of the crucial pate de bloate, or starch blend. Over a low fire, warm a large can of Blue Runner New Orleans Navy beans and a package of Velveeta Shells 'N Cheese. Stir all ingredients together. Add a dollop of Tony Chachere seasoning and a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda to make the whole melange rise. Eat the dish over the sink and if you have house pets, do not make leftovers available to them without the addition of copious amounts of Tabasco sauce. (With slight modifications, this main-course recipe was given in my bestselling book, Cuisine du Bachelor.) Serve with a 2005 Diet Dr. Pepper; a 2-liter bottle prevents metallic aftertaste.

Uptown: Cheese straws, Gruyere cheese baked at 375 degrees. Squid salad. Salmon a la tartare, Kendall Brook salmon from Maine's Ducktrap River. Paneed veal in melted butter with parsley garnish. Absolutely nothing from a can. Serve with a Riesling; the 2003 Auslese has peach, honey and apricot aromas. Truly dainty and lovely stuff.

To create the balance of flavors so favored by the epicurean palate, the meal should be climaxed -- pardon my verb -- with something sweet. The following desserts should be enjoyed in a shirtless mode, although post-pubescent women should consider a Hornets tee.

Downtown: One Gambino's king cake, preferably filled with chocolate filling. If king cakes are out of season, a capable substitute would be the fabled six-layer doberge. Either should be served on a Scott towel because they tend to leave large chocolate clots on the sides of plates or bowls, clots which can and will turn up several weeks or months later. The attendant beverage is chilled milk served in a wide-brimmed plastic Carnival cup from a krewe of your choice. The confection should be submerged in this milk until large parts of it are floating independently of the main body. This will soften the total mass for eating, but prior to presentation to the mouth, it should be sniffed repeatedly. To quote a maxim of the fabled chefs of Lombardy, "Sniff before swallowing. Always."

Uptown: Clear the palate with water served at room temperature. Then serve a dozen Darlene's rum balls, with confectioner's sugar, crumbled vanilla wafers, cocoa, shelled pecans, vanilla and Karo syrup. Plus rum. And every fruit reputed or rumored to have been present in the Garden of Eden. Except, of course, the Fruit of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

To finalize:

Downtown: A glass or tumbler filled to the brim with George Dickel, 100 proof, and an unfiltered Camel regular.

Uptown: Remy Martin Fine Champagne Cognac. A Macanudo. Warning: Don't try these at home.

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