Dad Dinners

People work on their relationships in many ways. We do it with #daddinners.


Some kids have cherished memories with their dad like Christmas morning. I have cherished memories of my dad in restaurants. My love of food in many ways should be contributed to my father and I’ve recently realised I don’t give him that credit enough. While my love of cooking and the kitchen being my favorite place comes from my mother and NaNa, undoubtedly my willingness to try new foods at new restaurants was inherited from my father.
#daddinners were the first instances of me realizing how much I show my love through food. It became an obsession to always pick a restaurant or order the thing that would start a conversation because so often I was too shy to talk about real things and real feelings. Feelings I’ve only recently begun to acknowledge.

My parents divorced when I was small. So small that I don’t have any memories of them actually being together. But I was fortunate enough to still have my Dad in my life. It wasn’t perfect, I didn’t get to see him every day like most of my friends but I knew he was there for me.

Then … we moved to Nebraska. And so began the official start of Dad dinners. We’d go to dinner whenever one of us was in town as we normally only got to see each other for a few hours. Occasionally I’d visit for longer with the express purpose of staying with him, but at some point, there was still a dad dinner.

As I grew older and our relationship (and my feelings about it) grew more complicated, there was one thing that was always easy – dad dinners. I’ve come to terms with the fact that my relationship with my dad will always be different than that of my younger brothers and youngest sister, but I’ve also realized that isn’t the end of the world. I’m a better food critic because of dad dinners. I have a more extensive palate because of dad dinners. I believe in ordering appetizers because of dad dinners. But most importantly, I’ll always have #daddinners.

Home is where the heart is…

and NOLA has stolen mine.

My mother’s side of the family is from Louisiana. Both my late grandmother, aunt, uncle and NaNa are natives; my mother lived there for a brief period during her youth. You could say without New Orleans, there’d be no Ashley Raelene.

So when my friend decided to visit the Creole State I knew I had to go too. Despite some set-backs immediately preceding this trip (story of my life) I was determined not to miss this opportunity. So as my friend celebrated her actual date of birth, I got on a plane to start my NOLA weekend early, visiting my aunt until everyone arrived the following day.

To be in a place that seemed so familiar, although I couldn’t actually remember ever being there, is an experience only those having been “raised” Southern in another region will likely experience. As soon as I stepped off the plane a feeling of comfort washed over me, as if I’d been missing this place all along. Listening to my aunt, driving to her house and mentally noting the changes she made after Katrina left me swimming in a sea of feelings. Not all bad feelings, but some of displacement– of knowing I’d never see New Orleans completely as she’d been before.

The remainder of my trip could be summed up in three categories: the people, the food and the buildings.

The People

Having lived in Nebraska for a number of years I’m familiar with “Nebraska nice”. The notion that Midwesterners are inherently nice and easy-going, quick to offer a hand or just a friendly hello. Recently I’ve heard NE Nice more accurately described as “Nebraska Nice … to your face”. An endless circle jerk of people wanting to appear warm and welcoming despite their conservative leanings towards judging your whole life.. and telling their friends about it later.

New Orleans’ brand of nice, however, is authentically more genuine. Even honking at a pedestrian wrongly crossing Canal Street takes on an air of politeness here not seen above the Mason-Dixie. It’s hard to think of an interaction during my trip that didn’t leave me a little bit happier (save my phone getting stolen, which gave way for a chivalrous search by someone else). Unlike many who fall in love with a place they visit, only to worry about not knowing anyone if they move there, New Orleans is a place that would welcome you with open arms, even before you’ve signed a lease.

The Food

Honestly, I shouldn’t even have to write this part. People travel from far and wide to enjoy the creative creole and Cajun cuisine Louisiana has to offer. From the stuffed shrimp I had at Dooky Chase‘s to the shrimp and crawfish mac and cheese I stood 30 minutes for at the Treme Gumbo Fest, I left New Orleans ruing not being able to eat like I did over the weekend, every day. Even the selection at the Riverwalk Outlet mall was amazing, with Mike Anderson’s Seafood offering the best fried okra I’ve had since my grandmother’s.

As I get older, the more I recognize foods multifaceted-ness. It connects us not only to our family and pasts, like the okra did for me, but also to new cultures and friends. The food is so much a part of many people’s experiences that NOLA could never be separated from its culinary offerings. And as this space becomes more and more attractive for millennials marked with scarlet letters of F (for foodie) NOLA has done an outstanding job preserving its food traditions while incorporating cuisines from its many “immigrant” populations.

The Buildings

Take one step into The French Quarter, Bourbon Street or The Garden District and you immediately know where you are. Every architectural style can be found within a few minutes of each other from creole cottages to the signature french balconies to the skyscrapers in the CBD. Doing a more “adventurous” part of our trip we trekked on foot through the Garden District from Magazine Street to St Charles. As time passed I found it increasingly difficult to find a condo, house or apartment I wouldn’t be able to see myself living in (though my penchant for going pant-less immediately upon arrival home may conflict with many of the floor to ceiling front windows).

Though I’m not planning to cut my time in Omaha short, no matter how much I reminisce on this trip, I do think NOLA has a much larger part of my heart than Colorado does. When the timing is right, we’ll see if my heart wins out (and a head hunter comes and offers me $$$$$ to work somewhere it doesn’t snow in November). Until then– there’s plenty of festivals and food to come back for.


*sorry this post lacks the many amazing pictures I took during the trip. Again my phone got stolen and only a couple were backed up on my iCloud. Dooky Chase’s stuffed shrimp were one of them 🙂


Why not.

I have the worst timing.

My interest or excitement is only ever peaked when the accomplishment of said thing I’m excited about is questionable.

Move to a new city and start over? Sure, but what about your mom’s health?

Get out there and get involved in activities? You could, but what about grad school?

Join a gym? Silly, you work late all the time, when is the gym happening?

And I am. Starting despite also applying for graduate school, working a demanding full time job where I write ALL DAY (which I love), looking for apartments and planning a potential move across state lines for my mother. I am committing to writing more than I do on a daily basis, to finding fresh and witty ways to talk about my true loves (or trying to at least) and putting my name behind it.

In a world where personal branding is everything I’m aware this isn’t a little undertaking. I know I have to commit, to be consistent, to care — not exactly my wheelhouse honestly. But at a certain point you have to say, why not?

I hate “intro” posts but I guess this is mine. Here we go.