Love Letters to My City

New Orleans Musician Big Freedia Misses Jambalaya and Crawfish Boils

"When this thing lifts, there's gonna be tons of DJs, crawfish on the lake, and a dirty ol’ shakedown. You hear me?"

Big Freedia
Illustration: Maitane Romagosa/Thrillist
Big Freedia is a musician from New Orleans. As told to Helen Hollyman.

Hello New Orleans,

It’s the one and only Big Freedia, the Queen Diva! We are a strong city and we are gonna get through this. We got through Katrina and COVID-19 will not beat us. We will beat it. Once this thing is lifted and we can get back to going outside, New Orleans is going to bust it open and we’re gonna have a great time. 

Imagine tons of DJs, crawfish on the lake, and baby—a dirty ol’ shakedown. You hear me? Baby, it’s gonna be crazy. All of the parks is gonna be packed (but at a distance of course), all of the DJs is gonna be working, it’s gonna be like a big ol’ family reunion, you hear me?

This city is home. It’s where my family and friends are, it’s where I’m born and raised. I love the culture, the music, the food, the people, and everything about New Orleans. There’s no place else in the world like it.

Before the shelter in place for COVID-19, I was in London because we did a big ol’ Mardi Gras celebration. Then I had to go through New York to perform and do promo for my latest album, Louder. I got home right before the madness really came into effect when we got shut all the way down, so I immediately made groceries. I have two refrigerators and a deep freezer, so I went to the store for about five days straight. Every day I came back to my house with bags and bags and bags of food. I love to cook and I love to eat, so I just stacked up on everything from steaks to burgers to fries, all types of seasonings, seafood, pasta, sauces... I went crazy. I haven’t been back to the grocery yet because I’m still pulling stuff outta the freezer. My counter tops are filled because the cabinets are stuffed. 

All I’ve been doing lately is cooking and eating and sleeping and trying to go to the studio and perform on Instagram live to entertain my fans. When it comes to what I’m drinking, it’s Malibu and pineapple and light stuff, because I don’t want to be at home drunk every day. You know, tropical drinks, something that can sneak up on ya’ but isn’t too strong. And if I need strong, I can take a shot of Patron.

I’m also passing the time by hosting an Instagram gospel brunch every Sunday afternoon. I play a selection of gospel songs that I like and I also take requests from the fans. I put together a menu, set the table, and get to cooking for a really cool, laid back feel. I’ve been making everything from gravy chops to shrimp and grits to steaks, neck bones, BBQ ribs, oxtail, and booty poppin’ potatoes. Honestly I’m making a little bit of everything. We drink mimosas and it’s a really great thing. 

It looks like I’m not going to be getting out to perform anytime soon, so I’m going full force with gospel brunch right now. I want to come out with a line of seasonings, pots and pans, and eventually a restaurant. I’ve been trying to be as productive as possible in quarantine to keep my mind busy. I’m keeping on a schedule to keep things feeling as normal as they can be. When I’m not hosting my Instagram Friday Night Shakedown or the Sunday Gospel Brunch, I’m busy filling up my other days by going to the studio to record. It’s keeping me sane.

I’ve been slowing down on the cooking though, since I’m doing it on Sunday, because between the gospel brunch and Sunday dinner, it’s a lot. On the other days of the week, I’m ordering fast food and pizza so I don’t have to cook as much. My stomach is getting big... I ordered me a treadmill and bike, so I’m about to get to working out, too. 

This is a moment where I’m thinking about what I want to put out there and what the fans need right now. I’m definitely going hard on the phones in the studio booth acting like I’m in the club. Last night I was so into it I could not go to sleep. I was so hyped. When I was done, it felt like I had performed because I had been in the studio for five hours. It was like I went to the club. It felt good to me because I’m on the right track to making the right music at this time.

And I know one day we’ll get back to normal. I can’t wait for that. It makes me think about my dream day in New Orleans when this lifts. I’m gonna invite the whole family over and pull out the BBQ grill. We’ll boil some crawfish. We’ll have multiple meals, so if you want BBQ, we have BBQ. If you want seafood and crawfish and crab and corn and smoked sausage, you can get that, and maybe I’ll cook a big pot of red beans or jambalaya. We’ll hang around the house, have some liquor, whoever smokes smokes, and we’ll just have fun. I’m so connected to my family and we always gather and cook and have fun, so I can’t wait for all of my people to come over and have a big throw down in the backyard.

When I think about where we all are right now, I’m grateful for all of the seafood spots that are doing take-out, like Neyow's Creole Café, Morrow’s, and Cajun’s Seafood. I want to give a shout out to all of the frontline workers who are out there working for all of our essential needs, all of the hospitals, their staff, and everyone who is working to make everything happen. I want to send love to all of the families that have lost loved ones. We have to help each other and stick together. 

We’re all in this together. If you’re at home and you feel like you’re having a bad day, turn on some music. Music feeds the soul. It can be any type of music that you like. Just remember that. 

Stay safe and stay inside. It’s gonna be alright. 

Love,
Big Freedia

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