I’ve never been to this signature establishment of the wondrous city of New Orleans. In fact, I’ve never even been to the city of New Orleans. Nor, if we’re really being hyper-technical, have I ever been to the state of Louisiana.
But, in over half of the seemingly millions of workplaces I have contributed the fruits of my wage slavery, the communal kitchen had a mug emblazoned with the Café’s prodigious marketing might.
Before I’d ever seen a mug, I had heard of the place, and knew it was famous for its beignets. I have never eaten a beignet. I think I read about the place in some book that wasn’t an Anne Rice vampire novel.
The first mug I saw had nothing more than the Café name and the address. It tickled my memory of possibly having seen the name somewhere that wasn’t an Anne Rice novel, and for many days, I tried to dredge up what I knew about the Café Du Monde.
Eventually, I remembered.
I wondered why someone had put their cherished keepsake of a trip to the city that is not the capital of Louisiana casually in the kitchen *AT WORK?* Maybe she secretly worked for the Café Du Monde, and her job was to place mugs in unsuspecting kitchens to entice people to plan their vacations to see this mug-place? If so, wouldn’t you put more than your name on the mug?
I wondered if this mysterious cup owner even still worked there. Maybe she never realized her beloved mug was excluded from the single box of possessions she took with her when she was unceremoniously canned. Probably for drinking too much coffee.
The second mug was a vast improvement over the first, but just as random. It had not only the famous name, but, a café scene, with patrons relaxing on a nice patio. It reminded me of similar spots in Europe, or even like those along the 16th street mall. It was a sparsely drawn piece, with very basic lines and some trendy colors. Those few lines effectively evoked “café” to me, and I thought again of going to sit there and eat beignets, simply watching the world go by. In daylight, of course. I understand there’s something of a vampire infestation in the city, and suspect it’s worse at night.
I became fond of using this mug, and like before, wondered why it had been banished to this fate. One day, while cleaning it, one of my colleagues (who was new, and therefore was not the owner of the mug) noticed it, and, with a dreamy far-away look, sighed “Ah. The Café Du Monde. “ I nodded knowingly, and said, simply, “Beignets?” She replied, “But, of course! And so good. And coffee brewed with chicory.” I again nodded, relishing the sights and sounds of a place I’ve never been but whose mugs haunt me from job to job.
I am starting to suspect that this Café can’t possibly live up to the image I’ve built in my head, and when I do find myself in New Orleans, I should stay away from the Café Du Monde lest I ruin it. Then again, I could use a new coffee mug. I think I’ll keep it at home.