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Published: 2003/04/26
by Brian Ferdman

Featured Department:Inaudible Hiss: The New Orleans Jazzover Seder

[Editor’s note: this seemed appropiate to feature during Jazz Fest month]
(Author’s note: I recognize that the following material is about as sacrilegious as it gets. I also recognize that if I believed in Hell, I’d be burning for eternity. Thankfully, I don’t believe in Hell, so I think I’m in the clear. Read on with a clean conscious.)
Everyone knows about the excitement of Jazzfest, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival that takes place during the last weekend in April and the first week in May. Thousands of tourists descend upon the city to catch lots of great music and eat tons of good food. However, most tourists are unaware of the traditional New Orleans holiday of Jazzover, a week-long celebration of freedom that precedes Jazzfest.
Jazzover is a festive holiday that dates back to an ancient time, 1971. It is the celebration of the freedom of jazz from years of bondage. There was a time when New Orleans jazz was not so popular. Money was scarce, shady record deals were cut, and legendary musicians were held down by THE MAN. These musicians toiled in obscurity, neglected by music lovers, and THE MAN reveled in delight. The most famous victim of THE MAN was Professor Longhair, a tremendously gifted piano player who was forced to spend his later years working as a janitor and cardshark. Eventually he was re-discovered, and after the heroic efforts of Allison Miner and Quint Davis, THE MAN was defeated and Professor Longhair was freed from the chains of janitorial and cardsharking hell. His freedom was celebrated in a rousing performance at the 1971 Jazzfest, uniting the tribes of jazz lovers, popularizing New Orleans music, and bringing peace to the fair city of New Orleans.
Jazzover is both a joyous and somber holiday. On one hand, we celebrate the liberation of the jazz art form, but on the other hand, we recall the tyranny and oppression that hindered those who carried the flame of jazz for so many years in anonymity. While we are now free to celebrate and enjoy jazz, we must also realize that jazz is not free throughout the world. For instance, Eastern Europeans have long suffered under the yoke of bad taste in their fascination with club music. Even in America, the outbreak of talentless boy bands, narcissistic Madonna releases, and gangsta rap albums celebrating multiple bullet wounds, threaten the very life-force of jazz. As a people, we must not forget the struggles of the past, and we must take our message of freedom to our oppressed brothas and sistas.
Jazzover is celebrated in a ritualistic dinner called a ‘Seder.’ In the center of the table stands the Seder plate, a special dish that is divided into six sections. Each section holds a food with symbolic resonance to the Jazzover story. The six foods of the Seder plate are:
1) The Bitter Herbs, also known as low-grade Cannabis Sativa, also known as Schwag or Swamp Weed
2) A Stick of Lard
3) Fried Green Tomatoes
4) Ragweed
5) Jambalaya
6) Andouille Sausage
Accompanying the Seder plate is a stack of three Beignets and several cans of Dixie beer.
As the Seder progresses, the symbolism of each food item is revealed.
It’s Time to Drink Now
At the beginning of the Seder, we recognize the joy and hope that Jazzover brings. After suffering through a frigid 60-degree winter, the coming of Jazzover ushers in the unbearable heat of spring. In celebration of the bitterness of this transition, we toast life and drink of the most bitter-tasting beverage on Earth, a can of Dixie beer. (Note: You will consume four cans of Dixie beer during the Seder, so pace yourself or you could windup with a bad headache).
Fried Green Tomatoes
As a symbol of the growth and health of spring we eat of the healthiest vegetable in New Orleans, a green tomato that’s been slathered in batter and deep-fried. We dip the fried green tomato into some oily remoulade to remind us of the sleaziness of the record labels that took advantage of the young, green musicians in New Orleans. We also take note of the very bad pun in the last sentence.
What is Ragweed Doing On a Plate?
There’s no real purpose. It’s just there because it symbolizes the bayou and springtime. I can tell you not to eat it, and I’d advise that your guests take their allergy pills before the Seder.
The Beignets
Throughout the week-long celebration of Jazzover, we do not eat normal bread, but rather we only eat beignets. Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, it’s the way of the Seder, and we’ll explain it later, so stop asking questions.
From a stack of three beignets, the host tears the middle beignet in half and places it in a napkin. This special piece of beignet is called ‘Dessert’ because the guy who came up with the idea for this whole Seder thingy wasn’t very creative. At some point during the Seder, the host will hide the ‘Dessert’ and following the Festive Meal, the children will search feverously for it. This crazed search will give the adults ample time to sneak away and chow down on Bananas Foster while the children hunt for a measly piece of beignet for their dessert. After a child finds the ‘Dessert,’ he or she will then attempt to barter with the host to sell back the special piece of beignet. If the child attempts to charge interest to the host, the child will be lucky to escape the Seder without a swift kick in the ass.
The Four Questions
The youngest child at the Seder will ask the famous Four Questions. (Note: No matter how cute babies may be, it is always advised to follow a loose interpretation of this ‘youngest child’ rule and choose in favor of a child who can actually read. Trust me, I’ve been to many a Seder where everything is put on hold while overzealous parents attempt to teach their 9-month old how to read. Listen up, parents. There is a time and a place for cuteness, and that time and place shouldn’t stand between me and my meal. Capice?!)
The Four Questions are:
Why is this night different from all other nights?
1) On all nights we need not dip even once, but on this night, we do so twice.
2) On all other nights we eat bread, but on this night we eat only beignets.
3) On all other nights we eat any kind of vegetables, and on this night we eat only marijuana, which really isn’t a vegetable anyway. (Yeah, we eat fried green tomatoes, too, but once you deep fry em, they kind of lose any healthy vegetative powers. And honestly, would you turn down the justification of eating marijuana at a formal meal? No, I didn’t think so.)
4) On all other nights do we eat sitting up, but on this night we all recline.
Yes, thank you, Stephen Hawking. I know that there is only one question here and four answers, but it’s called ‘The Four Questions’ because…well, uh, it just is. Theorize on that. Actually, if you’re looking in the Cliffs Notes Guide to a Seder you’ll learn that the first question is more of an overarching question that is answered by four separate questions. These four questions are answered throughout the Seder. Why the four questions are not written as actual questions is beyond me. I didn’t write it, so don’t shoot the messenger, pal.
The Ten Plagues
At this point in the service, everyone at the table dips a finger into their can of Dixie beer and places a drop of beer on their plate. This process is repeated until ten drops are on the plate, as each drop represents one of the ten plagues of New Orleans. The first nine plagues are (in order):
1) Insane humidity
2) Floods
3) Anne Rice
4) Hurricanes (the severe storm)
5) Hurricanes (the cough syrup-like cocktail)
6) Three-inch flying cockroaches
7) Bugs that are larger than three-inch flying cockroaches
8) Nutria
9) Dixie Beer
At one point God became so angry with the citizens of New Orleans for spurning their jazz heritage that he decided to force the first-born son of every family to become a vegetarian. Realizing that living as a vegetarian in New Orleans is a fate worse than death, jazz lovers were told to smear lard on their front doors to mark their houses. On that fateful night, God sent a voodoo mama to do the deed and the first-born sons of jazz haters were instantly converted to vegetarianism. Within a week, these vegetarians died of starvation, and that was the last straw. This tenth plague, Slaying of the First-Born by Vegetarianism, was too much, and THE MAN had had enough. Finally, Professor Longhair was freed from the chains that bound him to a life in the janitorial and cardshark industries, and his musical career took off once again.
The Symbolic Nature of a Stick of Lard
As explained above, the Lard was smeared on the front doors of the houses of jazz lovers to protect their first born from the oncoming plague of vegetarianism. Even though Lard makes everything taste better, it is advised that you do not eat the stick of Lard. If you do choose to eat an entire stick of Lard, make sure there is a clear path between you and the bathroom.
The Symbolic Nature of Andouille Sausage
The Andouille Sausage has no symbolic nature. It just tastes good. Shut up and eat one.
The Much-Awaited Eating of the Beignets
Legend has it that Professor Longhair was so rushed on his way to his Jazzfest performance that he only had time to grab a beignet before performing. Since these little sweet powdered sugar-covered pastries taste so good, this sketchy legend gives us a perfect excuse to ignore our diet and eat sugary food for an entire week. This phenomenon is known as denial.
At this moment we break off a small piece of two beignets (the volume of one crawfish head, to be exact) and eat the two pieces together in the reclining position. We are reclining because we should feel relaxed that the legacy of New Orleans jazz and Professor Longhair has been preserved. More importantly, we are reclining because we can and nobody can stop us, so put that in your pipe and smoke it.
Dude, Pass the Bitter Herbs
Speaking of putting it in our pipe, the Bitter Herb (Schwag or Swamp Weed) symbolizes the bitterness that many neglected jazz musicians experienced in New Orleans. We also consume the Bitter Herb because many downtrodden musicians once turned to marijuana for comfort. (Of course, all musicians have since seen the light and now lead pure lives filled with nothing but sobriety and God.) Musicians have also turned to other vices that we could recreate, but having guests participate in whoring at the dinner table would be a bit messy and somewhat unsanitary. By the same token, asking your guests to shoot up heroin could be rather costly and may significantly decrease the pace of your Seder. Consuming some cheap marijuana is really the best solution.
Please note that you cannot substitute some high-powered crystallized ganja for the Bitter Herb. The Bitter Herb must be a dry, brown piece of a Mexican brick that is preferably loaded with seeds and stems. It must be in such bad condition that even a New Orleans cop would refuse it.
Jam with Jambalaya
Take a piece of Bitter Herb and dip it in the Jambalaya. The Jambalaya symbolizes the vast jumble of musical styles in New Orleans. It also tastes good.
Now eat the Jambalaya-laden piece of Bitter Herb, but DO NOT RECLINE! You may be about to get stupid, but this is serious business.
The Double Dip
Tired yet? Grab a piece of beignet and make a sandwich filled with Bitter Herb and Jambalaya. Eat the sandwich. This sandwich is known as a ‘Po’ Boy’ because you’d have to be poor as dirt to think this thing tastes good.
What the hell? Recline while you eat the sandwich. You’ve earned it.
The Festive Meal
Oh, yeah! It’s time to grub. A tasty meal is now served. You have a good deal of flexibility when choosing the menu, but traditional favorites like Gefilte Crawfish and Matzoball Gumbo are usually a big hit.
The Cup of Allison and Quint
After eating the Festive Meal and following the search and subsequent consumption of the ‘Dessert,’ it’s time to honor the prophets of Jazzover, the late Allison Miner and the living legend, Quint Davis. These two visionaries observed the unfortunate circumstances of Professor Longhair’s life as a janitor and cardshark, and they set about to replace his toilet brush and playing cards with a rockin’ piano and a microphone. Not only did they resurrect his career, but they also started the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage festival. Jazzfest has brought global recognition to the New Orleans jazz art form, and it has also created a massive revenue stream for corrupt political officials to pocket each year, providing endless inspiration for the Bush administration.
We honor the prophets Allison and Quint by opening the door and offering them a can of Dixie beer. When opening the door, it’s important to remember to hold on to our wallets and valuables, as Quint has a nasty reputation in some circles for being a bit of a money grubber.
The End
Now, after drinking at least four cans of watered-down Dixie beer, we all have to pee, so it’s time to end the Jazzover Seder. Please advise your guests to refrain from going outside and urinating on walls, as it may very well result in a Jazzover spent in the friendly confines of the New Orleans Central Police Lockup.
We end the Seder by saying:
May slavery give way to freedom.
May hate give way to love.
May the massive income of Harrah’s casino give way to a decent public school system.
May American Idol give way to musicians with real talent.
May club music give way to a quick and agonizing death.
Next year, at this time, may everyone, everywhere, celebrate the virtues of jazz!

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