One of the best meals I've ever had in my life was served off the back of a ute at 3am at the unfashionable end of Frenchmen St in New Orleans.
I'd just stumbled out of a small dive bar called the Apple Barrel, where I'd been grooving to a ferociously good electric blues trio. The joint had been jumping but, even in New Orleans, the music has to stop sometime. That time, as it turns out, is 3am. As soon as I set foot outside, I was hit by the mouth-watering smell of a barbecue, with its meats a-grillin' and big fat pots a-bubblin'.
The barbecue was on a trailer that'd been parked pretty much right outside the bar, a frequent sight in New Orleans.
No menu, so I asked the chef, "What's good?". The dude cooking, turned his head and replied, "Mac cheese. Burgers good too."
Usually, after a long night of partying - and this night had been particularly long, starting as it had with mimosas and live jazz for breakfast at the tranquil surrounds of the Court of Two Sisters - a burger should have been a no brainer.
But New Orleans, with its rebel spirit and good-times vibe marinating its sticky, spicy air, cares not one iota for brain power. Go with the flow, feel the rhythm of the night, throw caution to the wind and let the music move you.
"Mac cheese, please," I said.
A few minutes later I was handed one of the best meals of my life. Mac cheese served Cajun barbecue-style is alarmingly orange but that wasn't going to stop me. The cheese sauce drenching the pasta was thick and goopy and enhanced tremendously by the addition of crawfish, a crustacean that resembles a small lobster that the locals go cray for.
The smell wafting up from the container was eye-wateringly delicious and only bettered by that first greedy mouthful where the clash of flavour-bursting spices, cheesy goodness and pleasingly smushy texture all came together to blow my mind.
In New Orleans: Avoid the French Quarter to drink here instead
Here's how you can use Instagram to plan your next holiday
We went to Pat O'Brien's , largely credited as the home of the Hurricane where, legend has it, old man O'Brien concocted the drink to get rid of cheap, plentiful and undesirable rum during the Prohibition era. Despite its history stretching back to the speakeasy era, O'Brien's is a party bar and fairly raucous. Fortunately, there is a room of respite away from the revellers in the courtyard, where you can sit comfortably and watch the duelling pianists battle. Any and all requests accepted.
They say things get a bit crazy in New Orleans and the fact that I learnt how to cook gives credence to that statement. Under the watchful eye - and jokey bants - of chef Matthew Guillory at the New Orleans School of Cooking, the mysteries of the kitchen, and the history of Cajun cooking, were both revealed to me, extending my culinary repertoire from eggs on toast and cereal to also homemade pumpkin soup, shrimp Creole and the traditional, distressingly rich, dessert of Bananas Foster.
It's no exaggeration to say I loved every groovy, boozy, fatty minute in New Orleans. But of course I did. It's a city built on tall tales, utterly scrumptious food, potent booze and astonishingly great music. Really, what's not to love?