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Each time I told a friend or family member that I would be spending the summer in New Orleans, the conversation revolved around two things: humidity and food. I quickly grew tired of hearing that I would “melt in the hot sun” and have to “shower three times a day.” I was, however, more than happy to indulge in a conversation about food. I gathered countless restaurant and food recommendations and promised to try shrimp po’boys, gumbo, pralines, beignets, and bananas foster.

After spending nearly six weeks in NOLA, I have finished my own food tour of the city, complete with beignets galore. Yet, if you asked me about my favorite restaurant in NOLA, it would be Room 404.

Room 404 is not a fancy establishment. The kitchen is cramped, a desk serves as the table, and we prepare our own food. Although I have sampled incredible food in NOLA, nightly dinners in our apartment win the title of “best restaurant.”

Each day, I return home from work at around 5:30pm. My stomach usually grumbles in preparation for my favorite part of the day – family dinner. Brittany, Karen, Kristel, and I each play a role in meal preparation, from working the stove to setting the table. As a novice cook, I usually stick to chopping vegetables and washing dishes.

My roommates enjoying a taco dinner

Through trial and error, we have greatly improved our cooking abilities. To be clear, we did not know what we were doing at the beginning of the summer. In fact, before our first dinner, we forgot to defrost the taco meat and instead heated up a frozen lasagna – not the best meal. We put the lasagna incident behind us and now enjoy meals such as salmon with asparagus, chicken fajitas, and shrimp pasta.

A typical dinner
Breakfast for dinner

While the food is delicious, the highlight of our meals is the conversation. Dinner represents a break in the day; we have the opportunity to catch up and swap stories about work. I always look forward to hearing about everyone’s day and taking time to decompress.

My DukeEngage experience is intertwined with these family dinners. They have become an integral part of my time in New Orleans, and I know I will miss these meals when I leave.