To view images of the sandwiches at the Po-Boy Preservation Festival--and the people who enjoyed them--click here for a slide show.
In the chaotic days after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in August 2005, the Battle of Oak Street was waged along a stretch of shops in the Carrollton neighborhood. Like retail locations across the city, stores along Oak Street suffered extensive looting in the aftermath of the storm. Some of the looters were genuinely desperate for basic supplies; others were opportunistic thieves.
According to historian Douglas Brinkley, a series of racially charged confrontations ensued when Oak Street's merchants--who were mostly white--banded together and armed themselves in an effort to protect their properties from the increasingly brazen looters. "It was white versus black, merchants versus neighborhood residents," Brinkley writes in The Great Deluge, one of the most comprehensive accounts of Katrina. Fists flew and shots were fired, though luckily no one was badly injured. Still, the damage to the neighborhood--physical and otherwise--was unmistakable.
Four years later, in a jarring juxtaposition of the sort frequently encountered in this still-recovering town, Oak Street played host to a rather different kind of conflict: an Ultimate French Bread Fight. The showdown was part of the third annual Po-Boy Preservation Festival, a celebration of the city's famed sandwich and an attempt to spur Oak Street's revival. It pitted Jared of "Subpar Sandwiches"--a stand-in for Jared Fogle, the risible Subway spokesman--against the spirit of John Gendusa, a Depression-era New Orleans baker credited with inventing the extra-wide loaves of French bread that define the po-boy.