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The Muthas & the Othas

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Ten turtles walk into a bar...

When New Orleans restaurateur Ralph Brennan bought the iconic pink stucco building that had long housed Brennan's, he never dreamed that he'd be acquiring a family of banana leaf-green turtles -- ten of them, to be exact -- who inhabit the fountain pool under a canopy of greenery in the property's lush slate courtyard. Immediately, Ralph Brennan and his team's interest in conservation extended far beyond the building itself, to these newfound pets.

As no family pet could go unnamed, they tapped into the traditions of New Orleans cooking and its French roots, choosing first the harmonious names of the five "Mother Sauces" of classical French cuisine, so essential to New Orleans fare: Béchamel, Espagnole, Hollandaise, Tomate, and Velouté. But five more names were needed. In the distinctive local lingo, the good Louisiana Samaritans dubbed them "The Muthas and the Othas," the "othas" bearing the names of five other sauces that complete a New Orleans menu: Remoulade, Ravigote, Bordelaise, Cocktail (the only male out of the ten,) and Mignonette. (Looking ahead, if Cocktail and Mignonette should happen to have a baby turtle, it will be called 'Pepper-Jelly,' if a girl, or 'Piquante,' if a boy...)

While a turtle's shell may be construction-helmet hard, a construction site still isn't the safest environment for a family of slow-moving reptiles. A mother's intuition and feminine instinct kicked in, and the Muthas and the Othas found themselves moseying around a makeshift home in the backyard of Haley Bittermann, executive chef of the Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group.

When the new restaurant opens this fall, the turtles will be repatriated to serve as its mascots, home-sweet-home, thanks to Ralph Brennan and his revival of a beloved French Quarter establishment. For the duration of the summer, Hollandaise and "the Othas" will be enjoying their very own paddling "piscine," and dining on their daily meal of Gulf shrimp, while awaiting the completion of their permanent home back on Royal Street.

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