For the last few days during one of Shug’s naps, I’ve been reading Gumbo Tales: Finding My Place At The New Orleans Table by Sara Roahen. It’s been a really fun book, and what’s so nice about it (oddly) is that Sara isn’t writing as someone who grew up there and is just preaching to the choir, which I enjoy anyway. She’s from Wisconsin. She didn’t know anything about sazeracs or sno-balls (I just heard Hansen’s has opened for the season, btw!) or turducken.
I’ve always had this love affair with New Orleans, and I have to admit that being married to Av has only made it stronger. When his family left Russia, they stepped off the boat in New Orleans. They’re buried in the Jewish cemetery on Canal. He still has family there and of course he does business there. And when your family is from New Orleans, your culture is New Orleans. So when I make chicken clemenceau or gumbo or pompano meuniere amandine, it’s this beautiful string that connects us.
The author talks about the difference between creole and cajun (a subject that could be discussed forever), St. Joseph’s Day altars, boiling crawfish, ya-ka-mein, and a hundred other parts of eating in New Orleans. It’s just a really fun book that made me want to get on realtor.com and find a colorful shotgun house uptown to move into right now. Really. Right now, so I can have my charbroiled oysters from Drago’s for lunch. And blackened redfish from Dick & Jenny’s for supper.
And tomorrow I’ll stand in line for my sno-ball at Hansen’s.
Update: You know, I wasn’t really satisfied with what I wrote before (above) because I had really wanted to write more about how really nice Sara’s book is and not so much about my own cravings to be in New Orleans. But I couldn’t help myself.
Since I can’t put words together the way I want to today, I decided to look up what other people had written about Gumbo Tales. I found Susan Larson’s review in the Times-Picayune. It’s what I wanted to say:
If you’re sad not to be in New Orleans, “Gumbo Tales” is a fine book to soothe your cravings. It’s filled with the tastes of the city, from Sazeracs to king cakes, gumbo to St. Joseph’s Day cookies. Roahen, for five years the restaurant critic for Gambit Weekly, ate her way through the city, discovering its delights.
If you’re happy to be in New Orleans, this is the book to lead you, rejoicing, to your favorite restaurant, or fire up that kitchen stove to make a batch of gumbo for your mama ‘n’ dem.
This book is a joy to read, a pleasure to pass along, a book to treasure. It leaves you hungry in your body, satisfied in your soul.