Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Get cooking with these wonderful new titles

             There are plenty of wonderful new cookbooks on the market these days.
             Chef Peter Sclafani, owner and chef for Ruffino’s Restaurant of Baton Rouge and Lafayette, has just published a cookbook with nearly 70 of his favorite recipes titled “Seasons of Louisiana.” The book is categorized by the culinary seasons of Louisiana, including shrimp, hunting, tailgating and the holidays, with the foreword written by Chef John Folse. “Seasons of Louisiana” is available for purchase at both Ruffino’s locations, online at www.shopruffinos.com and Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble in Baton Rouge, in addition to shops in Baton Rouge.
            Tom Bailey, editor for Seacoast Publishing, celebrates the Gulf South, from Tampa Bay to Mexico and all points in between in “The Complete Guide to Northern Gulf Seafood” from Pelican Publishing of New Orleans. In addition to the numerous recipes complemented by the lovely photography of Celeste Ward, the book explains what types of fish frequent the Gulf of Mexico and how to select, prepare, serve and store the best fish.
            Linda Hundt’s “Sweetie-licious Pies: Eat Pie, Love Life” cookbook is a sugary sweet experience, a book that offers delectable recipes and fun photography by Clarissa Westmeyer to coincide with its happy title. Chapters include “Kindness,” “Love” and “Faith,” for instance, and anecdotes tell of the author’s home in DeWitt, Michigan, along with stories and photos of her family. It’s appropo that a pie book would be this warm and fuzzy, and how can you not be happy when indulging in “Aunt Ruby’s Beautiful Butterscotch Praline Pie”?
            Cookbook and food offerings are rather slim for the vegan, especially if you live in Acadiana. Julie Hasson, who’s also authored a pie cookbook, features 50 recipes for dairy-free, meat-free, thin crust artisan pizzas in “Vegan Pizza.” If you think giving up meat means losing taste, think again. There’s Thai peanut, pineapple and jalapeno and cowboy pizza with barbecue sauce, vegan cheese and other goodies.
            Don’t serve ordinary cocktails this New Year’s, spruce them up with infused flavors such as pumpkin spice, blue lavender and brown sugar pecan, all great ideas derived from “Homemade Liqueurs and Infused Spirits” by Andrew Schloss. The book is chock full of wonderful recipes — 159 flavors, 80 cocktails and several simple syrups — with easy instruction on how to create and present them. To give you an idea of the process, the apple spice hooch recipe calls for mixing bourbon, apples, maple syrup and spices together to sit for a week in a cool, dark place. Once strained, the liqueur is ready to be enjoyed, tasting like an apple pie.
            Gourmet editor Ruth Reichl once called Portland, Ore., “the crucible of New American cooking.” I keep thinking of that “Portlandia” episode where the dining couple continually demands to know where the chicken originated (“Is the Chicken Local?”). You can get a taste of the Portland food scene — from small batch coffee roasters to gourmet food trucks — without leaving your table with Karen Brooks’ “The Mighty Gastropolis Portland: A Journey Through the Center of America’s New Food Revolution,” written with Gideon Bosker and Teri Gelber.

Book events
            Johnette Downing, author of “How to Dress a Po-Boy,” will be performing at the Jazz Historical National Park Visitor’s Center from 11 a.m. to noon Friday at the French Market’s Dutch Alley, between Decatur and the River in New Orleans. She will also sign books from noon to 1 p.m. Friday, Jan. 3, at A Tisket A Tasket Book Shop, 910 Decatur St. in the French Market.

Cheré Coen is the author of “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana,” both from The History Press, and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” She teaches writing at UL-Lafayette’s Continuing Education. Write her at cherecoen@gmail.com. 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Great gift idea — choose Louisiana books!

             If you’re late in buying presents for everyone on your list, let me offer a nice solution: Books make excellent gifts!
            Here’s a few I can recommend:
            Recently I mentioned Carolyn Kolb’s wonderful collection of essays on New Orleans in “New Orleans Memories: One Writer’s City,” which would make an excellent gift for the New Orleans native or resident. Another book to consider is Peter M. Wolf’s “memoir of loss and renewal” titled “My New Orleans, Gone Away.” The story stretches from his youth growing up in a Jewish New Orleans family to the present day with the colorful city as backdrop.
            New from Pelican Publishing of New Orleans is “And Still I Cook” by Leah Chase, the second cookbook from Leah Chase that’s now in paperback. Chase reflects on life, business, family and friends and offers recipes from her famous Gumbo Z’Herbs to her unique veggie jambalaya and rice pancakes with ham.
            Also from Pelican is the Cajun Night Before Christmas Ornament, a complement to their best-selling children’s book of the same name, which launched the Night Before Christmas series for the publisher. “Cajun Night Before Christmas” by “Trosclair” and illustrated by James Rice is a modern classic that has Santa arriving with eight trusty gators pulling a sleigh. This miniature edition comes ready to hang on the Christmas tree. We suggest buying the book and ornament together and reading the tale on Christmas Eve.
            Pelican’s “Christmas Stories from the South’s Best Writers” is now available as an e-book. Edited by Charline R. McCord and Judy H. Tucker, the collection’s stories are written by a host of award-winning writers, including Pulitzer Prize-winner Robert Olen Butler, Olympia Vernon and Guggenheim Fellow Elizabeth Spencer. Carolyn Haines, author of the Sarah Booth Delaney Mississippi Delta Mystery series, said of the book, “A wonderful addition to the collections of Christmas stories rendered in the past...” 
            For a collection of New Orleans literature, Nancy Dixon edits “N.O. Lit: 200 Years of New Orleans Literature,” with contributions from famous writers Lafcadio Hearn, Tennessee Williams, Frances Parkinson Keyes, Truman Capote and Eudora Welty, plus writers of Les Cenelles, French Creoles of color who published the first anthology of African American literature in 1845, and Los Isleños writers, descendents of the Spanish immigrants from the Canary Islands.
            The University of Mississippi Press offers a broad overview of Creole literature in Louisiana, primarily in the 19th and 20th centuries, and including writers such as Grace King, Kate Chopin and free people of color, among many others, in “Louisiana Creole Literature: A Historical Study” by Catharine Savage Brosman.
            A coffee table book highlighting a host of fascinating products that have emerged from the Big Easy has just been published and makes for a lovely gift for the New Orleans native. “Making New Orleans: Products Past & Present,” featuring more than 200 products, is edited by Phillip Collier and includes a foreword by Julia Reed, introductions by New Orleans publishers Errol Laborde and Clancy DuBos and text by Alexandra “Riki” Collier.
            I hate to say it but I’ve lost interest in the “True Blood” series on HBO, although I’ve read every Sookie Stackhouse book by Charlaine Harris, on which the series is based. Vampire lovers on your list might be interested in any of Harris’ novels, plus the new parody book “True Blood: A Field Guide to Vampires: (And Other Creatures of Satan)” by series character Steve Newlin. The book is a guide to vampires and other “supernaturals” from the town of Bon Temps, Louisiana, from the perspective of Newlin, who leds a fundamentalist anti-vampire group on the TV series before becoming a vampire himself.
            Actress Shirley MacLaine has produced a new book, a compilation of contemplations titled “What If…A Lifetime of Questions, Speculations, Reasonable Guesses, and a Few Things I Know for Sure.” I found the book to veer on the light side of her previous spiritual tomes, but it’s laced with humor and some fascinating insights.
             A couple of good educational books sure to please are “The Handy African American History Answer Book” by Jessie Carney Smith, which provides easy-to-discover information on all facets of black history, and “Mound Sites of the Ancient South: A Guide to the Mississippian Chiefdoms” by Eric E. Browne, for those fascinated with Southern Native American history and archaeology.
            The History Press’ “Haunted America” series, of which I wrote “Haunted Lafayette,” has published “Haunted Baton Rouge” by Bud Steed, with photography by Hope Steed Kennedy. The book examines many of the city’s haunts, from historic sites such as the old State Capitol and Magnolia Mound to unique places such as the USS Kidd, LSU or along Highland Road, where Confederates show up in early fall.
            Leif Pederson has just produced his first children's book, “The Missing Chord,” from a series he began titled “The Adventures of the Swamp Kids.” The book is on sale at Landry’s in Breaux Bridge, Prejean’s Gift Shop and The Blue Dog Café in Lafayette. “The Lafayette area is certainly important to me because of it being the base of Cajun culture, which is the basis of my story and its characters,” Pederson wrote to me by email. “I am pleased to have Cajun music star Doug Kershaw as the contributor to my ‘Lagniappe Lesson,’ which is an aide to the reader, teachers and/or parents at the end of the book.” He added that several more books in the series are planned, all with similar celebrities contributing.

Kirkus
            Kirkus has named the best non-fiction titles of 2013 and they include “Five Days at Memorial,” a recounting of what happened at Memorial Medical Center of New Orleans during and after Hurricane Katrina, written by Pulitzer Prize–winning medical journalist Sheri Fink, and “Men We Reaped: A Memoir,” by Jesmyn Ward, the author of “Salvage the Bones.”
            “Elysian Fields” by Mark Laflaur was park of Kirkus’ Indie Book list, a novel of a dysfunctional family reflecting the decay of New Orleans. Kirkus called it “a wholly involving story with Faulkner-ian characters in a fully realized setting.”


Cheré Coen is the author of “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana,” both from The History Press, and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” She teaches writing at UL-Lafayette’s Continuing Education. Write her at cherecoen@gmail.com.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Cookbook Thursday: Cookbooks for gift giving

             During this most wonderful time of the year, honor the foodies in your life with a new cookbook or two. The market is full of beautiful books and here are a few to choose from.
            Tom Bailey, editor for Seacoast Publishing, celebrates the Gulf South, from Tampa Bay to Mexico and all points in between in “The Complete Guide to Northern Gulf Seafood” from Pelican Publishing of New Orleans, an ideal gift for the fisherman in the family. In addition to the numerous recipes complemented by the lovely photography of Celeste Ward, the book explains what types of fish frequent the Gulf of Mexico and how to select, prepare, serve and store the best fish.
            Linda Hundt’s “Sweetie-licious Pies: Eat Pie, Love Life” cookbook is a sugary sweet experience, a book that offers delectable recipes and fun photography by Clarissa Westmeyer to coincide with its happy title. Chapters include “Kindness,” “Love” and “Faith,” for instance, and anecdotes tell of the author’s home in DeWitt, Michigan, along with stories and photos of her family. It’s appropo that a pie book would be this warm and fuzzy, and how can you not be happy when indulging in “Aunt Ruby’s Beautiful Butterscotch Praline Pie”?
            Cookbook and food offerings are rather slim for the vegan, especially if you live in Acadiana. Julie Hasson, who’s also authored a pie cookbook, features 50 recipes for dairy-free, meat-free, thin crust artisan pizzas in “Vegan Pizza.” If you think giving up meat means losing taste, think again. There’s Thai peanut, pineapple and jalapeno and cowboy pizza with barbecue sauce, vegan cheese and other goodies.
            This past summer I got to sample the culinary excellence of Chef John Currence at City Grocery in Oxford, Miss. Currence opened the restaurant in 1992 and now owns four restaurants in town, plus an exquisite new cookbook, “Pickles, Pigs & Whiskey: Recipes from My Three Favorite Food Groups and Then Some.” The book looks at three typical Southern foodways with his modern take on their creations, embellished, of course, with recipes and photos.
            If you’re looking to create fun things for holiday gifts, Storey Publishing has a wonderful new book just in time for Christmas, “Homemade Liqueurs and Infused Spirits” by Andrew Schloss. Don’t serve ordinary cocktails, spruce them up with infused flavors such as pumpkin spice, blue lavender and brown sugar pecan. The book is chock full of wonderful recipes — 159 flavors, 80 cocktails and several simple syrups — with easy instruction on how to create and present them.
            To give you an idea of the process, the apple spice hooch recipe calls for mixing bourbon, apples, maple syrup and spices together to sit for a week in a cool, dark place. Once strained, the liqueur is ready to be enjoyed, tasting like an apple pie.
            One of the recommendations by the publisher is to give a bottle of infused liqueurs with a copy of “Homemade Liqueurs and Infused Spirits” as a gift. Sounds good to me.
            Gourmet editor Ruth Reichl once called Portland, Ore., “the crucible of New American cooking.” I keep thinking of that “Portlandia” episode where the dining couple continually demands to know where the chicken originated (“Is the Chicken Local?”). You can get a taste of the Portland food scene — from small batch coffee roasters to gourmet food trucks — without leaving your table with Karen Brooks’ “The Mighty Gastropolis Portland: A Journey Through the Center of America’s New Food Revolution,” written with Gideon Bosker and Teri Gelber.
            I’ve mentioned this book before but I will again, because it’s such a great gift for the person experiencing breast cancer treatment. “The Back in the Swing Cookbook” by Barbara Unell and Judith Fertig contains more than 100 healthy recipes in addition to helpful and inspiring information on bouncing back from cancer. Here’s a one-dish recipe from the book for Tuscan Ribollita that uses whole ingredients such as olive oil, onion, garlic, carrots, butternut squash, kale and cannellini beans.


Tuscan Ribollita
From “The Back in the Swing Cookbook” by Barbara Unell and Judith Fertig8 small slices Whole Wheat and Flaxseed Boule or store-bought Italian bread
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Asiago cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 cups fresh or thawed frozen cubed butternut squash
1 cup canned diced tomatoes
5 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
3 cups chopped kale leaves, stems cut out
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
            Directions: For the toasted bread, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Arrange the bread slices on a large baking sheet. Sprinkle the top of each slice with 1 tablespoon of the cheese. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the edges of the bread have browned and the cheese is browned and bubbling. Remove from the oven and let cool.
            Meanwhile, for the soup, heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion, garlic, carrots and celery for 8 to 10 minutes, until softened. Stir in the rosemary, squash, tomatoes, broth and kale and bring to a boil. Cook, covered, for 30 minutes or until the squash is tender. Add the beans and simmer for 10 minutes, until the flavors have blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
            To serve, place 1 toast in the bottom of each bowl and ladle with hot soup. Serve hot.


 Cheré Coen is a Lafayette freelance travel and food writer. She is the author of “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country: A Tour of Historic Acadiana,” both from The History Press.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

New children's books in time for the holidays

             Multi-faceted, award-winning musician and author Johnette Downing of New Orleans has just released another fun-filled children’s book. “How to Dress a Po-boy” shows how the traditional New Orleans sandwich is made, from Blue Plate Mayonnaise to hot sauce and “debris,” with delightful illustrations created from collage. In the back is a brief history of the po-boy with definition of words used throughout the book.
            Downing is the author of several Louisiana-themed books, all making great holiday gifts for young children, including “My Aunt Came Back from Louisiana,” “Why the Crawfish Lives in the Mud” and “Today is Monday in Louisiana,” among many others.
            Other children’s books for those on your holiday list include:
            “What the Sleepy Animals Do at the Audubon Zoo” by Grace Millsaps and Ryan Murphy, illustrated by John Clark IV and Alyson Kilday, is an explanation by a father to his daughter what animals do at night when she spots the zoo animals sleeping during the day. The manuscript was awarded Best New Orleans Children’s Book at the 2012 New Orleans Children’s Book Festival.
            William Joyce of Shreveport, known for his innovative books, TV series and films, has just published two new Moonbot books, “The Mischievians” and “Sandman and the War of Dreams” (Book four of “The Guardians” series for ages 7-11). Publisher Weekly said of his new publications, “Clever touches abound in Joyce’s whimsically imagined portraits of the creatures, with their odd tufts of hair, spindly appendages, and assorted suction cups, horns, and accessories.”
            If you’re like me and still are in awe of Joyce’s Academy Award-winning film, “Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore,” for a limited time you can purchase a
Morris Lessmore Holiday Bundle, including the Morris Lessmore picture book, DVD of the animated short and a 12-inch by 9-inch print and limited edition sketchbook at http://moonbotstudios.com.
            Dr. Maitland Deland, an oncologist and chairman of the Health Education Authority of Louisiana, has started a new children’s series titled “Baby Santa,” which introduces young readers to the youngest and most rambuctious member of the Claus family. In the first installment, Baby Santa helps dad save Christmas, illustrating what parents and kids can accomplish when they work together. For more information, visit www.delandbooks.com
            Just in time for the holidays is “Donkey Otie’s Forever Birthday Story” by Vicky C. Branton with Darren Cranford, illustrator, and Terry Ververgaert, colorist. Little Donkey Otie, who carries Mary and Joseph into Bethleham, tells the Christmas story to other animals in this delightful, easy to read book for young children. There’s also a birthday certificate in the back with related biblical references. The book is also available in French.
            Kazu Kibuishi, creator of the bestselling series “Amulet,” edits the second collection of comics in the “Explorer” series, this one surrounding hidden places in “Explorer: The Lost Islands.” There’s the entrepreneurial rabbit of “Rabbit Island” by Jake Parker, stories of friendship in “Carapace” by Jason Caffoe and “Loah” by Michael Gagné and a young teen discovering herself in “Desert Island Playlist,” among others. Kibuishi himself offers a tale of greed, ego and redemption in “The Fishermen.” A fabulous collection of tales, “Explorer” is sure to be a hit for any comic lovers.
            Jennifer Smith Culotta of Baton Rouge has self-published a tale of a stubborn young girl who refuses to take off her favorite shoes in “The Girl With the Red Rubber Boots.” The book is illustrated by Brittany Hanson and includes a vocabulary list in back.

New releases
            Carolyn Kolb, who teaches Louisiana history at Tulane and is the author of “The Dolphin Guide to New Orleans,” compiles lovely essays about various aspects of New Orleans in “New Orleans Memories: One Writer’s City.” There are reminiscings about Mardi Gras, music (reading about Werlein’s on Canal was a nice trip down memory lane), writings and my personal favorite, food, from nectar ice cream sodas and that fabulous Leidenheimer bread to making groceries at Schwegmann’s with its political ads on shopping bags and cocktails to make the experience a little nicer. Naturally, the former Kolb’s restaurant opens the food chapter, although the author is not related.
            The essays were once printed as monthly “Chronicles of Recent History” in New Orleans Magazine, but expanded and updated for the book. “New Orleans Memories” is just that, a beautiful look back on a unique and fascinating city and its traditions, culture and places that may or may not still be there. I whole-heartedly recommend this book for the NOLA native in your life.
            Closer to home, Philip Andrepont, Patrick Morrow and Warren A. Perrin collect stories and photos for “St. Landry Parish,” part of Arcadia Publishing’s Images of America series. Culling from almost 300 years of Louisiana history (St. Landry Parish is one of the oldest in Louisiana and Opelousas the third oldest city), the book celebrates the culture and history of sports figures, politicians, musicians, les gens de couleur libres (free people of color) and more. The variety of photos and stories represents the diversity of the parish — Acadians, Creoles, African Americans and Native American. Check it out; you might find a few relatives!

Honoring family
            Alice J. Voorhies has compiled a lovely tribute to her mother and the history of her family titled “The Promise: In Memory of Joyce V. Voorhies, 1920-2007.” Alice promised her mother she would write her story but Joyce passed away before the task was done; the book is Joyce fulfilling that promise. Voorhies is descended from the Loreauville Broussards and Vedrines, growing up in New Iberia with her colorful parents and siblings. The book naturally contains family history but is full of personal and humorous stories that bring those memories to life, complemented by photos, genealogical information — even recipes in the back. Jeannie Kreamer brought this book to my attention, calling it  “a delightful and humorous memoir” that made her laugh out loud in parts. It most definitely is, filled with heart-warming memories from all members of the family. If you’re looking to learn more about New Iberia history through one family’s writing, or view how a family history is published well, check out Voorhies’ masterful tribute.

Kirkus
            Kirkus has named the best non-fiction titles of 2013 and they include “Five Days at Memorial,” a recounting of what happened at Memorial Medical Center of New Orleans during and after Hurricane Katrina, written by Pulitzer Prize–winning medical journalist Sheri Fink, and “Men We Reaped: A Memoir,” by Jesmyn Ward, the author of “Salvage the Bones.”


Cheré Coen is the author of “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana,” both from The History Press, and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” She teaches writing at UL-Lafayette’s Continuing Education. Write her at cherecoen@gmail.com.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Cookbook Thursday: Don't visit the Delta without this comprehensive book!

            One of my favorite places to visit is the Mississippi Delta, heading north from Jackson into towns such as Greenwood, where “The Help” was filmed, and Indianola, home to B.B. King, and on up to music-rich Memphis. In addition to the fertile blues scene — as one can imagine since the blues originated here, later birthing rock ’n’ roll — there’s an interesting culinary history.
            Susan Puckett travels this cultural heartland in “Eat Drink Delta: A Hungry Traveler’s Journey Through the Soul of the South” (University of Georgia Press), offering readers a guide to Delta foodways as well as the people, places, music and events. With photographs by Langdon Clay, “Eat Drink Delta” serves as a comprehensive travel guide to Memphis and the Mississippi Delta, as well as a restaurant guide with recipes to try at home. There’s the Delta Tamale Trail, explanations on the popular and varied “Comeback” dressing, catfish dishes due to the plethora of catfish farms and specialty drinks and foods enjoyed during Delta fox hunts (which actually involve coyotes).
             If you’re a food lover like me who enjoys traveling, “Eat Drink Delta” is the perfect combination; don’t leave home without it.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

'Someone Else's Love Story' by Joshilyn Jackson a fun, heartwarming tale

            “I fell in love with William Ashe at gunpoint, in a Circle K” is the opening line of “Someone Else’s Love Story” by Joshilyn Jackson, her latest in a long line of humorous and heartwarming Southern fiction.
            Shandi Pierce ends up pregnant at a young age, but is not sure how she got there, chalking it up to a possible frat party in her teen years. She lives with her mother in the Georgia mountains raising her three-year-old genius son Nathan, otherwise known as Natty Bumppo, until her father offers them both a chance to advance (Shandi to college, Nathan to a special school) in Atlanta. On the way to their new life, Shandi stumbles into a Circle K holdup, and falls hard for William Ashe who gallantly steps between her son and the man with a gun.
            Like the title suggests, Shandi imagines the meeting as destiny, the beginning of a romantic love story, but it may be someone else’s love story, with destiny having other plans.
            I’m a fan of witty, quirky Southern-style humor and Jackson captures this genre — if there is one — with aplomb. If you’re looking for a fun story about searching for what we want in life when life has other plans, don’t miss Jackson’s latest.
           
New releases
            Dennis Ward will release and sign copies of his historical fiction novel, “Mademoiselle Gigi,” from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday at Cite des Arts, 109 Vine St. The novel, based on the life of Gisele “Gigi” Carriton, begins with her frightening years as a Jewish teenager during World War II in her native France. Carriton moved to Lafayette in 1946 after meeting an American soldier and lived here until she died in 2008. Ward’s other artistic work about Carriton is the play, “Chez Gisele,” which spotlights Carriton’s gay cabaret nightclub, Chez Gisele, in Lafayette during the 1960s to 1970s. In addition to the booksigning event Saturday, Ward will read a short segment from the novel.
            Sally Ann Roberts and Eric Paulsen, WWL-TV anchors in New Orleans, have published “Your Power is On! A Little Book of Hope” with Paulsen serving as photographer. The book seeks to remind readers that even when life is at its most difficult, the spirit of grace lives within all things. Roberts’ sister, “Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts, wrote the foreword for the book.
            “Livestock Brands & Marks: An Unexpected Bayou Country History” is the current book by Chris Cenac and Claire Domangue Jollier, an illustrated book that documents the brands and marks of southeast Louisiana pioneers. The book was nominated for a Louisiana National Endowment Award.


Cheré Coen is the author of “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana,” both from The History Press, and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” She teaches writing at UL-Lafayette’s Continuing Education. Write her at cherecoen@gmail.com.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Cookbook Thursday: A drinking guide to the Vieux Carre and fun with food and little people

            Allison Alsup, Elizabeth Pearce and Richard Read have published what I feel is a great idea long overdue, “The French Quarter Drinking Companion.” The book, published by Pelican Publishing of New Orleans, examines 100 notable bars of the Vieux Carré and lists information on each, from signature drinks and dress codes to the type of clientele you’ll find sitting beside you. It’s more than a tourist guide, although it works well as one too. Readers will discover unique facts, learn about French Quarter regulars and get an insider’s view of America’s most interesting neighborhood.
            A really fun book on food that’s a treat for the senses is “Big Appetites: Tiny People in a World of Big Food” by Christopher Boffoli. The Seattle author and artist mixes vivid photos of food with tiny people miniatures in humorous situations, such as thugs stealing Cracker Jack prizes and a man mowing the side of an orange. A tiny man with a gun holds up a woman atop figs in “Fig Robbery” with the accompanying text reading, “The Fig District used to be one of the safest neighborhoods. But lately things had taken a turn for the worse.” Or a large little man facing a hamburger with a barricade of French fries and tiny men in riot gear in “Barricade Challenger.” The caption reads: “It was the exact moment when Larry knew that those advanced judo lessons were really going to pay off.”

Cheré Coen is the author of “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana,” both from The History Press, and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” She teaches writing at UL-Lafayette’s Continuing Education. Write her at cherecoen@gmail.com.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

New titles by UL-Lafayette Press

            When you’re from the South, your life’s sometimes measured out in sporting events. For me, I can still feel that chilly night air running down Carrollton Avenue when Les Miles took LSU to a national championship, yelling for all the world to hear although the town was still struggling to return post-Katrina. My mother loved telling the story of how her cousin “fainted dead away” when her son, Claude “Monk” Simons, ran the whole field for a touchdown at an LSU-Tulane game.  And then there was that amazing last-second field goal to cinch the New Orleans Bowl for the Ragin’ Cajuns.
            Award-winning sports writer Marty Mulé has a few of his own, collected in a coffee table book that’s sure to please any Louisiana sports fan. “Game Changers: The Rousing Legacy of Louisiana Sports,” published by the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press, documents highlights of Louisiana sports over the years — from boxing to sailing and everything in between plus outstanding players, sports writers such as outdoors writer Claude Hamilton “Grits” Gresham Jr., the Superdome and how sports names came to be. It’s a fun book you’ll spend hours perusing.
            Dennis Paul Williams is a multi-faceted artist living in St. Martinville, playing zydeco guitar with his brother’s band, Nathan and the Zydeco Cha Chas, creating his own music and serving on the St. Martinville City Council. Williams also produces dreamy, faith-based art that’s inspiring and emotionally powerful.
            UL-Lafayette Press has produced a beautiful coffee table book honoring Williams and his ethereal work titled “Soul Exchange: The Paintings of Dennis Paul Williams.” The book is part of the Press’ Louisiana Artists Series edited by Philip Gould, who writes the foreword essays along with Darrell Bourque.
            Williams credits his work with being exposed to great art through his travels with the band, allowing him to find his “true voice.” And God plays an important role in its creation. “That artistic voice is steeped in faith,” he says.
            Photographer William Greiner presented writers with a trio of photographs and asked them to write a story based on those photos. The result is “Show and Tell,” 28 photographs centered around stories penned by a variety of authors. The idea came from a photograph of Greiner’s of a woman’s hand, a young girl and a rag doll resting upon an open book showing a woman’s torso. Greiner saw life cycles of a woman while a friend saw something completely different, which “made me realize that we all bring our own knowledge, experiences, and references to all we view in the world.”
            You can view, purchase and have authors sign these books — among many others — from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 10, at the annual UL Press holiday book sale at the UL Alumni Center, 600 E. St. Mary Blvd. In addition, Zachary Richard will perform (as well as sign his new book “The History of the Acadians of Louisiana”), new and best-selling titles are 20 percent off and there will be free tote bags and pen with purchases and refreshments for all.
            On Saturday, Dec. 7, at the Acadiana Author Symposium at Barnes and Noble Lafayette, Richard, Williams and Mule will be signing their books here as well.

‘Dreamy City’
            The Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans launches its latest book, “Days and Nights in the Dreamy City: Locals Share Their Favorite Places,” by Mary Fitzpatrick and Virginia McCollam, on Saturday. The book featuring more than 100 great places in New Orleans was compiled from a daily blog titled www.neworleansfavorites.com, where locals shared their favorite spots and photographs. Readers will discover these local favorites, including everything from favorite cafés to religious grottoes and an all-night coffee shop you can kayak up to. Celebrities include actors Wendell Pierce, Bryan Batt and John Goodman and crime novelist George Pelecanos. The book is the third and final book in the PRC trilogy, following 2006’s “Life in an Epic City” and 2007’s “New Orleans’ Favorite Shotguns,” and all proceeds benefit PRC. The book is available online at www.prcno.org.

Bourque workshop
            Former Louisiana Poet Laureate Darrell Bourque will teach a poetry writing workshop Tuesday at St. Charles College in Grand Coteau. The hands-on poetry session is geared toward both beginners and more experienced writers. Enrollment is limited; register at festivalofwords.org. Bourque serves on the Ernest J. Gaines Center Board of Directors where he directs the Gaines Center Young Writers Apprentice Program and is a board member of Festival of Words. He is the author of seven books of poetry, the latest “Megan's Guitar and Other Poems from Acadie,” published by the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press.

Acadiana Author Symposium

            Numerous authors will be discussing and signing their books at the Acadiana Author Symposium from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7, at Barnes & Noble Lafayette. Authors participating include: Brenda Collins and Shanna Seals, “Boo’s Amazing Rescue;” Elizabeth Pearce, “The French Quarter Drinking Companion;” Marty Mulé, “Game Changers: The Rousing Legacy of Louisiana Sports;” Dennis Paul Williams, “Soul Exchange;” Jonathan Walton, “The Fortress;” Katherine Klimitas, “Looking Up;” Yvette Naquin and Chad Guidry, “Louisiana Through My Lens;” Undrai Fizer, “The 365: A Personal Compass to Self Discovery and Enlightenment;” and Tracie Anne Davis, “But Love is Thicker Than Blood.”

Book events
            Josh Besh will sign his cookbook, “Cooking from the Heart,” at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Garden District Book Shop in New Orleans and at noon Wednesday at Barnes and Noble in Lafayette.
            The Coffee and Conversation at the Jefferson Parish Library hosts Errol Laborde, author of “Mardi Gras: Chronicles of the New Orleans Carnival
from Twelfth Night to Ash Wednesday” at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the meeting rooms of the East Bank Regional Library, 4747 W. Napoleon Ave., Metairie.
            The Thensted Center in Grand Coteau hosts an evening of poetry with Gina Ferrara and stories by Wilda Richard beginning at 7 p.m. Thursday. Ferrara is the author of “Ethereal Avalanche” and Richard will share stories of zydeco music in her life from childhood to the present, which will be recorded and archived at the Center for Louisiana Studies. An open mic follows and is suitable for all ages.  Guests are invited to bring food and drink to share. For more information, call Patrice Melnick at (337) 254-9695 or email festivalwords@gmail.com. The Thensted Center is located at 268 Church St. in Grand Coteau.
            John Shelton Reed will sign “Dixie Bohemia: A French Quarter Circle in the 1920s,” at 6 p.m. Friday at “The Art of Giving” Christmas benefit sale for The Ogden Museum at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, 925 Camp St. in New Orleans.

            Local authors will participate in “Author’s Alley,” where they sign and sell books, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at North Regional Library and from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Sunday at South Regional Library.
            Todd-Michael St. Pierre signs “The Southern Po-Boy Cookbook” and “A Taste from Treme” from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday at Copper Rooster Antiques & Gifts, 222 Lee Lane in Covington and from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 8, at Louise S. McGehee School on Prytania Street in New Orleans.


Cheré Coen is the author of “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana,” both from The History Press, and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” She teaches writing at UL-Lafayette’s Continuing Education. Write her at cherecoen@gmail.com.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Cookbook Thursday: Chef John Besh creates from the heart in gorgeous new cookbook

            New Orleans Chef John Besh not only learned from the best in America, but from many experts in France and Germany. He highlights these mentors and his experience in their kitchens, along with delectable recipes I would love to spend hours creating, in his latest cookbook, “Cooking from the Heart: My Favorite Lessons Learned Along the Way” (Andrews McMeel).
            Chapters run the gamut of “lessons”: creating a paella, cooking after a hunt, variations on a potato and making a proper bouillabaisse, among so many others. Readers travel to Marseille for mussels, for a delicate combination of salad ingredients in southern Germany and peaches with Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise from that Provencal town. It’s an admirable undertaking accented by gorgeous photography that would make every foodie on your list squeal with delight.
            Besh will sign his cookbook, “Cooking from the Heart,” at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 3, at Garden District Book Shop in New Orleans and at noon Wednesday, Dec. 4, at Barnes and Noble Lafayette.  
            For something unique for the holidays, here is a recipe for shrimp, chanterelle and pumpkin risotto from the chapter “The Art of the Table.”

Shrimp, Chanterelle and Pumpkin Risotto
From “Cooking from the Heart: My Favorite Lessons Learned Along the Way” by John Besh
3 tablespoons olive oil
½ onion, chopped
2 cups Arborio rice
1 sprig fresh rosemary
5-6 cups Basic Chicken Stock
2 cups diced peeled fresh pumpkin
1 pound large wild Gulf shrimp, peeled and deveined
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ cups chanterelles or other wild mushrooms
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons butter, cut into small chunks
½ small bunch fresh chives, chopped
Leaves from 2 sprigs fresh thyme
            Directions: Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and stir for another minute. Add the rosemary sprig, cover with 2 cups Chicken Stock, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low, cover the pot, and simmer for about 5 minutes. Add another cup or two of chicken stock and the pumpkin. Stir well, then cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
             Season the shrimp with salt and pepper and add to the pot along with the mushrooms and the remaining chicken stock. Raise the heat to medium and cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Test the rice for doneness: It should be soft, with a slight bite in the center. Remove the sprig of rosemary and fold in the Parmesan, butter, and chives. Season with salt and pepper and scatter thyme leaves on top. Serve immediately.


Cheré Coen is a Lafayette freelance travel and food writer. She is the author of “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country: A Tour of Historic Acadiana,” both from The History Press.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

'Returned' a chance to see loved ones once more

             The idea of life after death has taken a peculiar turn in popular culture. Zombies, or people who are dead but walking the earth in search of living flesh to devour because their brains continue to work, are all the rage these days.
            Award-winning poet Jason Mott poses an interesting theory in his new book, “The Returned,” one in which those who have passed reappear on earth. We’re not talking science fiction here, but an intriguing tale that came to Mott contemplating the death of his mother, his memory of her and a dream where she asked him why he hadn’t married.
            “That dream stayed with me for months,” he writes in the book’s “Author’s Note,” adding that he shared the experience with a friend. “Sometime later in our lunch, as conversation was running low, my friend asked, ‘Can you imagine if she actually did come back, just for one night? And what if it wasn’t just her? What if it happened to other people, too’?”
            “The Returned” opens as Harold and Lucille Hargrave watch on TV the eerie returned of those who have passed. These people suddenly appear, looking like the day they passed away, some near their homes and some as far away as other countries. While Lucille Hargrave watches and comments that it’s all the devil’s work, a man arrives bringing the Hargrave’s only son, Jacob, who drowned on his eighth birthday in 1966.
            As more and more people “return,” the government engages more control and chaos ensues. Some people embrace the return of loved ones while others refuse to accept them. In some instances, the returned only renew old pain, such as the appearance of an elderly woman who died of a stroke and returns in senility.
            While we follow the unusual story of the Hargraves and their son, “The Returned” offers many issues to ponder. If we could renew relationships, would we do them differently? After grieving for years would we want to suddenly act like nothing happened? Or is the idea of meeting past loved ones a desire we all maintain?
            “I wanted it (‘The Returned’) to be a place where — through methods and magic unknown even to me — the hard, uncaring rules of life and death do not exist and people can be with those they loved once more,” the author writes in the “Author’s Note.”
            Kirkus Reviews magazine has named Mott’s “The Returned” as one of the Best Fiction Books of 2013. The annual list by the magazine also named to the list books by Louisiana authors George Bishop, who penned “The Night of the Comet,” and James Lee Burke, who continued his Dave Robicheaux series with “Light of the World.”             
            The magazine said this of Bishop’s book, “Coming-of-age novels examine youthful revelations about the world — filled with cynicism and wonder and rearranged expectations — and the quality hinges on the honesty of the voice, the truth of the observations, the handling of innocence lost; Bishop succeeds on all these fronts.” Of Burke’s, they wrote, “Pruning away the florid subplots that often clutter his heaven-storming blood baths, Burke produces his most sharply focused, and perhaps his most harrowing study of human evil, refracted through the conventions of the crime novel."
           
Pelican Publishing
            Pelican Publishing of New Orleans has recently released several new titles related to Louisiana.
            Journalist, author and LSU fan Chet Hilburn has compiled his top favorite Death Valley experiences in “Legendary Tiger Stadium: The 30 Greatest LSU Football Games.” There’s the famous Halloween game against Ole Miss, the “earthquake game” against Auburn that registered on a seismograph and the win against Florida that resulted in a field of oranges as the fog rolled in. Not all of these games are winners, but Hilburn chose the most memorable, win or lose.
            “Historic Baton Rouge Architecture” by Jim Fraiser, with photography by Pat Caldwell and Fraiser offers a lovely overview of the historic treasures of the Capital City. Areas include downtown, Spanish Town, Beauregard Town and the Garden District, among others, plus ventures out to Baker, Port Allen and other neighboring towns.
            Kerri McCaffety gives us a miniature glimpse inside the French Quarter, with 30 color photographs and descriptive captions, inside a palm-sized book, in “Visions of the Vieux Carré.” It’s a nice gift idea, images of the Quarter in a small package.
            André Cajun (Andrew Jackson Navard of Lake Charles) captured the scandalous past of New Orleans’s infamous Basin Street, along with illustrations by arists Zamb (Wiley S. Churchill) in “Basin Street.” Pelican offers a reprint of the 1950s book with a foreword providing historical context by Roger Hahn. 
           
Milliken’s Bend
            The small but costly battle at Milliken’s Bend in Madison Parish involved America’s first African American soldiers, who were mostly former slaves, was a key segment in Grant’s Vicksburg campaign and included accusations that Confederates executed prisoners, which contributed to the suspension of prisoner exchanges between North and South. This small yet important fight received some initial widespread attention but soon drifted into obscurity.
            Linda Barnickel reviews this controversial battle in “Milliken’s Bend: A Civil War Battle in History and Memory,” published by LSU Press and winner of the 2013 Jules and Frances Landry Award for the “most outstanding achievement in the field of southern studies” among books published by LSU Press in the year.
            Barnickel will be speaking about the battle and signing copies of her book at the Nashville Civil War Roundtable at 7 p.m. Jan. 20, 2014. For more information on her book and upcoming events, visit http://lsupress.org/books/detail/millikens-bend.


Cheré Coen is the author of “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana,” both from The History Press, and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” She teaches writing at UL-Lafayette’s Continuing Education. Write her at cherecoen@gmail.com.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Letter About Literature now taking entries

            Letters About Literature, a national reading and writing contest for students, is now accepting entries. To enter, fourth through 12th grade students write personal letters to living or dead authors from any genre explaining how what the students read changed their views of the world or themselves.
            Students may enter on their own or through their schools or local libraries in three levels: Level 1 for grades 4 – 6, Level 2 for grades 7 – 8 and Level 3 for grades 9 – 12.
            The national LAL team will choose up to 50 entries in each level from each state, and then state winners will be chosen by a panel of judges from throughout the state. Louisiana’s first place winners’ entries will be submitted to the Library of Congress for the national competition with the chance of winning $1,000.
Winning entrants will receive $100 for first place, $75 for second place and $50 for third place. State winners will be recognized at next year’s Louisiana Book Festival, scheduled for Nov. 1, 2014.
            The student’s letter and entry coupon, available online or on the attached flier, must be sent to Letters About Literature, P.O. Box 5308, Woodbridge, VA 22194. The postmark deadline for Level 3 is Dec. 10, 2013; for Levels 1 and 2 it is Jan. 10, 2014.
            Teachers and librarians can download Letters About Literature lesson plans and entry forms at www.read.gov/letters.
            The Louisiana Letters About Literature contest is made possible by the Louisiana Center for the Book in the State Library of Louisiana with the assistance of the Louisiana Writing Project. For more information about the State Library, visit www.state.lib.la.us.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Cookbook Thursday: St. Pierre takes po-boys to whole new level

            When I moved to California and got a taste of that fabulous weather, the gorgeous Pacific at my door and being surrounded by wine, I swore I would never come home to Louisiana. One day the umbilical cord snapped and I blame it all on that famous New Orleans sandwich, the shrimp po-boy, dressed with extra pickles. In all seriousness, one morning I woke up and thought if I didn’t get one soon, something deep in my genetic code was going to come unglued. I’d walk home to Domilise’s in the Irish Channel if I had to.
            Thankfully I got a job in Lafayette and enjoy po-boys often, including slipping away to my home town on occasion (if you haven’t tried the roast beef with debris at Domilise’s, you’re missing out). Now, one of my favorite home boys and cookbook author, Todd-Michael St. Pierre, has published a homage to the sandwich, “The Southern Po-Boy Cookbook: Mouthwatering Sandwich Recipes from the Heart of New Orleans.”
            Naturally, he offers a history of the unique sandwich on French bread — derived as a cheap alternative to lunches for striking streetcar workers —  but the beauty of this cookbook is in the recipes. There’s everything from traditional oyster loafs and roast beef and gravy to the eclectic, such as a pain perdue, eggplant Parmesan and pecan-crusted trout meuniere po-boy. I’m getting so hungry just writing this.
            If you’re interested in seeing St. Pierre in person he’ll be signing books at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at the Garden District Book Shop in New Orleans, then from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Friends of the Cabildo’s 1850 House Museum Store, 523 St. Ann St. On Sunday, he’ll be sigining at 2 p.m. at Blue Cypress Books for the Oak Street Po-Boy Festival of New Orleans and from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7, at Copper Rooster Antiques & Gifts, 222 Lee Lane in Covington.
            Here’s a recipe for “The Benny,” literally eggs Benedict served as a breakfast po-boy.

The Benny: Eggs Benedict Breakfast Po-Boy
From "The Southern Po-Boy Cookbook”

Hollandaise:
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cut into small cubes

Poached eggs:
2 tablespoons white vinegar
3 or 4 eggs

Assembly:
1 (12-inch) loaf French bread, split and toasted
Canadian bacon or bacon strips
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives

            Directions: In a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, cook the bacon until crisp on both sides. Remove and drain on paper towels. To make the hollandaise sauce, whisk together the egg yolks, lemon juice, cayenne and red wine vinegar in a
small saucepan over low heat. Turn the heat to medium, slowly add the butter, and whisk until the butter and the eggs are thoroughly blended. If the sauce separates, add 2 teaspoons of water and continue to whisk until it thickens.
            To poach the eggs, bring a sauté pan (wide enough to accommodate all the eggs without crowding) of water (about 2 inches) to a simmer over medium heat until water temperature is 180 degrees, and add the white vinegar. The water should never boil. Crack an egg into a cup and carefully slide it into the liquid. Repeat quickly with the remaining eggs. Cook the eggs until the whites are firm and the yolks nearly done, about 3 minutes.
            Meanwhile, spread a little of the hollandaise sauce on the bottom half of the toasted bread, and top with the bacon. When the eggs are done, remove them with a slotted spoon to drain the liquid, and place them over the bacon. Top with more hollandaise sauce, and sprinkle on the chives. Serve the top half of the loaf with butter, cane syrup, or your favorite jam or jelly.


 Cheré Coen is a Lafayette freelance travel and food writer. She is the author of “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country: A Tour of Historic Acadiana,” both from The History Press.