Sunday, August 25, 2013

New titles mark Katrina anniversary

             This week marks the eighth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina impacting New Orleans, the Mississippi Gulf Coast and surrounding areas. One of the deadliest storms to hit the U.S. and the country’s most costliest storm to date, Katrina was also for many of us an experience that would forever mark our lives.
            There have been several new books published about Katrina, plus Hurricane Rita that arrived slightly less than a month later, devastating the southwestern coast of Louisiana. One book highlighting the heroes of both storms, ordinary citizens who took matters into their own hands, circumvented official responders and channels and helped hundreds of people is “Second Line Rescue: Improvised Responses to Katrina and Rita,” a collection of stories edited by Barry Jean Ancelet, Marcia Gaudet and Carl Lindahl. Published by the University of Mississippi Press, the book chronicles the creative acts through which Gulf Coast people rescued their neighbors during the chaotic aftermath of the two horrendous storms. The book contains essays, personal narratives, media reports and field studies and showcases how ingenuity by South Louisiana residents proved successful against great odds. It’s a testament to the power of close-knit communities and individuals who step up and do what needs to be done.
            St. Rita’s Nursing Home in St. Bernard Parish and its 35 residents were victims of Katrina’s dangerous storm surge. Once the deaths were in the media spotlight, viewers were horrified and owners Sal and Mabel Mangano were prosecuted. Defending the Manganos was lawyer James A. Cobb Jr., best known for prosecuting Louisiana governor Edwin Edwards for fraud in 1985. His investigation and defense of the couple makes up “Flood of Lies: The St. Rita’s Nursing Home Tragedy,” published by Pelican of New Orleans. Cobb, who teaches at Tulane University Law School and Harvard, insists the couple was misrepresented and sacrificed everything to save the lives of the home’s residents.             
            Gail Langer Karwoski of Georgia is the award-winning author of 14 books for young readers, including historical books such as “Quake! Disaster in San Francisco 1906.” Her latest book, “When Hurricane Katrina Hit Home,” published by The History Press, follows two children from different neighborhoods in New Orleans who prepare for, experience and suffer through the aftermath of Katrina. After the city is covered in water following the break in the levees, and the two families must fight to survive, the differences in their upbringing and lives fades away.
            Coming up next spring is “Hurricane Boy” by Laura Roach Dragon, a psychotherapist who worked with children and adolescents separated from their families during Katrina. Her book is a coming-of-age saga in which Ninth Ward middle-school student Hollis Williams finds himself responsible for reuniting his family who have been sent hundreds of miles away.

Book events
            Alex McConduit will read from his latest children’s picture book, “Thorn in My Horn,” about a young musician in New Orleans who loves to play his horn, against his mother’s objections, at 1 p.m. today (Aug. 25) at Octavia Books in New Orleans.

Cheré Coen is the author of “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” 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

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Cookbook Thursday: Nathalie Dupree shows us how to entertain comfortably

           Nathalie Dupree’s “Comfortable Entertaining: At Home with Ease and Grace” (University of Georgia Press), with photography by Tom Eckerle, won a James Beard award years ago for best cookbook. Now reissued in paperback, the cookbook that allowed people to be comfortable while entertaining will reach a whole new audience.
            “Entertaining is a mindset, an attitude as well as a practice — not quite an art form but more than a craft,” Dupree writes in the book’s introduction. “Like most artistic endeavors, it is a marriage of personal expression and technique learned through observation and experience.”
            Dupree insists that “comfortable entertaining” should be enjoyable as well as trouble free.
            “The key ingredient in entertaining is the desire to be hospitable,” she writes.
            The book offers plenty of suggestions. Her “golden rules,” for instance, include understanding your guests and their needs before planning a menu; serving something you’re familiar with; stay within your comfort zone; plan and work ahead; and make yourself and your guest comfortable.
            Dupree offers advice on developing master plans, working out a budget, preparing a menu, presentation, table settings and much more. Chapters includes menus for sit-down meals, barbecues, an all dessert buffet and tortilla party, to name a few. There’s also a section for the holidays.  
            Here’s a delightful recipe for an artichoke and potato salad that’s perfect for any time of the year but under Dupree’s category of “Special Barbecue.” Dupree suggests tasting the marinade if using bottled artichoke hearts and if you like, all of part may be substituted for the oil in the recipe. This salad will keep in the fridge for a week or more and makes a great snack as well. And like many of the book’s recipes, this one comes with extra information on choosing new potatoes, what defines a new potato and Dupree’s favorite brands.
            Other books by Dupree include last year’s “Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking,” with Cynthia Graubart, and one of my favorites, “Shrimp and Grits,” published in 2006.

Baby Artichoke and New Potato Salad
From “Comfortable Entertaining: At Home with Ease and Grace”
2 pounds small new potatoes (1 to 2 inches in diameter)
2 pounds trimmed whole baby artichokes, cooked, fresh, or bottled
1 or 2 medium red onions, thinly sliced
4-5 garlic cloves, crushed with 2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, thyme and/or oregano
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
            Directions: Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add the potatoes and cook until done, about 15 minutes. Remove the potatoes to a colander and drain thoroughly. In a large bowl, toss together the potatoes, artichokes, onions, garlic, parsley, vinegar, and olive oil. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed. Serve at room temperature or chilled. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Lifewriting class a great chance to record history, leave behind real stories

            Years ago, UL-Lafayette started a lifewriting or memoir class for senior citizens, to encourage those among our population who have lived the stories to write them down. The UL “Lifewriting” class has been ongoing for years, with many of those stories being published in The Advertiser’s “Atchafalaya Voices” column.
            Today, Kim Graham and I teach lifewriting, an experience that’s more an honor than a job. They say teachers learn more from their students and this couldn’t be more true in our positions. Over the past few years I’ve learned colorful Cajun and Creole traditions, that Laura Ingalls Wilder’s sister lived in Crowley and was buried in Lafayette, that McComb is a vibrant neighborhood in Lafayette with a fascinating history and so much more.
            But it’s not just about local history. It’s about personal history. One of the most valuable aspects of writing down one’s story is how the events of life pertained to individuals. It’s also about healing; writing can be the most therapeutic. I’ll never forget, for instance, the healing power of a volunteer choir at M.C. Anderson who sang for a student of mine battling the worst kind of cancer.
            Funding for our classes is being squeezed and Kim and I are always worried this valuable class will be cut. If you or someone you know would love to learn how to write down their personal history, create a genealogy record for their children or pen their memoirs, please let me know. It’s also a fun, social event where writing brings likeminded people together.
            The classes are three hours long with a coffee break (food and good conversation is involved) at Grace Presbyterian Church and in New Iberia. Students receive a UL ID that offers all kinds of lagniappe, such as discounts at restaurants, free admission to concerts and access to the UL fitness center. You can learn more about the class — plus other senior courses — that are offered through UL’s University College at

LSU releases
            Louisiana’s poet laureate Ava Leavell Haymon has a published a new collection of poetry through LSU Press titled “Eldest Daughter.” Haymon is the author of the poetry collections “Why the House Is Made of Gingerbread,” “Kitchen Heat” and “The Strict Economy of Fire.” She teaches poetry writing in Baton Rouge and directs a writers’ retreat center in the mountains of New Mexico.
            Professor Brij Mohan, Dean Emeritus of the LSU School of Social Work, made his debut this week as a novelist with his 18th book, “Death of an Elephant.” The novel is described as “an allegory of existence.” The book is being simultaneously released by iUniverse (Penguin),, Barnes & Noble and other outlets.

Nonfiction releases
            If you’ve been to Gulf Shores lately you’ll equate the Alabama coastline with that of its touristy neighbor, Destin. Gulf Shores, and parts of the Florida Panhandle were once referred to as the “Redneck Riviera,” comprised of small fishing villages, rustic camps and houses. Jacksonville State University history scholar Harvey H. Jackson III shares this history and the growth of its tourism industry in “The Rise and Decline of the Redneck Riviera: An Insider’s History of the Florida-Alabama Coast” (University of Georgia Press). Included in the book are historic and current photos, the impact of World War II and disasters both natural and manmade.
            Peggy Frankland became involved in environmental affairs much like many women; she saw a problem, was horrified of the possible consequences and worked to demand solutions. She spotlights, with Susan Tucker, 38 individuals who helped shaped Louisiana’s environmental movement in “Women Pioneers of the Louisiana Environmental Movement,” published by University Press of Mississippi.
            The book includes oral history narratives, biographies and photography by Lafayette’s Gabriella Mills. Acadiana women highlighted in the book include Mary Tutwiler, owner of Saint Street Inn, who led the environmental group War on Waste (WOW) to oppose a solid waste landfill in Cade. Others mentioned are a group of seven women who fought Marine Shale in Morgan City; Mary Brasseaux of Crowley, who fought proposed waste incinerators and was a founding member of Help Our Polluted Environment; and Clara Baudoin and Florence Gossen, who fought the North Dugas Landfill in Lafayette.
            My favorite line and one that sums up the courageous actions of these women so well, was said by activist Ruby Cointment: “Industry can intimidate a man with a job, but never a woman with a child.”
            “If a mother does not stand up for the health and welfare of her family, there is no hope for families,” Gossen says in the book. “It was a challenge to take on the city the size of Lafayette. It was a real challenge, but somebody had to do it.”

Book events
            James A. Cobb Jr. will read from and sign his book, “Flood of Lies,” at 6 p.m. Thursday at Octavia Books in New Orleans. Also at the store will be Alex McConduit at storytime, featuring his latest children's picture book, “Thorn in My Horn,” about a young musician in New Orleans who loves to play his horn against his mother’s objections. McConduit will read his book for kids at 1 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 25.

Cheré Coen is the author of “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” 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

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Cookbook Thursday: 'Little Paris Kitchen' big on Parisienne flavor

            Rachel Khoo studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris to learn and experience la vie parisienne. She tested food in her tiny apartment kitchen, later opening a two-person restaurant to cook up test recipes for “The Little Paris Kitchen: 120 Simple but Classic French Recipes,” a cookbook that became a hit in England and resulted in a companion BBC television series that’s now on The Cooking Channel.
            Khoo’s cookbook is now available stateside, offering a modern and realistic approach to fine French cuisine. “The Little Paris Kitchen” brings exquisite French cuisine down to everyday life, for the everyday cook. It’s a gorgeous cookbook highlighted by photographs of food and Paris by David Loftus with illustrations by Khoo.
            I borrowed recipes from both the book (fromage frais) and Khoo’s blog (sweet potato ceviche bites), both lovely French items to enjoy on a summer’s evening.

Fromage frais (fresh cheese)
Author’s Note: Fromage frais has a smooth, creamy taste and a subtle acidic note, making it less smelly socks and more freshly washed white linen. Of course, an additional plus is that it’s low in fat and cholesterol, but that doesn’t mean it’s low in taste. Spread over toasted brioche or bread or add ingredients to sweeten it up. Makes about 14 ounces.
2 quarts of 2 percent or skimmed milk, preferably organic but not UHT or homogenized
1/2 cup plain live or probiotic yogurt, preferably organic
Juice of 1 lemon (6 tablespoons)
A pinch of salt or sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream (optional)
            Directions: Pour the milk into a large pot. Heat very slowly, stirring gently, until it starts to steam and little bubbles form around the edge (it should not boil at any point). This should take about 20 minutes.
            Allow to cool for a couple of minutes before stirring in the yogurt and lemon juice. Leave to sit undisturbed for a further 10 minutes. Return the pot to the heat and bring the milk to a boil. Once it separates into curds (the solids) and whey (the liquid), remove from the heat.
            Line a fine-meshed sieve with cheesecloth or a clean tea towel. Place the sieve over a bowl and pour in the separated milk. Scrunch the cloth tightly immediately above the cheese, like making a money bag, and twist to squeeze out any excess liquid. Now tie the corners of the cloth together to form a hanging pouch and thread a wooden spoon through the loop. Hang the cheese over a large bowl or jug (don’t let it sit on the bottom), and refrigerate for 30 minutes or overnight. The longer the cheese hangs, the more the liquid will drip away and the drier the cheese will become.
            To serve, twist the cloth as before to squeeze out any excess liquid, then remove the cheese from the cloth and season with salt or sugar. Serve as it comes for a firm version, or beat in a couple of tablespoons of heavy cream for a smoother, creamier cheese.

Sweet potato ceviche bites
2 tablespoons rapeseed oil
2 sweet potatoes
1 pink grapefruit
2 limes, juiced
1 red onion, peeled, halved and very finely sliced
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon paprika
250g sea bream
Sea salt, to taste
Salad leaves (optional)
             Directions: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Pour the oil into a large, non-stick baking tray and put it in the oven to heat. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut lengthways into 5mm (3/16th of an inch) slices. Cook for one minute in the boiling water. Pat dry and toss into the hot oil. Roast for 20 minutes, turning once, until they are golden brown. When they are cooked, set aside on kitchen paper or a wire rack.
            Peel the grapefruit and cut into segments. Place in a bowl and squeeze the remaining juice from the discarded skin over the top. Add the lime juice, red onion, sugar and paprika. Leave in the fridge until needed.
            Cut the fish into 2cm (3/4 inch) cubes. Add to the juice just before serving. Serve the ceviche on top of the potato slices. For a starter, serve three per person, with salad leaves if required. Makes around 16-18.

Cheré Coen is a Lafayette freelance travel and food writer. She is coauthor of “Cooking in Cajun Country” with Karl Breaux, “Exploring Cajun Country: A Tour of Historic Acadiana” and the upcoming “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana.” Write her at

Sunday, August 11, 2013

New Orleans' George Bishop follows up with delightful coming-of-age story

             It’s 1973 in the small town of Terrebonne outside of Thibodaux and Comet Kohoutek has been spotted. For Alan Broussard, a geeky science teacher, the comet’s arrival means a chance to shine and for his intelligence to be validated among kids too bored to care. For his 14-year-old son, “Junior,” the comet’s arrival mirrors his adolescent feelings, a fireball of energy falling in love for the first time.
            George Bishop pens this coming-of-age tale in “The Night of the Comet,” his follow-up novel to his impressing debut, “Letter to My Daughter.” In addition to father and son’s hope for exciting possibilities, both of which may be painfully crushed, there’s Alan’s wife, Lydia, also bored with her life and her tedious husband. She dreams of more, much like her daughter, Meagan, itching to leave home and seek out broader horizons.
            The Broussard family lingers in limbo until the comet arrives, but its presence and the events surrounding its arrival may not be the answer to their prayers.
            As in his previous novel, Bishop offers a delicate look inside a breaking family, examines the hopes and dreams of youth that stale as people head through life and the expectations we sometimes attach to stars.
            Bishop earned an MFA from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, where he won the Award of Excellence for a collection of stories. He has lived and taught in Slovakia, Turkey, Indonesia, Azerbaijan, India and Japan. He now lives in New Orleans.
New releases
            Bennett Sims of Baton Rouge has penned a zombie novel titled “A Questionable Shape” in which his character Mazoch returns home to find his father’s home a mess and his father missing. In the midst of a zombie epidemic, he creates a list of his father's haunts and enlists help in tracking him down. However, hurricane season threatens to wipe out any undead not already contained, and eliminate all hope of finding Mazoch’s father. Sims is a graduate of the Iowa Writer’ Workshop, and has had stories published in A Public Space, Tin House and Zoetrope: All-Story. He currently teaches at the University of Iowa, where he is Provost Postgraduate Visiting Writer in Fiction.

Now in paperback
            Last year on Aug. 23 a book was published that marked the 100th anniversary of the alleged kidnapping of Louisiana toddler Bobby Dunbar, a story that fascinated America at the time and riveted recent listeners when an episode aired on National Public Radio’s “This American Life.” The case became a book, “A Case for Solomon,” by Tal McThenia and Bobby's granddaughter, Margaret Dunbar Cutright, and the paperback version is out now.     
                   The story follows 4-year-old Dunbar, who disappeared after enjoying an afternoon at the family camp on Swayze Lake near Opelousas. The parents believed the boy had been kidnapped and eight months later were certain a boy fitting Bobby’s description was found in Mississippi. What followed was and still is one of the most fascinating cases in America history, one in which DNA finally solved the 100-year-old mystery.
            If you haven’t read the hardback, now’s your chance to get a copy.
            Also out in paperback is Nathalie Dupree’s “Comfortable Entertaining: At Home with Ease and Grace” (University of Georgia Press), with photography by Tom Eckerle. The cookbook won a James Beard award years ago for best cookbook and is now being reissued in paperback.

Acadian Day
            Acadian Culture Day will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today at Vermilionville, focusing on family folklore and including a genealogy station, table Francaise, cooking demonstrations, boat tours and canoeing, artist demonstrations, games and crafts for children, film screenings, music in the Performance Center by Recolte Band and Al Berard Family Band, and more. Admission is free. For information, visit

Book events
            Lolis Eric Elie signs “Treme: Stories and Recipes from the Heart of New Orleans” from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday at 9 Le Musée de f.p.c. and Community Books, 2336 Esplanade in New Orleans.

Cheré Coen is the author of “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” 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

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Cookbook Thursday: Slow cook Southern style

            I discovered “The Southern Slow Cooker: Big-Flavor, Low-Fuss Recipes for ComfortFood Classics” by Kendra Bailey Morris (Ten Speed Press, 2013) on Facebook and followed the links to her blog, “Fat Back and Foie Gras.” “The Southern Slow Cooker” hit bookshelves yesterday and here’s a sneak peak into what the new cookbook has to offer, a fun recipe for cheesecake in a jar.

Slow Cooker Chocolate-Banana Cheesecake in Jars

From “The Southern Slow Cooker: Big-Flavor, Low-Fuss Recipes for Comfort Food Classics”
1 cup chocolate wafer crumbs
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
16 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 eggs
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened 
condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large banana, cut into thin slices, plus additional sliced bananas for garnish
Whipped cream, for garnish
Shaved dark chocolate, for garnish
            Directions: In a small bowl, mix together the crushed chocolate wafers, sugar, and melted 
butter. Partially fill six half-pint canning jars with about 3 tablespoons of this mixture, being sure to distribute it evenly. Set aside any leftover chocolate crust mixture.
            In a large mixing bowl, using a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese until fluffy. Add the eggs, one by one, still beating the mixture. Pour in the condensed milk and the vanilla and continue to beat.
            Fill each jar with about 1½ to 2 inches of the cream cheese mixture. Add an even layer of banana slices along with some of the reserved chocolate crust. Finally fill each jar with more cheesecake mixture, leaving about an inch of headspace. Lay a kitchen towel on the bottom of the slow cooker to protect the ceramic surface and place the uncovered jars in the slow cooker insert, making sure they are not touching each other or the sides of the cooker.
            Fill a tea kettle with water and heat to just boiling. Pour just enough water into the slow cooker to come halfway up the glass jars. Cover the top of the slow cooker with several thick sheets of paper towels to absorb additional moisture. Cover the slow cooker and cook on high for 1 to 2 hours, until the cheesecakes begin to pull away from the sides of the jars. Using a pair of tongs, carefully transfer the jars (they will be very hot) to a wire rack. Cool completely. Screw on the lids and place the cheesecakes in the fridge until well chilled, at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight.
            Just before serving, top each jar of cake with additional sliced bananas, a dollop of whipped cream, and shaved chocolate. Serve the cakes straight from the jars with spoons. Serves 6.

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

Sunday, August 4, 2013

SIBA Awards announced, Louisiana books among the honors

            I’m ashamed to admit I miss the announcements of the 2013 SIBA Awards, book honors voted on by Southern independent booksellers for great examples of Southern literature over the past year.
            Shreveport’s own William Joyce was the children’s SIBA winner for “The Fantastic FlyingBooks of Mr. Morris Lessmore” (Atheneum Books for Young Readers). LSU Press was the publisher for the poetry award, “Descent” by Kathryn Stripling Byer.
            Other winners included: 
            “TheBack in the Day Bakery Cookbook” by Cheryl and Griffith Day (Artisan Publishers), cooking;
            “ALand More Kind Than Home” by Wiley Cash (William Morrow), fiction;
            “StandUp That Mountain” by Jay Erskine Leutze (Scribner Book Company), nonfiction;
            “ThreeTimes Lucky” by Sheila Turnage” (Dial Books for Young Readers), young adult.
            A few of the nominees that I would also recommend reading are “Fred Thompson’sSouthern Sides: 250 Dishes That Really Make the Plate” by Fred Thompson (University of North Carolina Press), “The Accidental City: Improvising NewOrleans” by Lawrence N. Powell (Harvard University Press), “Mastering theArt of Southern Cooking” by Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart (Gibbs Smith Publishers) and “Around the Southern Table: Coming Home to ComfortingMeals and Treasured Memories” by Rebecca Lang (Oxmoor House).           
            For more information, visit
New releases
            The life, loves and battles of a young U.S. naval officer from the Barbary War of 1803 through the War of 1812 and the super frigate he designed and sails into combat against the world’s greatest navy is the basis of O’Neil de Noux’s latest book, “USS Relentless.” The saga is available as a trade paperback at or or at the author’s web site at
            Rick Koster, author of two books about Southern music, “Texas Music” and “Louisiana Music,” has published a horror e-book titled “Poppin’ a Cold One” by eKensington. The story revolves around a funeral home embalmer who discovers that a co-worker is doing more to the bodies than dressing them for burial. The ensuing adventure involves a New Orleans detective and a former rock musician turned casino mogul.

Writing workshops
            The Walter Anderson Museum of Art in Ocean Springs, Miss., has chosen a new Artist in Residence program featuring writer and poet, Benjamin Morris. Morris will lead a week-long series of events to include a five-day residency, a public reading and a full-day writer’s workshop incorporating the permanent collections and new exhibitions at WAMA. There will be an Inter-Arts Panel Discussion on Aug. 9, moderated by Dr. Philip Levin, president of the Gulf Coast Writers Association; a Writing Workshop Aug. 10, and a Reception and Public Reading, Aug. 11 in the Ocean Springs Community Center. For information on the writing workshop or to reserve a spot in the class, email Amelia Halstead at
            The Heart of Louisiana chapter of Romance Writers of America has announced its fall reader luncheon as Nov. 16 in Baton Rouge with best-selling author Maya Banks as the keynote speaker. For information, visit

Book events
            Chuck Hustmyre will read from “The Axman of New Orleans” today at the literary reading series in the patio of the Maple Leaf Bar, 8316 Oak St. in New Orleans.
            Lolis Eric Elie signs “Treme: Stories and Recipes from the Heart of New Orleans” from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. today at Pirate’s Alley Words and Music on the second floor gallery of the Cabildo at Jackson Square, New Orleans. The event is free with RSVP by email to Elie will also sign from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday at a cocktail and author dinner at Susan Spicer’s Bayona Restaurant in New Orleans ($40 plus tax, drinks and gratuity). For information and to RSVP to the dinner, call (504) 525-4455.
            The Northshore Literary Society will host a “Sunday Salon” from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. today at St. John’s Coffee House in Covington. Local author Pamela Binnings Ewen will speak about the changes in publishing and how these changes affect both readers and writers. There will be light refreshments, wine and soft drinks for a $10 fee but free to Society members. For information, visit           
            George Bishop discusses and signs his latest book, “The Night of the Comet,” at 5:30 p.m. Monday at Garden District Book Shop in New Orleans.

Cheré Coen is the author of “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and the upcoming “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana.” She teaches writing at UL-Lafayette’s Continuing Education. Write her at Visit her web site

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Former poet laureate Darrell Bourque travels by water for booksignings

Last week former Louisiana Poet Laureate Darrell Bourque arrived via boat along Bayou Teche for a reading of his new work, "Megan's Guitar and Other Poems from Acadie." He read excerpts on the deck of the Bayou Warehouse in Arnaudville. The event was part of Bourque's Bayou Teche Reading Tour for the new book of poetry, published by the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press.


Thursday, August 1, 2013

Cookbook Thursday: The best pralines ever!

             Panderina D. Soumas hails from South Louisiana, but her travels landed her in Bossier City, where she sells her Creole food products. People travel miles to taste Soumas’s pralines, delectable creamy concoctions with pecans and lagniappe, a little something extra Soumas adds that’s an old family secret, one she’s not telling. In her Soumas Heritage Creole Cookbook, there’s a recipe for her pralines along with the family memoirs, what constitutes a Creole and “ancestral legends.” We’re including one here (you’ll have to guess what the secret ingredient would be) but you can purchase this fabulous cookbook at and her products at

Pecan Pralines
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 cup pecan halves
1/2 cup light cream
2 tablespoons butter
     Directions: Dissolve sugars in cream and boil to the thread test (228 degrees), stirring occasionally. Add the butter and pecans; cook until syrup reaches the soft-ball test (236 degrees), or forms a soft ball in water. Cool. Beat until somewhat thickened but not until it loses its gloss and drop by tablespoonful onto a greased marbled slab or double thickness of waxed paper. The candy will flatten out into large cakes. Yields 12 pralines.

Cheré Coen is a Lafayette freelance travel and food writer. She is coauthor of “Cooking in Cajun Country” with Karl Breaux, “Exploring Cajun Country: A Tour of Historic Acadiana” and the upcoming “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana.” Write her at