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
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

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

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
            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

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”

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

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.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Dreher comes home again in 'Ruthie Leming'

            After 40-year-old Ruthie Leming of St. Francisville was diagnosed with cancer, her big brother, journalist Rod Dreher, re-evaluated his life and returned home for the first time in 20 years. He joined the rest of his family, and that of the town, to rally around Ruthie, an avid outdoorswoman, middle school teacher and mother of three.
            Dreher writes about the experience in “The Little Way of Ruthie Leming: A Southern Girl, a Small Town, and the Secret of a Good Life” (Grand Central Publishing). The book is a New York Times bestseller (extended list), one Kirkus called “emotionally complex and genuinely affecting.”
            “The Little Way” discusses Dreher’s desire to see the world, living and enjoying cities such as Washington, D.C., Dallas and New York. On the other hand, Leming married her high school sweetheart and relished her small-town life and the family she reared.
            In the book Dreher explains, “Ruthie transfigured this town in my eyes. Her suffering and death made me see the good that I couldn’t see before. The same communal bonds that appeared to me as chains all those years ago had become my Louisiana lifelines. What I once saw through the melodramatic eyes of a teenager as prison bars were in fact the pillars that held my family up when it had no strength left to stand.”
            Dreher will tell his story at 3:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Chennault Museum Theatre in Monroe, with book signings and refreshments from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Admission is free. For information, call (318) 387-8918.
            Dreher has been an editorial writer and columnist for the Dallas Morning News, a film critic for the New York Post and currently writes for The American Conservative. He now lives in St. Francisville with his wife Julie and his three children. He is also the author of “Crunchy Cons: How Birkenstocked Burkeans, Gun-Loving Organic Gardeners, Evangelical Free-Range Farmers, Hip Homeschooling Mamas, Right-Wing Nature Lovers, and Their Diverse Tribe of Countercultural Conservatives Plan to Save America (or At Least the Republican Party).”

New releases
            The American Birding Association has published the 275-page “A Birder’s Guide to Louisiana,” written by Richard Gibbons, director of conservation for the Houston Audubon Society; Roger Breedlove, a prosecuting attorney in Alexandria, and Dr. Charles Lyon, past president of the Louisiana Ornithological Society. The book also contains a foreword by J. V. Remsen Jr., curator of birds at the LSU Museum of Natural Science and the McIlhenny Distinguished Professor of Natural Science. “A Birder’s Guide to Louisiana” details feathered friends that both live in Louisiana and migrate, bird seasons, local organizations and places to view birds throughout the state, among other topics. There’s a handy checklist in back along with a nice index. You can download a copy at
            Justin Wilson of Monroe, a freshman at Louisiana Delta Community College diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, has self-published a novel involving a masked vigilante in “Shadow Strike.” “Asperger’s Syndrome has provided me with a rigid view of the world with which to write about,” Wilson states on the book cover. “I am free to add my own thoughts and complexities to my work while conveying a message to people who share my condition. That no matter what handicaps you may have in life, anything is possible.” The book is available at online bookstores.
            Lisa Graley, professor of English and Humanities at UL, has just published her first book of poetry titled “Box of Blue Horses” by Gival Press, winner of the Gival Press Poetry Award. She will be reading from the book at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Ernest Gaines Center of the UL Dupre Library.
            For Sookie Stackhouse fans left wondering what happened to their characters after the popular series ended in May, there’s “After Dead: What Came Next in the World of Sookie Stackhouse” by Charlaine Harris. The series took place in Bon Temps, Louisiana, and involved a host of character over its lengthy run. It was also made into an HBO series titled “True Blood.”
            Lafayette native Stephanie Fournet recently published her first novel, “Fall Semester,” a contemporary romance ebook available exclusively on Amazon Kindle and set in Lafayette. “Readers will recognize a few of Lafayette’s oldest neighborhoods, like the Saint Streets and Bendel Gardens,” Fournet wrote me.  “And scenes take place in downtown Lafayette landmarks like Bisbano’s and Keller’s Bakery.” The novel’s principal characters are Dr. Malcolm Vashal, a young associate professor of English at UL-Lafayette, and Maren Gardner, a graduate student and aspiring poet.
            A white girl from North Louisiana and an African-American girl from New Orleans face the violent collapse of American society by ending up in the same safe haven, an old mine in West Virginia refurbished seemingly for their use by an unknown host, in Sim Shattuck’s “Abyssal Plain” by Dream Catcher Publishing. Shattuck will be signing copies from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday at Panache Boutique, 1011 N 8th St. in Monroe. For more information, visit

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 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Storytelling highlighted at Louisiana Book Fest

             If there is one thing you come away with after a visit to the Louisiana Book Festival, held last weekend in Baton Rouge, is that we Southerners tell a good story well. 
Rita Leganski, right, and Erin Bass.
            Take Rita Leganski, for instance. The author of “The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow” was interviewed by Lafayette’s Erin Bass, publisher of Deep South magazine. Legandski hails from Wisconsin and teaches at DePaul University in Chicago but cherishes Southern writers and the “magical realism” that exists here. She wrote her charming novel set in Louisiana and was using her time at the book festival to gather information for her next book, which may include Acadiana settings and a Cajun protagonist. A few of Leganski’s favorites were Carson McCullers, William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor.
            Debuting at the festival this year was a spoken word and musical performance titled “The Shoe Burnin’: Stories of Southern Soul.” The collaboration came about when a group of friends and artists in Alabama threw old shoes in the fire when firewood ran out. The incident started a tradition of telling stories involving shoes and their meanings to the owners, then tossing them into the blaze.
            The resulting performance combines deeply meaningful, satisfying stories from the critical voices inside our heads killing our spirits to the quirky nature of Southerners with music. The group of authors and musicians read a piece, then performed a song, for an hour of some fine storytelling, causing everyone present to jump to their feet upon its conclusion. The book, produced by Rivers Edge Media, contains a CD of both; visit
            There’s always way too much to see at the Louisiana Book Festival, and my own appearance kept me from enjoying much of it, but what I witnessed renewed my dedication to the literary voices emerging from our soil. If you missed the festival, check out some photos I took at the Louisiana Book News Facebook page. For reviews of some of the above-mentioned books, visit my blog,

Dupre Library
            Dr. Marcia Gaudet, professor of English emerita, will speak on “Gumbo as Metaphor: Foodways in the Work of Ernest J. Gaines” as part of the inaugural Ernest J. Gaines Lecture at 4 p.m. Wednesday in the Ernest J. Gaines Center of the UL Dupre Library. The program is free and open to the public and parking is available on the corner of East St. Mary Boulevard and Girard Park Circle. The Gaines Center is located on the third floor of Dupré Library, 400 St. Mary Blvd. For more information, contact Derek Mosley, 482-1848.
Marcia Gaudet
            Author Claire Manes will discuss “Out of the Shadow of Leprosy: The Carville Letters and Stories of the Landry Family” at 4 p.m. Thursday in the hallway outside the Gaines Center. The book is based on letters written by Manes’ grandfather and his siblings who were confined to the leprosarium in Carville during the mid-twentieth century. Manes began her research about the Carville leprosarium for her Ph. D. studies under Gaudet at UL. She is now a UL adjunct professor of English.
            Also at the library on Thursday is the 75th anniversary of The Federal Depository and the public is invited to an open house from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the first floor main hallway. There will be an exhibit and a slide show presentation in the Gloria S. Cline Bibliographic Instruction Lab, and refreshments will be served. To explore federal government resources through the Dupré Library web pages, visit .

            The Lafayette Public Library Foundation (LPLF) will host its third annual spelling bee for adults on Thursday at the Lafayette Science Museum downtown. Cajun personality Fred Mills will serve as emcee. The spelling bee starts at 7 p.m., but guests are invited to arrive at 6 p.m. for food and drinks from local restaurants and a special viewing of the museum’s exhibit “Leaving Earth: The Story of Space Travel.” Tickets are $25 in advance or $35 at the door, with proceeds benefitting the Lafayette Public Library. For information, call 593-4770 or visit

Book events           
            Voices in Autumn presents poets Marc Vincenz, Gina Ferrara and Carol Rice
and fiction writer Matthew Hofferek from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday at Carpe Diem Gelato and Espresso Bar, 812 Jefferson St. For more information contact Clare L. Martin at or 962-5886.
            The Coffee and Conversation series presents Poppy Tooker: Louisiana Eats: The People, the Food and Their Stories at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the East Bank Regional Library at 4747 W. Napoleon Ave. in Metairie. The free event includes a book signing, Q&A and complimentary coffee.
            Louisiana Cultural Vistas columnist and Tulane University professor Richard Campanella presents Arrivals, a three-part series examining previous population influxes in New Orleans. This week’s event concludes with a panel on the post-Katrina period, moderated by LEH’s Brian Boyles at 6 p.m. Wednesday. The series is free and open to the public.
            Joie de Vivre Coffee & Culture Café in Breaux Bridge presents “Artistry of the Atchafalaya,” featuring a photographic and cypress wood exhibit, book reading and signing, and power point presentation by author Greg Guirard from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday. Carla Woody and Becca Begnaud discuss the healing arts from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday at the café. Both events are free.
            Archive Aid 10 fundraiser, to help defray costs of a student worker and work station equipment upgrades at the Center for Louisiana Studies, will be Friday at the Blue Moon Saloon and Guesthouse. This year's featured performers include the Rex Street Rounders, the Revelers and Bonsoir, Catin. Archivist Chris Segura and intern Adam Doucet are preparing a complimentary meal for supporters and hosting a jam session under the pavilion.
            Louisiana Poet Laureate Ava Leavell Haymon, along with Acadiana authors Diane Moore, Suzi Thornton and Margaret Gibson Simon will read from their work as part of Fall Poetry Night beginning at 6 p.m. Saturday, at the A&E Gallery, 335 W. St. Peter St. in New Iberia.

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

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Cookbook Thursday: Make tonight a 'Soup Night'

            At a certain hour on Stanton Street in Portland, people emerge from their homes, bowls in hand and head in the direction of a particular house. It’s “Soup Night” on this street, a chance for neighbors to meet, share a meal and enjoy the host’s soup of the evening. Everyone’s invited.
            Author Maggie Stucky cherishes her street’s tradition and offers it as an example for others nationwide in her new book, “Soup Night: Strengthening Our Communities One Bowl of Soup at a Time,” published by Storey. The cookbook offers 99 soup recipes and 40 recipes for accompaniments but goes beyond passing on a good meal. Stucky challenges her readers to start their own soup nights, in particular this Thursday, a soup night organized by the publisher.
            The following is a wonderful corn chowder recipe for our now soup weather (which would be wonderful with some wild Louisiana shrimp), but you can also follow along with daily recipes from participating blogs this week. Check out Storey’s Facebook page,, for more information, or for tips, stories, recipes and more.
Sweet Corn Chowder
From “Soup Night”
Serves 4–6
5 bacon strips, diced
1 small leek, trimmed and thinly sliced
2 teaspoons fresh thyme or winter savory, or 1⁄2 teaspoon dried
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 large russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 cups milk
2 cups cream
2 cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen (preferably fresh)

            Directions: Brown the bacon in a large soup pot over medium heat until crisp, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain off all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat. Add the leek, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste to the pot and sauté until the leek is softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the potatoes, milk, and cream, and bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Simmer (do not boil) until the potatoes are tender. Add the corn and continue to simmer until the corn is tender, about 4 minutes for fresh or 7 minutes for frozen. Serve hot.
            Notes: A 1/2 cup of mushrooms or 1 cup of shrimp may be added when the corn is tender. To make ahead, prepare through step 3, but remove from the heat just before the potatoes are completely cooked. Refrigerate, then rewarm at serving time, simmering until the potatoes are totally tender. For large crowds, this recipe is easily doubled or tripled. To economize, use chopped parsley or chives as garnish in place of the shrimp.

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 3, 2013

Festival of Words brings in big-name authors, features drive-by poetry and more on Saturday

            The Festival of Words, featuring literary readings by nationally recognized authors, creative writing workshops in the public schools and community centers, a community stage for open mic, drive-by poetry, and opportunities for people to interact with featured authors, will be Thursday through Saturday, Nov. 7-9, in Grand Coteau and its surrounding area. 
            Authors participating in this year’s festival include Naomi Shihab Nye, former Louisiana Poet Laureate Darrell Bourque, Genaro Kỳ Lý Smith, Rebecca Henry, Fabienne Kanor, Akeem Martin and more. Students from throughout Acadiana will participate in the annual “Drive-by Poetry” readings on Saturday, where poetry will be read impromptu in places such as grocery stores, boutiques and restaurants.
            The Writers’ Guild of Acadiana will host several local authors at a booksigning from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 9, at The Thensted Center, 268 Church St. in Grand Coteau.
            In addition, there will be two pre-festival events — a Drive-By Poetry reading from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 5, at Java Square, 103 Landry St. in Opelousas and a potluck with novelist Kanor and music by D’Jalma Garnier on Wednesday, Nov. 6.
            The Festival of Words was founded and organized by Patrice Melnick, who won the 2012 Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities Public Humanities Programming Award for her work with both the festival and ongoing literary events in Grand Coteau. She is the author of “Po-boy Contraband: From Diagnosis Back to Life” and coauthor of “Grand Coteau” with John Slaughter.
            For more information, visit

New releases
            LSU Press has republished “The Forgotten People,” an examination of the Creoles of color in the Cane River region outside of Natchitoches, a community founded by a family of freed slaves. First published in 1977, “The Forgotten People” offers a socioeconomic history of this community — a minority group that fit no stereotypes, refused outside labels and still struggles to explain its identity to a world that does not understand Creolism. “The Forgotten People” corrects misassumptions about the origin of key properties in the Cane River National Heritage Area and demonstrates how historians reconstruct the lives of the enslaved, the impoverished and the disenfranchised, according to the book’s press release.
            Richard Jacks of Hammond has published a “Collection of Poetry” through RoseDog Books. For more information, visit
            LSU naturalist and avid traveler Vladimir Dinets of Baton Rouge takes on swamp creatures in “Love and Adventure among Crocodiles, Alligators, and Other Dinosaur Relations.” A zoologist interested in animal behavior, he obtained his doctorate from the University of Miami, studying the languages of crocodiles, alligators and their relatives. He works at LSU on whooping crane reintroduction and is also a nature photographer.
            Josephine Templeton of Baton Rouge has just released an urban fantasy with romantic elements titled “Scorned,” both in print and as an ebook. For more information, visit or
            New in paperback is J. Mark Souther’s “New Orleans on Parade,” published by LSU Press and winner of the Gulf South Historical Association Book Award and the F. Kemper and Leila Williams Prize for Louisiana History.

Center Open House
            The UL-Lafayette Center for Louisiana Studies celebrates its 40th anniversary with an open house and symposium on Wednesday, Nov. 6, at the Edith Garland Dupré Library on the UL campus. The open house will be from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., followed by the symposium from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. in Room 314. Topics includes “The History of the Center and the Magnificent Collection” with Barry Ancelet, Mathé Allain, Vaughan Baker and David Barry; “The UL Press and the Contemporary State of the Book” with Susan Larson; “The Current State and Future of the Center for Louisiana Studies” with Michael S. Martin, Jennifer Ritter Guidry, John Sharp and James Wilson; and “The Archives of Cajun and Creole Folklore” roundtable with Kristi Guillory, David Greely, Steve Riley, Ann Savoy and Jane Vidrine. Parking is available on campus at the Girard Park pay parking lot (which does not accept cash). The events are co-sponsored by the UL Lafayette College of Liberal Arts and Department of History. For more information about this event and the Center for Louisiana Studies, call 482-6027.

Book news
            The Cajun and Creole Music Collection, a part of Edith Garland Dupré Library’s Special Collections, is the subject of a recently published book chapter titled “Developing Regional Heritage Music Collections” in the anthology “Bringing the Arts into the Library.” The chapter is co-authored by Sandra Himel and Lance Chance in the book published by the American Library Association. It features collaborative projects and partnerships between libraries and arts and cultural communities in the United States and Canada. For information about The Cajun and Creole Music Collection visit
Book events
            Dr. Charles Allen will discuss edible plants at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 7, at Wild Birds Unlimited, 137 Arnould Blvd. in Lafayette. Allen is the coauthor of the recently published “Wildflowers of Louisiana,” plus “Trees Shrubs and Woody Vines of Louisiana” and “Grasses of Louisiana.”
            The Friends of the Dupre Library will host its annual book sale Thursday through Saturday on the first floor of the Dupre Library on the UL campus. The book sale will be 8 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. Thursday and Friday, Nov. 7-8, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 9. Friends of the Library members and UL faculty and staff are invited to a preview from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 6. For more information, call 482-6677.
            Eunice News writer Todd C. Elliott will speak about his book, “A Rose By Many Other Names: Rose Cherami & the JFK Assassination” at noon Friday, Nov, 8, at the LSU-Eunice LeDoux Library in Eunice. This is the first book to be published on the subject of Rose Cherami, her arrest in Eunice, in 1963, 48 hours before the shooting of Pres. Kennedy in Dallas and her knowledge involving the plan to assassinate the president.
            Author and designer Phillip Collier will be holding a New Orleans release party for his new book, “Making New Orleans Products Past and Present,” at 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 9, at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. The event will feature a panel discussion focused on the people and products that make New Orleans unique along with a book signing.

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