Friday, February 28, 2014

Celebrating Louisiana's Latin culture and cuisine

            Latino culture has long been a part of New Orleans and Louisiana culture and history, influencing many segments of society, including our cuisine. Food historian Zella Palmer Cuadra researched this little-known — or better yet little discussed — history and showcases our Latino heritage in “New Orleans con Sabor Latino:The History and Passion of Latino Cooking.”
            After a fascinating history that poses New Orleans as more of a Caribbean city, she profiles several New Orleans Latinos and their experiences with both the city and its cuisine. There’s Alexey Marti, a Cuban immigrant who performs with his band Urban Mind; socialite Margarita Bergen from Santo Domingo; Kid Chef Eliana, a 13-year-old of diverse genealogy who’s already written two cookbooks; and Edgar M. Sierra Jimenez of Columbia, waiter at K’Paul’s. They and others are interviewed documentary style, with recipes that exemplify their Latin influences.
            Dishes run the gamut, many typical Louisiana dishes with a Latin flare, some more traditional to their origins. The author offers a few herself that made me want to wave a wand and have them instantly appear, recipes such as Southern fried chicken with mojo gravy and Chicago Puerto Rican Po’Boy with Grillades.
            Here’s a Banano de Foster a lo Latino, or Bananas Foster Latin Style, from Jimenez, one the author suggests is just as good using plantains, which I think is a marvelous idea. As a did-you-know, New Orleans used to be banana central, importing billions of bananas over the years by the United Fruit Company.

Bananas Foster Latin Style
From “New Orleans con Sabor Latino: The History and Passion of Latino Cooking”
4 ripe blackjack plantains (plantains should be turning black but still be somewhat firm) 
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1/3 cup of unsalted butter
1/4 cup of dark rum
1/4 cup of banana liqueur
1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder
Good quality French vanilla ice cream
            Directions: Remove plantain peels and cut the plantains on a slant, about 1 inch in size. Sauté the brown sugar and butter, constantly stirring until caramelized. Add cinnamon and then the plantains. Add a little water so the plantains won’t stick. When the plantains begin to soften and cook down, add the rum carefully. Tilt the pan over the fire slightly to ignite the rum. When the flame subsides, add the banana liqueur and serve over two scoops of vanilla ice cream.

 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.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Contests and workshops to inspire, oh my!

            Country Roads magazine’s 13th annual Regional Writings issue will be published in June 2014, featuring the winners of the magazine’s Short Story Contest and Reader’s Choice Award. The magazine is providing the first line of a story from Louisiana authors and writers are asked to finish the tale. Three winning works, each representing one of the first line options, will be published in the June 2014 issue of Country Roads magazine and online at There will be a $200 cash prize for each fiction story winner.
            The first lines include:
             “In the attic’s darkest corner, behind his Russian grandmother’s dowry chest, was a phonograph, its horn humming out the chorus of hidden bees.” —Ronlyn Domingue
            “Strapped flat on his back on the gurney, Adam felt as if he’d been inserted into a kiln when his wife suddenly appeared between his splayed feet (his left shoe and sock mysteriously missing).” —James Bennett
            “I get kidnapped all the time.”—Andrei Codrescu.
            For guidelines, visit

LA Writes
            The LA Writes Contest for K-12 students of Louisiana schools is now open for entries for its 2014 contest. The deadline to enter is May 15.
            Students may enter one fiction, one non-fiction, and up to three poems to the contest, with various word limits. All entries must be sent by mail, postmarked by the due date and include a signed entry form. Students’ writing will be judged by teacher-consultants and then by author judges; in the past author judges were Darrell Bourque, Ann Dobie and Rose Anne St. Romain.
            For more information, email Margaret Simon at or visit
            The LA Writes Contest is a nonprofit contest. All awards and prizes are made possible by private donations, which are tax-deductible. Donors of $25 and up will receive a free anthology. Donations of $100 will be acknowledged on the website, Facebook and in the anthology.

Jambalaya Writers Conference

            The 11th Annual Jambalaya Writers’ Conference & Book Fair returns March 22 at the Terrebonne Parish Library in Houma. For Louisiana writers, this is one conference not to be missed.
            For one thing, the keynote speaker this year will be New York Times best-selling author Adriana Trigiani. The award-winning playwright, TV writer and documentary filmmaker is the author of the “Big Stone Gap” trilogy and the novel “Lucia, Lucia.” Trigiani has written the screenplay for the movie “Big Stone Gap,” which she will also direct.
            Other presenters include USA Today best-selling author Heather Graham, George Bishop, Dianne de Las Casas, Kid Chef Eliana, David Schwartz, Season Viking, Richard D. White Jr., Nicholas Courage, Christa Allan, Ron Thibodeaux, Darrell Bourque, Jack B. Bedell, David Middleton, Roxanne St. Claire, Holly Ingraham, Dr. Christopher E. Cenac, Clarie Domanque Joller and Kristen Painter.
            Secondly, the conference remains one of the best deals around —$30 for the all-day event and it includes lunch! But you need to act now. Registration past March 7 rises to $35, still a remarkable deal. For those who want to submit the first 1,500 words of a novel’s opening in the annual contest, there’s another small fee of $10, $5 for poetry.
            For more information and to register, visit
            In other conference news, the Hammond Regional Arts Center will host its inaugural literary festival “A Celebration of the Written Word” on Saturday, March 15. There will be 25 Louisiana authors, including former Louisiana Poet Laureate Julie Kane, Jack B. Bedell, Alison Pelegrin, Donna Gay Anderson, David Armand and O'Neil De Noux. The cost is $35, which includes admittance to the author meet and greet the night. 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

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Wiley Cash's latest another riveting read

            Wiley Cash received his PhD from UL-Lafayette, heading out into the world to teach English at universities. When he penned his debut novel, “A Land More Kind Than Home,” Ernest Gaines stated, “I think this could be the beginning of a long, fruitful career.”
            Indeed. His second novel, “The Dark Road to Mercy,” has just been released, an impressive tale of the unending yearning for familial bonds coupled with the joy of baseball.
            Easter and Ruby Quilby have landed in foster care after their mother dies of an accidental overdose. Their father, a semi-pro baseball player named Wade Chesterfield, had previously given up custody so there is talk of grandparents in Alaska taking them in. Wade has not exactly been great father material, flitting in and out of the girls’ lives like a shadow.
            The book open as Wade appears at the girls’ baseball game, although Easter will have nothing to do with him. But his appearance and his insistence that he wants to take them in starts her thinking of what might be so that when Wade arrives late one night at the foster home, looking as if the devil is on his heels, the girls follow him.
            Unbeknownst to them, Robert Pruitt, a man holding a years-long grudge against Wade and working for a crime boss, has been hired to track him. Meanwhile, Brady Weller, the girls’ court-appointed guardian with his own issues of fatherhood, hopes to rescue the girls, especially after learning that millions that have gone missing might be in the hands of Wade.
            The story is told from three viewpoints, that of young Easter, Weller and Pruitt, the first two examples of the desire of being part of a family when the past interferes and the hope that one can begin again. Meanwhile, Pruitt’s unyielding hold on the past threatens to destroy everything.
           Wiley Cash will sign copies of “This Dark Road to Mercy” at 5 p.m. Tuesday at Square Books in Oxford, Miss.; at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at Turnrow Books of Greenwood, Miss.; at 6 p.m. Thursday at Octavia Books of New Orleans, Saturday at the St. Francisville Literary Festival in St. Francisville and 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 23 at the Lafayette Barnes & Noble.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Winter Voices features Clare Martin, Diane Moore

            The winter installment of the Voices Season Reading Series will feature a special evening of literary readings by poets Clare L. Martin and Diane Moore at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb 19, at Carpe Diem! Gelato – Espresso Bar in downtown Lafayette. The event also celebrates the two-year anniversary of the reading series.
            Martin’s debut collection of poetry, “Eating the Heart First,” was published in 2012 by Press 53 as a Tom Lombardo Selection. Her poetry has appeared in Avatar Review, Blue Fifth Review, Melusine, Poets and Artists and Louisiana Literature, among others. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, Dzanc Books’ Best of the Web, for Best New Poets and Sundress Publication’s Best of the Net. Martin founded and directs the Voices Seasonal Reading Series, which features new and established Louisiana and regional writers and co-coordinates Acadiana Wordlab, a weekly literary drafting workshop. She serves as Poetry Editor of MadHat Annual and Editor of MadHat Lit, publishing ventures of MadHat, Inc.
            Moore is a writer of books, short stories, articles and poetry, appearing in the Southwestern Review, Interdisciplinary Humanities, American Weave, Xavier Review, Trace, The Pinyon Review and other literary journals. Her latest book of poetry is “In A Convent Garden” and her young adult book, “Martin’s Quest,” was awarded a grant that placed it on the supplementary reading list for Social Studies in Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes and was listed on the Louisiana Library Association’s reading list for accelerated students. This year, Martin published another young adult novel set in south Louisiana titled “Martin and the Last Tribe,” the third in a series about a young traiteur hero.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Book sales, releases and more, oh my!

             The Friends of the Lafayette Public Library Spring Book Sale has been announced — March 19-22 at the Heymann Convention Center Ballroom. The members preview sale will be from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. March 19 and the public sale from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday, March 20-21 and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, March 22. Gently used hardcover and paperback books are sold by the inch and proceeds benefit the library. If you’d like to donate to the sale, bring books to the library’s working warehouse at 211 E. Pinhook Road next to the Habitat for Humanity Restore. Hours for drop-off are 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Wednesday and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday. Once at the warehouse, ring the doorbell located on the door and a staff member or a Friend will be able to help. For information or to large donations, call 501-9209 or visit
NOLA music
            Two new books out examine the music scene of New Orleans, one looking at the lives of New Orleans brass band members and another on the popular concert life of the 19th century.
            Matt Sakakeeny, an ethnomusicologist, musician and assistant professor of music at Tulane University has written a firsthand account of the lives of New Orleans brass band members such as Soul Rebels and Rebirth Brass Band in “Roll With It: Brass Bands in the Streets of New Orleans” by Duke University Press. Sakakeeny moved to New Orleans to work as a co-producer of the public radio program “American Routes,” but now writes for publications including The Oxford American, Mojo and Wax Poetics. He plays guitar in the band Los Po-Boy-Citos.
            The book features the artwork of Willie Birch, a New Orleans native who is the recipient of the State of Louisiana Governor's award and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. His works are part of the permanent collections of the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art.
            To complement the book, readers can access images, audio files, and YouTube video clips related at Sakakeeny’s web site,
            Classical music thrived in New Orleans in the 19th century, outshining New York, Boston, and San Francisco before the Civil War and rivaling them thereafter, according to John H. Baron. His “Concert Life in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans” by LSU Press shows how New Orleans offered strong opera seasons and attracted composers, performers, publishers, teachers, instrument makers and dealers.  

New releases
          Sarah Savoy, the eldest daughter of musicians Marc and Ann Savoy, celebrates her Eunice roots in “The Savoy Kitchen: A Family History of Cajun Food” (Kitchen Press). Savoy is a singer, musician and songwriter, but she also cooks. Her creation is part cookbook, part memoir and includes stories, family photos and more than 100 Louisiana recipes. Savoy has also created a how-to DVD on “Cajun Home Cooking.” For more information, visit
            It all started with T’Freres Bed and Breakfast in Lafayette. That was when author and chemist Stanley Jolet of Shriever connected with ghost Amelie and really started to believe in the afterlife. His paranormal journey, with ghost hunting equipment in hand, found him contacting the deceased in Louisiana, Las Vegas, Europe and the Caribbean. “Paranormal Investigations: The Cajun Ghost Hunter Chronicles” (published by Trafford Publishing) is a collection of stories about his trip across the globe to investigate paranormal activity and what happened once contact was made.
            New from LSU Press is “The End of the Book” by Porter Shreve, the story of an aspiring contemporary novelist who may or may not be writing a sequel to Sherwood Anderson’s classic “Winesburg, Ohio.” Character Adam Clary works in Chicago for a famous internet company on a massive project to digitize the world’s books, but secretly hates his job and wishes to be a writer at a time when the book as physical object and book culture itself have never been more threatened. Counterpointing Adam’s story is that of George Willard, the young protagonist of Anderson’s book, who arrives in Chicago around 1900 when it was the fastest-growing city in American history. Through alternating chapters, we follow George’s travails, including his marriage to the wealthy daughter of his boss, his affair with his hometown sweetheart, his artistic crisis, breakdown and flight, and along the way we see the echoes and intersections between his life and Adam’s as they struggle in two similar Americas through two similar times in the life of the book.

            The annual Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) contest is currently seeking new voices in popular fiction. Submissions are being accepted beginning Sunday. One grand prizewinner will receive a publishing contract with an advance of $50,000. In addition, four first prizewinners will each receive a publishing contract from Amazon Publishing with an advance of $15,000. The ABNA contest is open to unpublished and self-published novels. Authors can submit their work in one of the following categories: general fiction; mystery/thriller; romance; science fiction/fantasy/horror and young adult fiction. CreateSpace will host the submission platform for the contest. Visit CreateSpace to learn more about ABNA and create a free account for entry in the contest. 

LEH Readings
             Readings in Literature and Culture (RELIC), the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities’ adult reading and discussion series, will travels to seven sites this spring.
             Central Branch of the Bossier Parish Library in Bossier City presents “The Creole Identity and Experience in Louisiana Literature and History” from 6 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. Thursday, March 16-April 10; call (318) 742-2337. 
            Gonzales branch of the Ascension Parish Library presents “I’ll Be Seeing You. . . America and World War II” from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays, March 25-April 29; call (225) 647-8924.   
            The Madisonville Branch of the St. Tammany Parish Library presents “Louisiana Characters: Biographies of the Bayou State” from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.  
Tuesdays, Jan. 21-Feb. 25; (985) 626-9779. 
            Morgan City Public Library in Morgan City presents “The American West in Fact and Fiction” from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesdays, Feb. 12-March 19; call (985) 380-4646. 
The Stubbs Branch of the Ouachita Public Library in Monroe presents “Rising Tide by John Barry” (dates to come); call (318) 327-1490.
Winnsboro branch of the Franklin Parish Library presents “Rising Tide by John Barry” from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays, March 11-25, and “Cane River by Lalita Tademy” from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays, April 8-22; (318) 435-4336.

Book events
            Alan G. Gauthreaux signs “Italian Louisiana: History, Heritage & Tradition” at 2 p.m. today, Feb. 9, at Garden District Bookshop, 2727 Prytania St. in New Orleans.
             “Become Money Smart,” a free course from United Way of Acadiana, will be from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday, Feb. 11 and 13, at South Regional Library. Attendance both days is required; register online or by phone.
            Kim Vaz, author of “The ‘Baby Dolls,’ Breaking the Race and Gender Barriers of the New Orleans Mardi Gras Tradition,” will speak at the Algiers Regional Library Author Night at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 11, 3014 Holiday Drive in New Orleans.
            “Rapides Parish Library Loves Louisiana Authors” will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 15, at the Westside Regional Library in Alexandria. There will be an author meet and greet, book signings, discussions and more. For more information, contact Tammy DiBartolo at (318) 442-2483, Ext. 1906 or email

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

Monday, February 3, 2014

Prolific Cutrera doesn't let restrictions stop her

             Barbara Cutrera lives in Florida now, but she was reared in Louisiana and it’s where she began writing. Over the past few years she has released several books, including a collection of short stories in which one of the stories is set in “Guidry’s Handi-mart and Bait Shop” in a small Louisiana town. Her “Real World” series is set in Baton Rouge and begins in the 1970s and continues to the present. The second book in the series, “A Good Man's Life,” should be out this week. “In a Manner of Speaking” begins in Louisiana, including Baton Rouge and St. Francisville, and ends in Scotland. 
            Other books include “Over, Under, Across & Through” and “Mercy,” other titles in the Real World series; “The Healer’s Gift,” a romance; “A Lovely Dream,” a romantic thriller, “Prim and Proper,” a true romance with a touch of mystery, and “Lucky,” a thriller set in the not-so-distant future in post-plague Earth.
            “I recently completed another work of fiction titled ‘Compromising Positions’ and have started writing a romance titled ‘Sight Unseen,’” she told me.
            When I hear people tell me they don’t have time to write, I send them to Cutrera’s web site for inspiration.
            “I work with the visually-impaired and am visually-impaired myself,” she writes on her website. “I firmly believe that our minds are only limited by the restrictions that we place upon them. That is why my literary credo is, ‘Transcending reality by exploring it one story at a time….’”
            For more information on this prolific and inspiring Louisiana author, visit

            Multi-published author and business trainer Christee Gabour Atwood of Alexandria will receive the Knowledge Management Leadership Award for her work in the field of knowledge management and information sharing on June 27 in Mumbai, India. The award will be presented at the Global Knowledge Management Congress and Atwood will be the keynote speaker. The award is based on the body of work represented in Atwood’s workforce training and development projects as well as her five business books. In July 2012 Atwood was the keynote speaker at the Human Capital Conference in Tokyo.
With regrets
            Robert Anthony “Bobby” Gisclair, 65, a native and resident of Galliano and author of “Singing To The Lions,” passed away on Jan. 16 at his residence. Gisclair also produced and wrote a French play titled “Blanche Neige.” He was a Vietnam veteran, a world traveler and cultural connoisseur who spoke several languages.

Black History Month
            In celebration of Black History Month, the Louisiana Center for the Book in the State Library is hosting author Kim Marie Vaz for a discussion of “The ‘Baby Dolls’: Breaking the Race and Gender Barriers of the New Orleans Mardi Gras Tradition” at noon Feb. 6 at the State Library Seminar Center.
Vaz’s book is a history of the Million Dollar Baby Dolls, one of the first women’s organizations to participate in Mardi Gras, and its post-Hurricane Katrina comeback. The “Baby Dolls” traces the tradition as it spread to different New Orleans neighborhoods and empowered women. The “Baby Dolls” served as the basis for a major installation on the Baby Doll tradition at The Presbytere museum as part of the permanent Carnival exhibit. Vaz is associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and education professor at Xavier University in New Orleans. Registration is not required for this free event and attendees are invited to bring brown bag lunches. She will also appear at the Hubbell Library in Algiers Point at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 11, 725 Pelican Ave. in Algiers Point.

            New Orleans Comic Con 2014 will be Friday through Sunday, Feb 7-9, at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans. Some of the celebrities scheduled to visit are Norman Reedus, Steven Yeun, Jon Bernthal, Michael Rooker of “The Walking Dead;” Matt Smith, The 11th Doctor of “Doctor Who;” Manu Bennett of “The Hobbit” and “Arrow” and Carlos Pacheco, an Eisner Award nominee, among many more. For more information, visit
            The 31st annual Romantic Times Booklovers Convention is scheduled for May 13-18 at the Marriott Hotel on Canal Street in New Orleans. Some of the authors appearing will be Lee Child, author of the Jack Reacher series (and the movie starring Tom Cruise); inspirational fiction author Francine Rivers; Charlaine Harris, author of the bestselling Sookie Stackhouse novels adapted for HBO’s “True Blood” series and Louisiana regular Heather Graham, to name a few. Some Louisiana authors to be in attendance are Diana Rowland, Jana DeLeon and Sabrina Jeffries, again among many more. For more information, visit
            The 17th annual Blue Ridge Writers’ Conference will be April 4-5 at The Art Center in Blue Ridge, Ga. The keynote speaker will be Claire Cook, author of “Wallflower in Bloom” and “Must Love Dogs,” the latter of which was adapted into a film starring John Cusack and Diane Lane. Other speakers include Sally Apokedak, Glenda Beall, Jennifer Jabaley, Jennifer Justus, Elizabeth Dulemba and Stellasue Lee. The conference charges a very reasonable fee and the town of Blue Ridge is delightful, a perfect weekend getaway. For information, visit

Book events
            There will be a spoken word event featuring African American writers and poets beginning at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 4, in the Ernest J. Gaines Center of the UL Dupre Library, third floor. Administrators, faculty and students will read passages and the public is invited to participate with a one- to five-minute reading of their favorite passage. For more information, contact the Gaines Center at 482-1848 or
            Ages 5-12 may make a Candy Butterfly Valentine 
at 4 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 6, at South Regional Library and 4 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 11, at the Milton Library and 4 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 12, at the
 Youngsville Library.
            Kim Vaz, author of “The ‘Baby Dolls,’ Breaking the Race and Gender Barriers of the New Orleans Mardi Gras Tradition,” will speak from noon to 1 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 6, at the State Library Seminar Center in Baton Rouge.
            The three-time Individual World Poetry Slam Champion Buddy Wakefield is coming to the Lafayette Science Museum at 2 p.m. Friday, Feb. 7. Tickets are $10.           
            The Wild & Wacky Olympics for Teens begins at 1 p.m. Saturday at
 South Regional
 Library in Lafayette.

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