Sunday, March 30, 2014

June tour follows Ignatius J. Reilly's steps

             Ignatius J. Reilly is a persnickety character, a large man in a green hunting cap who’s hounded by his mother to get a job in the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “A Confederacy of Dunces.” Ignatius has had a disastrous job interview in Baton Rouge, the only time he’s left New Orleans, and relates this awful bus trip to his mother after almost getting arrested in the beginning of the book. Ignatius later finds a job selling Lucky Dogs on the streets of the French Quarter.
            John Kennedy Toole, a native of New Orleans and once a professor of English at USL, wrote “Dunces,” although the book was never published in his lifetime and he committed suicide at age 31. “Dunces” was published posthumously by LSU Press and became an award-winning best seller.
            Cory MacLauchlin, author of “Butterfly in the Typewriter: The Tragic Life of John Kennedy Toole and the Remarkable Story of ‘A Confederacy of Dunces,’” will lead a tour from Baton Rouge to New Orleans on June 7 to retrace the steps of Ignatius. The special bus tour will include a unique showing of the John Kennedy Toole Papers Collection at Tulane, the cottage where Toole lived and a private tour of the Lucky Dog Warehouse on Gravier Street. In addition, participants will enjoy muffulettas at Central Grocery and a bar crawl through some of Toole’s favorite French Quarter watering holes.
            The cost of the round-trip tour from the Baton Rouge Manship Theatre is $100; call (225) 344-0334 or visit
            On Sunday, June 8, there will be a screening of the award-winning documentary on Toole, “The Omega Point” by Joe Sanford, with a presentation by Sanford and an appearance by MacLauchlin. Tickets are $10 and available at the Manship box office or the information listed above.

Louisiana Poets
            In celebration of National Poetry Month, the Louisiana Center for the Book offers its fourth annual Just Listen to Yourself: The Louisiana Poet Laureate Presents Louisiana Poets program. Louisiana Poet Laureate Ava Leavell Haymon will host the event from noon to 1:30 p.m. Thursday at the State Library Seminar Center, 701 N. Fourth St. in Baton Rouge. Several Louisiana poets will read from their works, including Carolyn Hembree, Carlos Colon, Donney Rose, Justin Lamb, Lara Glenum, David Havird, Jay Udall, Mona Lisa Saloy, Darrell Bourque, Kirby Jambon, Dorie LaRue and Lenore Weiss. Registration is not required for this free event and attendees are invited to bring brown bag lunches. For more information, visit

Library Awards
            The 2014 winner of the Louisiana Literary Award, sponsored by the Louisiana Library Association, is “Louisiana Eats! The People, the Food, and Their Stories” by Poppy Tooker and David G. Spielman, published by Pelican Publishing of New Orleans. Two additional book were recognized — “Fear and What Follows: The Violent Education of a Christian Racist” by Tim Parrish, published by the University Press of Mississippi, a memoir of the author’s youth in a working-class neighborhood in north Baton Rouge during the 1970s, and “The Fiddler of Driskill Hill: Poems” by David Middleton, published by LSU Press. The Louisiana Literary Award was presented to Tooker and Spielman at the Book Dinner on March 27 as part of the 2014 Louisiana Library Association Conference held in Lafayette.

Book events
            Sam Irwin will sign “Louisiana Crawfish: A Succulent History of the Cajun Crustacean” at 2 p.m. today at the French Market Fare, sponsored by the Southern Food & Beverage Museum in New Orleans. He’ll also sign copies at 2 p.m. Saturday, April 5, at the museum’s culinary library and archive.
            Alan G. Gauthreaux signs and discusses “Italian Louisiana: History, Heritage & Tradition” at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 2, at the Jefferson Parish Public Library, 4747 West Napoleon Ave. in Metairie. The event is sponsored by the East Bank Italian American Society.

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

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Books with ties to television, real places

            Jason Mott’s gripping novel “The Returned,” which I reviewed on Nov. 24 (read it here), has been made into a series for ABC television titled "Resurrection." If you’ve been watching and enjoying the series, be sure and read the book. Mott will also be signing copies of his book at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 3, at Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston.
            If you’ve never heard of or visited Oak Ridge, Tenn., you’re missing a fascinating story. When the U.S. believed that Germany was in the process of creating an atom bomb, they set into motion plans for beating them to it. One of the “secret cities” developed almost overnight was Oak Ridge, created to enrich uranium. Most of the people living and working in this top secret town had no idea what they were doing for the U.S. government until the bomb was dropped on Japan.
            Denise Kiernan discusses this unique history in “The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II.” Shelf Awareness calls it “An evocative view of the Manhattan Project through the eyes of the women who worked and lived in the secret city of Oak Ridge, Tenn.--a compelling and unusual new perspective on the Project and World War II.”
            Shelf Awareness interviewed Kiernan recently and asked for her favorite line from a book. She quoted a Louisiana author John Kennedy Toole, author of “A Confederacy of Dunces,” whose first line is “A green hunting cap squeezed the top of the fleshy balloon of a head.”
            “Brilliant imagery to kick off what was of one of my all-time favorite reads,” Kiernan said.
            Fans of the Discovery Channel’s “Sons of Guns” will know exactly what kind of book they’re dealing with in Will Hayden’s “Sons of Guns: Straight-Shootin’ Stories from the Star of the Hit Discovery Series.” For those less informed, this book gives background into the owner of Red Jacket Firearms of Baton Rouge, subject of the reality series. Hayden, with assistance from Adam Rocke (who probably did most of the writing), offers an inside view into the weapons manufacturer, as well as some history and personal information.
            It’s a bit too much to take, but then I’m not a fan of the show. Chalking up character building to having your father push your through a wall at age five isn’t something I can get on board with, nor is the glorification of firearms. Calling yourself Cajun growing up north of Baton Rouge with Choctaw heritage didn’t set well with me either, but let’s hope that’s Rocke’s influence.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Warren offers peek inside 'New Orleans Historic Homes,' new children's titles and more

            I’ve had the pleasure of knowing journalist Bonnie Warren of New Orleans, enjoying her home and garden features in New Orleans magazine for years. Naturally, I was thrilled to see Warren had compiled a selection of these fabulous homes in her debut book, “New Orleans Historic Homes,” published by Pelican Publishing.
            Complemented by beautiful photographs by Cheryl Gerber, the book offers readers sneak peeks into some of the finest homes of the Crescent City, in a wide variety of neighborhoods. There’s the Creole “bargeboard” cottage in the Faubourg Bouligny with its “secret garden,” the colorful Midcity beauty, ironically a few blocks from the owners’ weekend getaway home (also spotlighted in the book) and my personal favorite, a 1828 Creole cottage in Treme, built with bricks hauled across Lake Pontchartrain from St. Tammany Parish, among so many more.
            Home details such as local artwork and unique antiques are as fun to absorb as the interior designs. The history behind these homes is equally fascinating.
            Warren was the founding editor of New Orleans Homes and Lifestyles and the former city editor of Better Homes and Gardens. Her publication list is impressive, as is Gerber’s bio, which includes Rolling Stones, Elle Décor and GQ. I’ve heard rumors that more books may be coming from this duo. Let’s hope so.
            Another great book from Pelican for home and garden lovers, especially now that azaleas are in bloom and the Audubon Pilgrimage is this weekend, is the reissue of “The Majesty of St. Francisville” by Lee Malone, with photography by Kerri McCaffety. St. Francisville is a small town with a massive collection of historic properties, not to mention exquisite gardens, and this book offers a guide to it all.

Children’s books
            Monroe attorney David Ingram Burkett must have had the perfect childhood for his adorable picture book, “Old McIngram Had a Farm,” relates life on a farm will make you pack up city life and head to the country.
            The book follows a young boy visiting his grandparents’ farm (Burkett’s real farm is in Mer Rouge), experiencing the animals, machinery, a smelly outhouse — even running into a ditch while learning to drive. The accompanying illustrations are equally as charming, filled with animals in the background creating their own stories and humor.
            Burkett offers the perfect book for spring, a time when drives to the country and — if you’re lucky — a grandparents’ farm is on the agenda. Let’s hope this talented attorney writes more of these delightful tales.
            Other new children’s books out now include: 
            After both the relocation of Native Americans to Oklahoma, and the following land rush, small parcels of land were given to Creek freedmen, former slaves or free men and women of color who were part of the Creek nation. Children were included and one of those landowners was young Sarah Rector. When oil was discovered on her property, she not only became wealthy, but famous as well. Her story drew so much attention, she retreated from pubic view, only to cause more publicity.
            Rector’s story, along with the history of Oklahoma, the Trail of Tears, African Americans in the mix and much more is the subject of Tonya Bolden’s “Searching for Sarah Rector: The Richest Black Girl in America,” a fascinating history lesson through the life of a child forced into the spotlight.
            Leif N. Pederson, along with illustrator Tim Banfell, both of Slidell, have penned a delightful book of rhyme centered around a swamp band of animals performing in the moonlight. “The Adventures of the Swamp Kids: The Missing Chord” follows the band as they struggle to rehearse for a contest, until Sashay the crawfish comes to the rescue with a washing tub bass. This fun Louisiana-themed book includes instructions for kids to make their own washtub bass as well as a “Lagniappe Lesson” by Cajun musician Doug Kershaw.

ForeWord Awards
            Four authors at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press are finalists in the ForeWord Book of the Year Awards. They are Darrell Bourque’s “Megan’s Guitar,” Dennis Paul Williams’ “Soul Exchange,” Zachary Richard’s “The History of the Acadians of Louisiana” and Marty Mule’s “Game Changers.” Winners will be announced at the American Library Association's annual conference on June 27. 

LEH awards
            The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities has named journalist and author Walter Isaacson as its 2014 Humanist of the Year. Isaacson and other recipients will be honored at the Humanities Awards on Saturday at the Audubon Tea Room in New Orleans.
            Born in New Orleans in 1952, Isaacson is the president and CEO of The Aspen Institute, a nonpartisan educational and policy studies institute based in Washington, DC. He has been the chairman and CEO of CNN and the editor of TIME magazine. Isaacson is the author of the best-selling biographies “Steve Jobs,” “Einstein: His Life and Universe,” “Benjamin Franklin: An American Life” and “Kissinger: A Biography,” plus the coauthor of “The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made.”
             Other winners include Peggy Scott Laborde, Lifetime Contribution to the Humanities; “Bayou Maharajah” by Lily Keber, Humanities Documentary Film of the Year; Richard Sexton, Michael P. Smith Memorial Award for Documentary Photography; “A Company Man: The Remarkable French-Atlantic Voyage of a Clerk for the Company of the Indies” by Marc-Antoine Caillot and “Livestock Brands & Marks: An Unexpected Bayou Country History” by Christopher Everette Cenas, 2014 Humanities Books of the Year; The Zemurray Foundation, Chair’s Award for Institutional Support; Ashley Hardee Boudreaux and Debra S. Lee, Public Humanities Programming; and Stephen Webre of Louisiana Tech, Individual Achievement in the Humanities.
            Tickets to the Humanities Awards ceremony are $125 per person. For information, visit

Book events
            Keiko Nitta speaks on “Black Botto of Modernity: Racial Imagination in Japanese Modernism” at 3:30 p.m. Monday, March 24, at the Ernest J. Gaines Center of the UL-Lafayette Dupré Library in Lafayette. Free and open to the public.
            Shellie Rushing Tomlinson signs “Heart Wide Open: Trading Mundane Faith for an Exuberant Life with Jesus” on Tuesday, March 25, at the Barnes & Noble in Shreveport.  
            The Writers’ Guild of Acadiana meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 25, at Barnes & Noble. Jean Hurley, author of “The Returning,” will speak. The meeting is free and open to the public.
            Sam Irwin will sign “Louisiana Crawfish: A Succulent History of the Cajun Crustacean” at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 27, at the Thensted Center in Grand Coteau, titled “Stories of Crawfish and The Way Things Used to Be” as part of the Festival of Words, and at noon Friday at LSU-Eunice.
            The Historic Delta Grand Theatre of Opelousas presents “The Infinite Pages” at 7 p.m. Friday through Sunday, March 28-30. Based on a children's book, this is a world premiere play for young audiences and features 21 young actors.
Tickets can be purchased at or by phone at (337) 407-1806.
            Warren Perrin, Pat Morrow, Phillip Andrepont will sign “St. Landry Parish” at 5 p.m. Thursday at Champagne’s food store in Eunice. Warren Perrin and Nelwyn Hebert will sign “Iberia Parish” and “St. Landry Parish” at 1 p.m. Saturday, March 29, at Kjuntales, Etc., 309 Pere Megret in Abbeville.      

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, March 20, 2014

Benoit looks at multi-cultural New Orleans in new cookbook

            Recently when reviewing a new cookbook, “New Orleans con Sabor Latino: The History and Passion of Latino Cooking,” I discussed how nothing in Louisiana is strictly Cajun or Creole, especially in New Orleans, which has a booming Latino population. Ann Benoit looks at the bigger picture in “New Orleans’ Best Ethnic Restaurants” from Pelican Publishing.
            The cookbook spotlights a wide variety of ethnic restaurants, including Middle Eastern, Asian, Caribbean, African and South American fare, with many of them new restaurants I’m dying to try out. There’s also the more typical cuisines we’ve come to know in New Orleans, such as Italian, French, Soul Food and, of course, Cajun and Creole. Photographs are stunning and recipes written like prose with no ingredient listings so the book’s as much a coffee table showpiece as it is educational.
            New Orleans is arguable the first melting pot city in the United States so it’s no wonder there are so many different flavors to its culinary makeup. Benoit offers a lovely guide.
            Here’s a recipe from Mulate’s (of New Orleans) that’s choser to home, chosen because it’s easy to create, it’s a great seafood dish for Lent and if the weather dips during this volatile spring, it’s a nice warm soup for a chilly evening.

Mulate’s Cajun Smoked Oysters
From “New Orleans’ Best Ethnic Restaurants”
1 pound butter
3/4 teaspoon Mulate’s or other Cajun seasoning
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons liquid smoke
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
1 small onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
18 fresh raw oysters
Crusty French bread, for serving

            Directions: Place butter, Cajun seasoning, cayenne, liquid smoke, paprika, Parmesan cheese, and parsley in a sauté pan over medium to medium-high heat. Melt, taking care not to burn butter. Add onion and sauté until translucent, 3-5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 1 minute. Add oysters and cook for 5-7 minutes, until oysters plump and begin to curl around the edges. Serve at once, with plenty of crusty French bread for soaking up the sauce.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Irwin pens history of crawfish in Louisiana

            I vividly remember the first time I visited the Crawfish Festival. I owned a tin box of a Datsun and piled a group of my friends inside for the ride from LSU to Breaux Bridge. In addition to the great music and dancing, we ate boiled crawfish from plastic tubular bags while sitting on a curb, the juice dripping down our arms. On the way home we stopped at Pat’s in Henderson for more crawfish and libations, ending one of the most enjoyable days I had in college.
            Sam Irwin brought back those fun memories in his new book which tackles the history of our state’s mudbugs, “Louisiana Crawfish: A Succulent History of the CajunCrustacean,” published by The History Press. The book details how our love affair with crawfish began and really took off with the advent of the industry, its trials and heydays and enjoying crawfish today. There’s also plenty on that now famous Crawfish Festival in Breaux Bridge, designated the “Crawfish Capital of the World” at the town’s 1959 centennial.
            The book is full of great photos and includes some wonderful recipes, some from historic places such as the original étouffée recipe of Mrs. Charles Hebert and Aline Guidry. It’s a great tribute to those who started it all, making the current crawfish fisheries a $210 million industry.
            Irwin is the product of a “mixed marriage,” his father being a north Louisiana native and his mother from Cajun Country. The Baton Rouge freelance journalist has worked for the Louisiana Market Bulletin and the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry.
            Upcoming book events for “Louisiana Crawfish” include a talk and signing at 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 18, at Octavia Books in New Orleans, 2 p.m. Saturday, March 22, at Barnes & Noble Baton Rouge, 7 p.m. March 27 at the Thensted Center in Grand Coteau, titled “Stories of Crawfish and The Way Things Used to Be” as part of the Festival of Words, and at noon March 28 at LSU-Eunice.

Heart Wide Open
            Shellie Rushing Tomlinson is known for her distinctive Southern-style humor in books such as “Suck Your Stomach In and Put Some Color On” and “Sue Ellen’s GirlAin’t Fat, She Just Weighs Heavy!” She also pens the popular blog, “All Things Southern” and is the host of the weekly radio broadcast, “All Things Southern LIVE.”
            The latest book from the Lake Providence author comes after she questioned the depth of her relationship with God, discovering that she was a good church-going Christian but lacked the deep feeling that others were experiencing. The result is an interesting new book, “Heart Wide Open: Trading Mundane Faith for anExuberant Life with Jesus,” that not only encourages readers to find God but to develop an intimate experience. As with her other books, the style is friendly, engaging and all things Southern.
            For more information on Tomlinson’s books and to check out her blog, hear podcasts, watch videos and other fun offerings from this versatile woman, visit
             Tomlinson signs “Heart Wide Open” from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 18, at Every Occasion, 703 Prairie St. in Winnsboro and on March 25 at the Barnes & Noble
in Shreveport.

New releases
            Clifton Taulbert, author of the bestseller “Once Upon a Time When We Were Colored,” has published a memoir, “The Invitation,” chronicling the transformative experience Taulbert had in accepting an invitation to supper in Allendale, South Carolina. At a former plantation house the author confronts his childhood memories and wrestles with legacies of slavery and segregation that return to haunt him. Seeing cotton fields and shotgun shacks that remind him of his growing up years in racially segregated Mississippi, Taulbert realizes that he is now asked to cross racial barriers that no “colored” man could previously have crossed without dire consequences. Taulbert is the author of five other books and president and CEO of Roots Java Coffee and the founder and president of the Building Community Institute.
            C.S. Harris of Baton Rouge has just published the ninth book in her Sebastian St. Cyr Regency mystery series, “Why Kings Confess.”
            New York Times-bestselling series author Nevada Barr has sold an untitled Anna Pigeon novel, which features a National Park Service Ranger who solves mysteries in her job. The book will be published in the winter of 2016, a sequel to her 2014 novel “Destroyer Angel.” Barr lives in New Orleans.

Gueydan Bookstore
            A couple of weeks ago we wrote about a new bookstore in Abbeville named Kjuntales. This week we got the following letter: “Were you aware that our little bookstore in Vermilion Parish has been open and at the same location for 12 years?” asked Sean Gayle, who owns Patti’s Book Nook in Gueydan with James Gayle. “We sell new, used, rare, signed and local author’s works. We also sell art, original and limited prints of local artists.” The bookstore has more than 10,000 books in stock and online from four different independent bookstores at the website “We also have a presence on Amazon at,” Gayle added. “We are hidden in Gueydan, but we have a large reach since we ship around the world.

Library Book Sale
            The Friends of the Lafayette Public Library Spring Book Sale is this week, with the members’ preview sale from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday and the public sale from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Heymann Convention Center Ballroom. Gently used hardcover and paperback books will be sold by the inch and proceeds benefit the library. For information, call 501-9209.

Book events
            Native Irishman Brian O’Nuanain will offer Irish humor, storytelling, folklore, songs and literature from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. today, March 16, at South Regional Library.
            The Lafayette libraries will host a “Divergent” pin craft for teens from March Tuesday, March 18 through Thursday, March 20, 
at the Jefferson Street, North Regional and South Regional
            Riders on the Orphan Train Performance will be from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 18, at the
Opelousas Public Library, 212 E. Grolee St, Opelousas. The Riders will present a 60-minute show through original storytelling, songwriting and video montage performance followed by 30 minutes of audience discussion. For more information, call (337) 948-3693 or visit
            The Center for Louisiana Studies is hosting a screening and roundtable discussion on documentary filmmaking at 3 p.m. Wednesday, March 19, in the Oliver Hall Auditorium, Room 112, on the UL campus in Lafayette. A second screening will be at 6 p.m. at the South Regional Library. The screenings will be of “McCrea 1971: The Story of Louisiana’s Forgotten Rock Festival” and “Louisiana During World War II” with filmmakers Jerry Sanson, Scott Caro and Bill Robison. Both events are free and open to the public.
            Judy Gentry, retired UL-Lafayette History Department faculty member will discuss “General Kirby-Smith's Leadership in the Trans-Mississippi West, 1863” at 4 p.m. Thursday, March 20, in the Gaines Center Hallway, third floor of UL Dupré Library in Lafayette. A Q and A will follow the talk.
            Angela Carll, author of “Where Writers Wrote in New Orleans” will talk about the book and sign copies from noon to 2 p.m. Friday, March 21, at Tulane University Bookstore in New Orleans.
            Ragin’ Cajun Boxing Club coach Deirdre Gogarty, the first Irishwoman to become a world champion, will speak about her book, “My Call to the Ring,” and talk about how she came to Acadiana to live out her dream at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, March 22 at North Regional Library in Lafayette. A book sale and signing will follow the discussion.
            Kjuntales, Etc. bookstore will feature its second “Meet the Artist” night with Bryant Benoit from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, March 22, at 309 Pere Megret St. in Abbeville. For information on monthly activities, email owners Sheila Hebert Friedland and Mark Friedland at or call (337) 740-0889.

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, March 13, 2014

Sclafani celebrates Louisiana's unique 'Seasons'

            I first met Chef Peter Sclafani when he opened Ruffino’s on the River in River Ranch. The New Orleans-born chef had just participated in an oyster familiarization tour where he joined others offshore learning about harvesting oysters after the devastating hurricanes and the BP oil spill. He exuded excitement about Louisiana seafood, one reason why he’s a member of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board.
            Sclafani’s new cookbook, “Seasons of Louisiana,” also celebrates Louisiana’s seafood and again his enthusiam jumps off the pages. We’re a state where the four seasons might mean crab, crawfish, hunting and oysters, and his lovely cookbook reflects just that. Chapters include shrimp season, crawfish season, crab season, oyster season, fishing and hunting, Creole tomato season, tailgating and holidays. Concluding the book is a lagniappe section full of his sauces, dressing and seasonings.
            Easy–to-follow recipes run the gamut, with some thinking outside the box, such as the crawfish mac and cheese, redfish beignets and shrimp corn dogs. All are beautifully presented with color photos and chef’s notes.
            Sclafani claims everything tastes better with crab, and I agree. Here’s a very easy recipe for marinated crab claws with a tasty vinaigrette. Sclafani suggests also serving this dish warm substituting crab for shrimp with the cookbook’s shrimp scampi recipe.

Marinated Crab Claws
“Seasons of Louisiana” by Peter Sclafani
2 pounds crab fingers
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red onions, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup celery, chopped
1/4 cup green onions, sliced
1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
2 teaspoons dried tarragon
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 1/2  teaspoons sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

            Directions: Combine all ingredients and mix well. Let stand for at least 1 hour.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Tennessee Williams Festival winners announced

            The 2014 Tennessee Williams New Orleans Literary Festival Fiction Contest announced its winners. The finalists, all of whom will receive a pass to this year’s festival, are: Elysha Chang, Brooklyn, N.Y.; Rebecca Foust, Ross, Calif.; Margarite Landry, Southborough, Mass.; Frank Meola, Brooklyn, N.Y.; Oreathia Smith, Pearlington, Miss.; and Rachel Unkefer, Charlottesville, Va.
            The First Runner-Up is Colleen Morrissey with her submission “Loveland.” The Grand Prize Winner is Christine Fadden for her story “Little League Girls!” Fadden has lived in a dozen states and a few foreign countries. Her fiction and nonfiction have been published in the American Literary Review, Gulf Coast, Painted Bride Quarterly, Storyglossia, PANK, The Louisville Review, and elsewhere. She is a graduate of the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College.            
            “Little League Girls” will be published in a future issue of Louisiana Cultural Vistas magazine, and Fadden will receive a flight to New Orleans, a public reading at the festival and $1,500. Fadden will also read from the short story at 10 a.m. Friday, March 21, at the Hotel Monteleone’s Queen Anne Ballroom in New Orleans. The annual festival is March 19-23 in New Orleans. For information, visit

New releases
            Randall C. Jimerson, professor of history and director of the graduate program in Archives and Records Management at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington, explores the public and private impact of the Civil Rights struggle in “Shattered Glass in Birmingham: My Family’s Fight for Civil Rights, 1961–1964,” published by LSU Press. The book traces the experiences of a white northern family during the climax of the movement in Alabama’s largest city, recounted primarily from Jimerson’s perspective as one of five children of the Rev. Norman C. “Jim” Jimerson, executive director of the Alabama Council on Human Relations. Randall Jimerson is the author of “The Private Civil War: Popular Thought during the Sectional Conflict and Archives Power: Memory, Accountability, and Social Justice.”
            John H. Stibbs, the 30-year Dean of Students at Tulane University, wrote a memoir that was discovered in 2010 by John Edgar Browning, a PhD student at State University of New York at Buffalo. After gaining permission from the Stibbs heirs, Browning edited and annotated the memoir with news clippings, documents and photos to showcase Tulane University at mid-century. “A Quarter Century of Student Life at Tulane: A Dean's Narrative History 1949-1975” sells for $22 and is available through Margaret Media, a Louisiana publisher, at

Book news
            New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Sabrina Jeffries has sold three Regency romances to Pocket, finishing out her “Duke’s Men” series and starting a new one. The former New Orleans novelist has also sold a Christmas novella to Pocket.
            Ronlyn Domingue of Lafayette’s latest book, “The Mapmaker’s War,” part one of the “Keeper of Tales” trilogy, is now in paperback.

Library Book Sale
            The Friends of the Lafayette Public Library Spring Book Sale will be March 20-22 at the Heymann Convention Center Ballroom but the corresponding auction, where the public may bid on quality books, will be now through March 31 at South Regional Branch Library. Donations are also still being accepted for the annual spring book sale. For information, call 501-9209.

Book events
            Mary and Warren Perrin will discuss their forthcoming book, “Acadia Then and Now: a People’s History,” at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 9, at the Alexander Mouton House/Lafayette Museum in downtown Lafayette.
            Alan G. Gauthreaux signs and discusses “Italian Louisiana: History, Heritage & Tradition” from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 12, at Louisiana's Old State Capitol, 100 North Blvd. in Baton Rouge.
            The Jeanerette Bicentennial Park and Museum will host a history talk, “Violent Louisiana: Chaos After the Civil War” by UL-Lafayette Professor Michael Martin at 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 12, at 500 E. Main St. in Jeanerette. The talk will discuss the period from the end of the Civil War until the early twentieth century, one of the most violent eras in Louisiana's history.
            In honor of National Quilting Day, March 16, the Quilters’ Guild Acadienne will showcase more than 50 quilts and host live quilting demonstrations from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 15 and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, March 16, at the Alexandre Mouton House/ Lafayete Museum in downtown Lafayette. Speakers on Sunday will discuss topics including quilts in the Underground Railroad and the history of quilts in America. The event is free.

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, March 6, 2014

Cookbook Thursday: Kid Chef Eliana cooks healthy

            Last year we wrote about Kid Chef Eliana of New Orleans, a pint-sized cook with an already enormous career. The teenager has been selected for the “Top 40 Under 40” by Gambit Weekly and named one of the 10 Most Famous Kid Critics and Cooks by The Daily Meal and Fox News. She has a global weekly radio show titled “Cool Kids Cook” on the VoiceAmerica Kids network and her debut cookbook, “Cool Kids Cook: Louisiana” has been published by Pelican Publishing with help from Dianne de las Cases, an award-winning author who also happens to be her mom.
            Chef Eliana now has a new book out with Pelican, “Cool Kids Cook: Fresh and Fit” which teaches young cooks how to make healthy meals and offers 26 easy-to-follow recipes. The book is illustrated by Soleil Lisette, Chef Eliana’s big sister. Talk about a talented family!
            Here’s a handy recipe for eggplant lasagna, “a fantastic family meal that is healthy and tasty,” Chef Eliana writes. “It’s just like regular lasagna, except it’s better for you.”

Eggplant Lasagna
From “Cool Kids Cook: Fresh and Fit”
Salt to Taste
2 large eggplants, sliced ¼” thick
1 cup soffritto
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound ground turkey
1 tablespoon seasoning salt
2 cups twenty-minute tomato sauce
3 cups fresh baby spinach
2 cups fat-free ricotta cheese
5 cups low-fat mozzarella cheese, grated
1 1/2 cups Parmasan cheese, grated, divided
4 egg whites
            Directions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly salt eggplant slices on both sides and let sit 15 minutes. Rinse and pat dry. Set aside. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, sauté soffritto in olive oil until onions are translucent. Add ground turkey; brown the meat. Add seasoning salt and mix thoroughly. Add tomato sauce and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add spinach and cook until completely wilted. In a large bowl, combine ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, 1 cup Parmesan cheese and egg whites. In a 9-inch x 12-inch greased casserole dish, spread a layer of sauce over the bottom of the pan. Layer eggplant over sauce. Spread some of the cheese mixture on top of eggplant. Spread a layer of sauce over cheese. Continue layering eggplant, cheese, and sauce until dish is full. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese on top, cover with foil, and bake for 45 minutes. Let rest 15 minutes before serving.

 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, March 2, 2014

Abbeville offers fun new bookstore promoting locals

            Independent bookstores are rare these days, so it’s exciting to see one open, especially one promoting local and statewide authors and artists.
            Kjuntales, Etc. is located across from St. Mary Magdalen Church in Abbeville, at 309 Pere Megret St. Because of its proximity to the church, they offer a selection of religious gifts and books in addition to books by local authors.
            “We have monthly book signings or ‘meet the artists’ evenings with refreshments,” said owner and author Sheila Hebert Friedland. “We have weekly activities like storytime for children, ‘cafe philo’ (discussions on topics of interest in the community), Friday night open mic for music, poetry readings or comic relief and also a  French table where French only will be spoken.”
            And of course they serve coffee — what’s a bookstore without java? — which happens to be our local blend, Mello Joy.
            Events this week include a Mardi Gras shoebox float competition for kids, starting at 1 p.m. Monday. The floats will travel down Pere Megret and the best shoebox float wins $50.
            In March, all Thursdays will include a 7 p.m. Café Philo and Fridays a 7 p.m. open mic. On March 22, the bookstore will feature its second “Meet the Artist” night with Bryant Benoit from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Then on March 29 author Warren Perrin signs copies of his books at 1 p.m.  
            For information on monthly activities, email owners Sheila Hebert Friedland and Mark Friedland at or call (337) 740-0889.

New releases
            Food historian Zella Palmer Cuadra has researched the Spanish history of Louisiana and how it has influenced our culture, particularly culinary, in “New Orleans con Sabor Latino: The History and Passion of Latino Cooking,” published by the University of Mississippi Press. 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.
            Michael Murphy has published a guidebook that celebrates both New Orleans’s food and its people in “Eat Dat New Orleans.” The book spotlights nearly 250 eating spots, from snowball stands to famous restaurants, plus offers some of the city’s culinary lore. There’s also helpful appendixes that list restaurants by cuisine, culinary classes and tours, food festivals and more.
            A book of short stories by John Henry Fleming titled “Song for the Deaf” will be published this month. Fleming holds a doctorate in English and creative writing from UL-Lafayette. This is his third book of fiction.
            South Louisiana native and historian Jason Theriot explores Louisiana’s energy and environmental history in “American Energy, Imperiled Coast: Oil and GasDevelopment in Louisiana’s Wetlands,” published by LSU Press. Theriot is an energy and environmental consultant and a former Energy Policy Fellow at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. He has a journalism degree from LSU and a doctorate from the University of Houston.
            Margaret Media Publishing of Louisiana has a new title available in eBook form, the “Mystick Krewe of Swan Songs” by Darlene Olivo, “a rollicking trip through Mardi Gras in New Orleans unlike any other,” claims the publisher. The book, designed as a Carnival parade on Bayou St. John with Ruthie the Duck Girl, has been described by New Orleans novelist Patty Friedmann: “If Ignatius Reilly [of “A Confederacy of Dunces”] wrote a novel, this would be it; all arcana, all farcicality, all New Orleans. With footnotes! Oh, my pyloric valve!” The book is second in a series of eBooks by Margaret Media to be published this year. Downloads are $6 and available at and other online outlets.
            E.A. Cook of Loveland, Colo., has published his first mystery and thriller novel “Spanish Moss” that follows 17-year-old Calvin fleeing a dark past when a violent hitchhiking encounter leaves him wounded and alone in a remote bayou of Louisiana. Calvin is welcomed into a Cajun family with mysteries of their own and is swept into a search for truth and vengeance in the streets of New Orleans. 

Book events
            A large exhibit of Louisiana movie posters and film memorabilia, titled “Hollywood on the Bayou,” opens Tuesday at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, part of the school’s annual Jubilee event. Based on the book “Louisiana Film History: A Comprehensive Overview Beginning 1896,” the exhibit will officially open with a morning ceremony and a presentation and book signing in the library by the authors Ed and Susan Poole at 6 p.m. The exhibit includes much of their 30-year collection of film-related materials.
            Mary and Warren Perrin will discuss their forthcoming book “Acadia Then and Now: a People’s History” at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, March 9, at the Lafayette Museum. For more information, contact Mrs. Chesson at 235-7705.

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