Sunday, April 27, 2014

Transplant Michael Murphy shows us to how to 'Eat Dat' New Orleans

            I have to admit, when I first saw Michael Murphy’s new book, “Eat Dat, New Orleans: A Guide to the Unique Food Culture of the Crescent City,” my first thought was here goes another food book written by an outsider, someone who visited New Orleans, fell in love and is now an expert.
            Well, slap that native prejudice right off my face! Murphy excels both at the explanations of cuisines, unique food styles, culinary biographies and genealogy and history, in addition to the individual restaurant reviews.
            He’s also clever in his descriptions and brutally honest, and although I don’t always agree with his reviews, I love reading them. For instance, how many times have I visited Central Grocery for muffulettas and enjoyed every minute devouring those Italian creations but the truth is they aren’t the most friendly people. Murphy admits as much, luring readers to other more friendly muffuletta eateries. On almost every description he also includes recommendations on what items to order.
            So, if you’re looking for a handy guide to the New Orleans food scene, one that will steer you away from the tourist traps and into the heart of what makes the Crescent City special, check out Murphy’s “Eat Dat” guide.

Book events
         "Porch Posts: A Book Release Party" features Diane Marquart Moore and Janet Faulk-Gonzales signing "Porch Posts," a book of essays about the art of porch sitting and porch stories from 3-5 pm Sunday, April 27, at Belmont Plantation, 512 Belmont Road in New Iberia. Artists Karen Bourque (artist of glasswork on cover), Paul Schexnayder, illustrator of eight drawings in the book, and Victoria Sullivan, owner/publisher of Border Press Books, will be present.    
          Lafayette’s designer and comic book creator Kody Chamberlain will discusses a variety of oddball techniques for creative thinking at the “Idea Iceberg” at 3 p.m. Tuesday at the Lafayette Science Museum. The workshop will include data mining, oscillating notebooks, and pop culture creative advice from Bob Ross, Jaws, Bruce Lee, and Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Chamberlain has presented at Macworld, HOW Design Live, CTN Animation Expo, and major universities and AdFed groups around the country. Admission is free. The event will also stream live online as part of the INNOV8 Lafayette’s Webinar series at
            Dr. Zeb Baker and Dr. Matthew Teutsch present “Sports in the South” as part of the 2013 Jamie Guilbeau and Thelma Guilbeau UL Lafayette Collections Fellowship lectures at 4 p.m. Tuesday in Room 141 at UL’s Dupré Library. The fellowship and lectures are sponsored by the UL Lafayette History Department. Baker hails from Miami University of Ohio and Teutsch from UL. Baker will be speak on the integration of football in the South and Teutsch will present on Ernest J. Gaines’ use of athletes and sports in his fiction, especially his incorporation of Joe Louis and Jackie Robinson in his novels “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” and “A Lesson before Dying.” For more information, contact Teutsch at or at 482-1848.
            The Writers’ Guild of Acadiana meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Barnes & Noble. WGA is an organization made up of local writers, published and unpublished, who meet on the last Tuesday of the month to share and gain knowledge in the craft of writing. Beginners and veterans of the writing industry are welcome.

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, April 24, 2014

Tupelo Honey Cafe scores again with new cookbook

            Tupelo Honey Café with its mountain Southern dishes made its name in Asheville, N.C., branching out to other cities such as Knoxville, Chattanooga and Raleigh. Elizabeth Sims also teamed up with Chef Brian Sonoskus to produce a beautiful cookbook from the popular restaurant, “Tupelo Honey Cafe: Spirited Recipes from Asheville’s New South Kitchen.”
            Sims and Sonoskus follow up with another gorgeous book, “Tupelo Honey Cafe: New Southern Flavors from the Blue Ridge Mountains.” Once again we’re treated to photos of mountain vistas, rustic Southern farms and food shots of recipes that range from lemongrass moonshine to Flat-Out Fantastic Flat Iron Steak au Poivre. There’s garlic, leek and Parmesan cornbread, cheesy grits soufflé, cornmeal-fried black-eyed peas and acorn squash stuffed with bacon bread pudding. Hungry yet? There’s even a few nods toward Louisiana, including the Big Easy Creamy Creole Crawfish with Cheesy Grits Cake Triangles.
            I don’t know whether to try everything in this cookbook or head toward the nearest Tupelo Honey Café restaurant. Until I can get to North Carolina, I think I will start with the gumbo bell peppers stuffed with corn, peas, spinach and okra.
            The cookbook retails for $29.99. For a gorgeous and innovative Southern cookbook, it’s one of the best bargains out there.

Maple Sweet Potato Bread Pudding
From “Tupelo Honey Cafe: New Southern Flavors from the Blue Ridge Mountains”
1 1/4 pounds small sweet potatoes, or 3 large sweet potatoes
5 eggs
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
1 cup maple syrup, plus additional for serving, warmed
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 (1 pound) loaf challah bread, cut into 1 1/2- to 2-inch cubes (12 packed cups)
Ice cream or whipped cream
            Directions: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Wrap the sweet potatoes in foil and bake until tender when pricked with a fork, 50 to 60 minutes. Carefully unwrap the foil and let them stand until they are cool enough to handle. Remove the skins and place the cooked sweet potatoes in a bowl. Mash coarsely using a potato masher. Lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until frothy. Whisk in the cream, milk, the 1 cup maple syrup, the brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Stir in the sweet potatoes. Add the bread cubes and stir to mix thoroughly. Let stand for 15 minutes for the bread to soak up the liquid, stirring occasionally. Butter a 9 by 13-inch baking dish. Pour the bread mixture into the dish, cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake until the pudding is set in the center, 50 minutes to an hour. Uncover the baking dish and cook until browned on top and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 15 minutes. Serve warm, drizzled with the warm maple syrup and topped with ice cream or whipped cream.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Bourque wins Louisiana Writer Award

     I'm thrilled to report that the State Library of Louisiana through its Louisiana Center for the Book is awarding former Louisiana Poet Laureate Darrell Bourque as the 2014 Louisiana Writer Award winner. The award is given annually to recognize outstanding contributions to Louisiana’s literary and intellectual life and will be given to Bourque Nov. 1 in a ceremony at the beginning of the 2014 Louisiana Book Festival. Bourque will also discuss his work and writing career at the festival in Baton Rouge.
     Bourque’s poetry collections include Plainsongs, The Doors between Us, Burnt Water Suite, The Blue Boat, In Ordinary Light: New and Selected Poems and Call and Response: Conversations in Verse, a collaboration with poet Jack Bedell. His latest book is Megan’s Guitar and Other Poems from AcadieIf you abandon me—comment je vas faire: An Amédé Ardoin Songbook is forthcoming from Yellow Flag Press.
     Bourque, the first Friends of the Humanities Honor Professor and professor emeritus in English at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, is a strong supporter of the literary arts, continually giving his time and talents to showcase poetry while teaching and encouraging younger poets. He served as Louisiana Poet Laureate from 2007 through 2008 and 2009 through 2011 and lives in rural St. Landry Parish with his wife, Karen, who is a glass artist.
     For more information about the festival, visit

Sunday, April 20, 2014

'Making New Orleans' a gorgeous homage to products created in Crescent City

             I’m with Julia Reed. Although being a native of New Orleans and long knowing some of the products hailing from the Crescent City, I had no idea it was such a bastion of manufacturing. And like Reed, who writes the foreword to the impressive “Making New Orleans: Products Past and Present,” I’m indebted to Phillip Collier for producing such a valuable tome to my home town.
            The coffee table book published by Philbeau Pulbishing of New Orleans showcases the many products hailing from the city, with each chapter providing background information from several of the city’s historians, educators and journalists. Production values are superb, accented by gorgeous graphics and photographs from numerous city archives.
            Readers will definitely come away with a better appreciation of what New Orleans offered the world, some familiar like coffee and chicory and some surprising, such as Wesson Oil, Progresso Quality Foods (yes, the soup people) and major sugar and molasses distributors. There were numerous sodas produced here, including Barq’s and its dual life before being purchased by Coca Cola. Perhaps the first American dressmaker to label her clothes was Madame Olympe of New Orleans. And today’s Warehouse District was home to massive cotton mills — who knew?
            “Making New Orleans” is a gorgeous book and makes an excellent gift to those who love Louisiana history. Kudos to Collier and company for collecting such fascinating information within such a stunning book.

Creole World
            My father embodied New Orleans. He studied everything about the city’s nuances and culture and shared them with every tourist he could find. One thing I vividly remember of our trips to the French Quarter was my father insisting the old quarter wasn’t French, pointing out the Roman arches, courtyards and balconies built during the Spanish regime. Today, Vieux Carré streets contain markers detailing their Latin names during that time.
            We natives also love to say New Orleans is the uppermost quadrant of the Caribbean — which isn’t too far off if you read Richard Sexton’s gorgeous new photo exploration of New Orleans and its ties to all points south. “Creole World: Photographs of New Orleans and the Latin Caribbean Sphere,” published by the Historic New Orleans Collection examines the connections, particularly in architecture, between New Orleans and Latin America, based on Sexton’s years of living in one and traveling to another. He compares images from Haiti, Panama City, Cuba, Colombia, Argentina and Ecuador.
            Sexton argues that “New Orleans’s uniqueness is hardly uncommon,” that many cities of the world can claim its attributes. Just not in the United States, he writes: “New Orleans, I came to learn, is unique in that it is the United States’ sole outpost of the Creole world.”
            The book consists of 200 color images by Sexton accompanied by his text and includes essays by Creole architecture scholar Jay D. Edward and photography historian John H. Lawrence.
            An exhibit of Sexton’s photos are also on display at the Collection and the author will sign copies of his book and discuss the contents from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday in the Laura Simon Nelson Galleries, 400 Chartres St. in New Orleans. Books will be sold at the event and are also available in the Collection’s gift shop.
            In addition, Sexton will discuss the book at the Fine Print Book Club June 20 and 21 at the Collection.
            For more information on these and other events, visit The “Creole World” exhibit remains up until December.

Edsel visit
            Robert M. Edsel, author of “The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History,” on which a film was made last year, will visit Shreveport Saturday, April 26, for the Authors in April fundraiser to benefit the Pioneer Heritage Center on the campus of Louisiana State University-Shreveport. Edsel is the founder and president of the Monuments Men Foundation, an organization that honors the legacy of the men and women who served in the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives section, known as the “Monuments Men,” and their work protecting and safeguarding artistic and cultural treasures from armed conflict during World War II. Edsel is also the author of “Rescuing Da Vinci,” and co-producer of the Emmy-nominated “The Rape of Europa,” a documentary based on the award-winning 2006 book. He will be speaking on the topic of his latest book, “Saving Italy: The Race to Rescue a Nation’s Treasures from the Nazis,” a follow-up account of two of the Monuments Men.

New releases
            Renae Friedly collects the history of Breaux Bridge in photos in “Breaux Bridge,” a new book from Arcadia Publishing’s Images of America series. Highlights of the book include images from personal collections of local residents, photos from the first Crawfish Festival, history of the area and more. Friedley is a writer and photographer in Baton Rouge and publisher of The Gulf Coast Arts & Entertainment Review for nine years. Friedley recently presented the photograph exhibition, “Loving Louisiana — Celebrating the Cultures & Traditions of South Louisiana” at Le Musé in New Orleans. She will receive her Masters of Art in Museum Studies from Southern University at New Orleans in May.
            Ellen Gilchrist, once a resident of New Orleans, received the 1984 National Book Award for Fiction for her short story collection, “Victory Over Japan.” She returns with her first short story collection in eight years with “Acts of God” by Algonquin Press. She now lives in Fayetteville, Ark., where she teaches creative writing at the University of Arkansas, and shares her time in Ocean Springs, Miss.
            John Dufresne, author of “Louisiana Power and Light,” has published “No Regrets, Coyote,” in which forensic consultant Wylie “Coyote” Melville is summoned to a horrific crime scene on Christmas Eve in Eden, Florida. Five members of the Halliday family have been brutally killed. As Wylie begins his own investigation he discovers a web of corruption involving the police union, Ponzi-scheming lawyers, county politicians, and the Russian mob.
            Dr. Sara Ritchey, an associate professor in the University of Louiaiana-Lafayette History Department has just released her book, “Holy Matter: Changing Perceptions of the Material World in Late Medieval Christianity,” published by Cornell University Press.

Chapbook workshop
              Poet and author J. Bruce Fuller brings his Chapbook Workshop to NUNU Arts and Culture Collective's NUNU yoU program from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, May 3-4, in Arnaudville. Participants will construct and fill their own chapbook, and learn the means to publish. The cost is $80, $60 for NUNU members, for six hours of instruction; call (337) 484-9190. A chapbook is a small collection of poetry, generally no more than 30-35 pages, typically saddle-stitched (like a pamphlet or magazine) and well suited to smaller print-runs. Fuller, who teaches English at UL, has this year published three chapbooks of poetry and short stories. NUNU Arts and Culture Collective is located at 1510 Courtableau Road in Arnaudville. 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

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Cookbook Thursday: New cookbook proves that 'Southern Thymes' are not forgotten

            My good friend and fellow food and travel writer Doc Lawrence of Georgia has teamed up with TV Chef Lara Lyn Carter to celebrate Southern happenings that revolve around food — naturally — in “Southern Thymes Shared” by Pelican Publishing of New Orleans.
            Each chapter focuses on holidays and special events, such as New Year’s, girls’ luncheons and a Gulf Coast fiesta, among many others, and each includes several recipes and wine pairings. Their chapter on Easter, for instance, features glazed ham, three-cheese mac ’n’ cheese, spring peas with pancetta and caramelized onions, dinner rolls, honey butter and coconut cake. We’ve included the recipe for ham below.

Glazed Ham
12 pounds smoked ham
1 1/2 cup mayhaw jelly
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon dry mustard
2 1/2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
            Directions: Place ham on a baking sheet and cover with foil. Bake at 375 degrees. While ham cooks, make the glaze by combining the remaining ingredients in a saucepan. Cook over low heat until melted; stir well. After the ham has cooked for 30 minutes, remove ham from the oven and baste with the glaze; repeat process twice. Allow ham to stand for 20 minutes before slicing.

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.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Fink's 'Memorial' wins LAT Book Prize

            Sheri Fink won a Los Angeles Times Book Prize for “Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital,” an investigation of patient deaths at a New Orleans hospital ravaged by Hurricane Katrina.
            Other winners announced Friday night include:
            Fiction: Ruth Ozeki, “A Tale for the Time Being;”
            First Fiction: “No Violet Bulawayo, We Need New Names;”
            Current Interest: Sheri Fink, “Five Days at Memorial;”
            Biography: “Marie Arana, Bolivar: American Liberator;”
            Mystery/Thriller: J.K. Rowling aka Robert Galbraith, “The Cuckoo's Calling;”
            Graphic Novel/Comics: Ulli Lust, “Today Is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life;”
            History: Christopher Clark, “The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914;”
            Poetry: Ron Padgett, “Ron Padgett: Collected Poems;”
            Science and Technology: Alan Weisman, “Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth?” and
            Young Adult: Gene Luen Yang, “Boxer.”

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Celebrate National Poetry Month with great events!

Ava Leavell Haymon
            It’s National Poetry Month and there are plenty of reasons to celebrate.              For one, two Louisiana poet laureates will be spotlighted in the nation’s capital this week. Ava Leavell Haymon, current Louisiana poet laureate, and Julie Kane, immediate past poet laureate, will discuss their writing process and read from their work from noon to 1 p.m. Wednesday at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The event is being sponsored by the American Women Writers National Museum and Louisiana Center for the Book in the State Library.
            Poets Wendy Taylor Carlisle and Toby Daspit will offer a special evening of literary readings beginning at 7 p.m. Thursday at Carpe Diem! Gelato – Espresso Bar in downtown Lafayette.
            Carlisle lives in the Arkansas Ozarks and is the author of “Discount Fireworks” and “Reading Berryman to the Dog” (Jacaranda Press). She has won The Bernice Blackgrove Award for Excellence, The Lipscomb Award from Centenary College, a Passager Poetry Contest Award, and has been eleven times nominated for a Pushcart Prize and twice for Best of the Web. Carlisle’s chapbook, “Persephone on the Metro,” is now available from MadHat Press. You can read more about Carlile at 
Toby Daspit
            Daspit, the self-proclaimed “Bard of the Blue Dog Cafe,” is associate professor of education and co-director of UL’s National Writing Project of Acadiana. Daspit is a frequent reader in the Acadiana and New Orleans poetry scenes and conducts poetry workshops in area schools. His poems have been published in journals and anthologies including The Quarterly, Never Bundle Review, di-vêrsé-city and The Maple Leaf Rag. He is the author of the chapbook “Anatomy of a Ghost and other poems not about you” and was a featured poet for the 2010 Festival of Words in Grand Coteau. His most recent chapbook, “Bar Coasters,” was published in 2013 by Yellow Flag Press.
            The event is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Clare Martin at or 962-5886.
            The St. Martinville’s Sr. High School Poetry Society, along with the City of St. Martinville and the St. Martin Parish Library, invite the public to join them for an evening of Poetry on the Square beginning at 6 p.m. Wednesday. Members of the Society will perform original poetry and rotate among several downtown venues, including Clambeaugh’s Restaurant, Le Petit Paris Café, the Cultural Heritage Center, Maison Duchamp and the Acadian Memorial. Drinks will be served at Clambeaugh’s and other refreshments at the Acadian Memorial.
            A new monthly spoken word has been organized for Opelousas literi. The event, followed by an open mic, will begin at 6 p.m. Thursday at Java Square, 103 Landry St. in Opelousas, and be hosted by Maureen Little, a member of National Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Coming up in May will be a spoken word night for teens.

Accalia and the Swamp Monster
            Kelli Scott Kelley has created a heroine’s journey through a southern landscape similar to Louisiana, accented by her haunting artwork uniquely created on fabric in “Accalia and the Swamp Monster,” published by LSU Press. The book borrows from Roman mythology, Jungian analysis and fairy tales and is based on Kelley’s autobiography and dreams, plus offers essays on the story by Jungian analyst Constance Romero of Mandeville and art historian Sarah Bonner of the University of Cumbria. Kelley is an associate professor at the LSU School of Art and her work is featured in the permanent collections of the Tyler Museum of Art in Tyler, Texas, the LSU Museum of Art and the Eugenia Summer Gallery in Columbus, Miss. She will discuss the book at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Old U.S. Mint in New Orleans, a free public event presented by the Louisiana State Museum.

Yeah, You Write
            The Peauxdunque Writers Alliance presents “Yeah, You Write – a word rebellion,” readings by prize-winning and best-selling authors as well as local writers at 7 p.m. Friday at Café Istanbul, 2372 St. Claude Ave. at the New Orleans Healing Center. Authors include Joseph Boyden, past winner of the Giller Prize and the 2014 winner of Canada Reads for his newest novel “The Orenda;” Beth Ann Fennelly and Tom Franklin, authors of “The Tilted World;” Benjamin Percy, author of “Red Moon” and winner of the Pushcart Prize; award-winning and New York Times best-selling author John Barry, author of “Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul: Church, State, and the Birth of Liberty,” a finalist for the L.A. Times Book Prize and winner of the New England Society Book Award; New Orleans writer and founder of the MelaNated Writers Collective jewel bush; Emilie Staat, winner of the Faulkner-Wisdom Gold Medal for the Essay; and poet Cassie Pruyn, finalist for the Indiana Review 1/2K Prize. Nick Fox will be master of ceremonies, music will be provided by DJ Sep and projected images will be offered by writer and photographer L. Kasimu Harris.
            There will be a $5 cover charge at the door.
            The Peauxdunque Writers Alliance, founded in 2007 by Amy Serrano and under the auspices of the Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society, is composed of poets, fiction writers, songwriters, filmmakers, non-fiction writers and visual artists. For information, visit

Book events
            Georgia Pellegrini will sign copies of her new book, “Modern Pioneering,” from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Paul Michael Company. On hand will be refreshments from Social Southern Table & Bar, The Lab Handcrafted Coffees & Comforts and Charley G's.

            Sam Irwin will sign “Louisiana Crawfish: A Succulent History of the Cajun Crustacean” from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. today at Crawfish Town in Henderson.
            Journalist and local history author Jim Bradshaw will speak on “The Civil War in Acadiana, 1863” at 4 p.m. Tuesday at the Dupré Library’s Ernest Gaines Center Hallway on the UL campus. A Q&A will follow the talk.
            Gregory Alexander will be the guest speaker at Chris Smith’s Monday night Fiction Writers Group at 7 p.m. Monday at the East Bank Regional Library in Metairie. Alexander will be discussing the evolution of his novel, “The Holy Mark,” from short story to novel. 
            Dianne de Las Casas will sign her latest children’s book, “Cinderellaphant,” at 2 p.m. Saturday at Barnes & Noble Lafayette. She will offer an interactive storytime reading, followed by a drawing lesson with the illustrator, Stefan Jolet. 
            Kid Chef Eliana will sign copies of her books, “Cool Kids Cook: Louisiana” and “Cool Kids Cook: Fresh & Fit” at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Barnes & Noble Lafayette. Eliana is an award-winning cookbook author, award-winning radio show host, and celebrity chef whose mission is to inspire kids to eat and cook good food with fresh, local ingredients.
            The Vermilion Parish Library will host an Easter Egg Hunt and party at 6 p.m. Wednesday in Abbeville and at 3:30 p.m. in Gueydan. The program is free and open to children age 10 or younger.

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, April 10, 2014

Cookbook Thursday: 'Vietnamese Cuisine in New Orleans'

            So many great cookbooks have come out recently discussing the diverse ethnic landscape of New Orleans, for instance “New Orleans con Sabor Latino:The History and Passion of Latino Cooking” by Zella Palmer Cuadra and “New Orleans’ Best Ethnic Restaurants” by Ann Benoit, both excellent books. Now, Suzanne Pfefferle showcases the Crescent City’s Vietnamese community in “Vietnamese Cuisine in New Orleans,” published by Pelican Publishing. In addition to spotlighting Vietnamese dishes, restaurants, festivals and culinary traditions, Pfefferle includes recipes by New Orleans chefs Emeril Lagasse and John Besh.

Gi Ga Tom (Shredded Chicken or Shrimp Salad)
By Pho Tau Bay
Fish Sauce
1/2 cup water                   
1 tablespoon vinegar
1/8 cup fish sauce           
2 tablespoons sugar
1 large head green cabbage, thinly sliced
1 large boiled boneless, skinless chicken breast, shredded, or 1 1/2
pounds boiled shrimp, cut in half
1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
1/4 cup rau ram leaves (Vietnamese cilantro)
1/3 cup sweet pickled carrots
1/2 ounce sesame oil
4 ounces crushed roasted peanuts
4 ounces fried shallots
1 sprig cilantro
            Directions: For sauce, mix all ingredients thoroughly. Add lime juice and chilis to taste, if desired. For salad, place cabbage, chicken or shrimp, onion, cilantro leaves, and carrots in a large mixing bowl, and toss together. Add oil and fish sauce, and distribute evenly. Top with peanuts, shallots, and sprig of cilantro. Serves 3-4.

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, April 6, 2014

New young reader books about Hurricane Katrina

            I first met Julie Lamana of Greenwell Springs when she self-published “Three Little Bayou Fishermen,” a charming picture book about kids growing up on the bayou, inspired by Lamana’s grandchildren. I’m excited to report that she has published a novel with Chronicle Books, a chapter book appropriate for ages 8-12.
            “Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere” follows Armani Curtis, a New Orleans Ninth Ward resident who’s about to become 10 and is anxious for the birthday party to happen. Unfortunately, Hurricane Katrina also arrives, throwing the family into chaos as they first end up on their roof, then separated in three directions.
            As Armani’s world falls apart, she must deal with the death of loved ones, her siblings’ illnesses without proper medical care, relying on the advice of semi-strangers and her mistrust of government officials. She musters the strength and fortitude to take care of her siblings at a shelter outside of New Orleans while searching for the rest of her family. It’s a wonderful story of courage during a horrendous disaster, especially for one too young to have to face such struggles.
            School Library Journal calls it “A story that will grab avid and reluctant readers alike.”
            “Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere” arrives on bookshelves this Tuesday.
            There are two other children’s books out now about Hurricane Katrina, Rodman Philbrick’s “Zane and the Hurricane” for ages 10-14 and Laura Roach Dragon’s “Hurricane Boy” for ages 8-12.
            Philbrick is a Newbery Honor award-winning author and his novel follows Zane Dupree who travels from New Hampshire to New Orleans to get to know his paternal great-grandmother Miss Trissy, his only living relative on his father’s side. After a short while Katrina arrives and the two must face the storm with Zane’s dog Bandy, young Malvina Rawlins and jazz musician Trudell Manning. Publishers Weekly and Kirkus both gave the book starred reviews with Kirkus writing, “Zane’s perspective as an outsider allows Philbrick to weave in social commentary on race, class, greed and morality, offering rich fodder for reflection and discussion.”
            Dragon’s “Hurricane Boy” centers on middle school student Hollis Williams who lives with his grandmother in the Ninth Ward. He, too, is separated from family after being rescued from his roof, ending up in West Virginia. Williams struggles to get reunited with his family while experiencing those waiting in the shelter with him. Dragon is a psychotherapist who works with children and adolescents at River Oaks Hospital in New Orleans and her experience working with children during the storm inspired her to write this book.

Library Luncheon
            The Lafayette Public Library Foundation is a nonprofit group established to help support our libraries through membership, endowments, fundraising, special events and donations. One of these fundraising events is the annual awards luncheon and meeting at the City Club at River Ranch on April 11. This year’s theme is Drop Everything and Read (D.E.A.R.) to coordinate with the national month-long celebration of reading in April. And yours truly will be the luncheon’s guest speaker, speaking on both the value of reading and libraries and the books I have written. In addition, there will be a book signing and silent auction and Dr. Mary B. Neiheisel will be honored with the President’s Award and Event Rental with the Major Donor Award. The annual luncheon begins at 11 a.m. Friday at the City Club at River Ranch, 1100 Camellia Blvd. The cost is $30, which helps support the parish libraries. Tickets may be purchased by calling 261-5781, emailing or mailing a check to Lafayette Public Library Foundation, P.O. Box 53024, Lafayette, LA 70505.

Chris Grabenstein
            Speaking of libraries, I was honored to be asked to sign copies of my books at the recent Louisiana Library Association conference in Lafayette, and stayed to hear author Chris Grabenstein talk about his life and career at the Author’s Luncheon. Grabenstein is the author of many chapter books for middle students, including his recent — and very entertaining — “Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library.” The book follows three brothers, with Kyle Keeley in the lead, fans of a scavenger hunt board game designed by Mr. Lemoncello. When they hear Lemoncello has designed the new town library, they sign up for the invitational lock-in. But getting out is a lot more difficult than getting in. Grabenstein found success in New York improvisation, advertising and Hollywood and, since moving into fiction writing, has published numerous books, some with best-selling author James Patterson. His motto for life is saying “Yes…and…,” good advice for us all, especially if you’re considering picking up a book! Next spring Grabenstein releases “The Island of Dr. Libris.”

Book events
            The University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press will have its warehouse clearance tent sale from 8:30 a.m. to noon Friday, April 11, in front of Dupré Library, 400 St. Mary Blvd., and from 1-5 p.m. at the corner of Johnston and University. There will be overstock and damaged books for sales, some up to 90 percent off, and free books.
            A lecture on wind energy will take place at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 10, at South Regional Library. Guest speakers will be Bill Gallardo and Simon Mahan.
            Barry Ancelet will let a discussion and showing of film clips shot in South Louisiana at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 13, in Room 112 of Oliver Hall on the UL campus. Films will include “Hard Times,” “The Drowning Pool,” “The Big Easy” and “Southern Comfort.” Sponsored by the Friends of the Humanities and the College of Liberal Arts. For information, call 278-7166 or email
            Sam Irwin will sign “Louisiana Crawfish: A Succulent History of the Cajun Crustacean” from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, April 13, at Crawfish Town in Henderson.

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