Monday, June 8, 2015

LSU reprints 1940s classic, Baton Rouge food writer Maggie Heyn Richardson is 'Hungry for Louisiana'

             My mother LilyB Staehling Moskal went to the Southwestern Louisiana Institute, now known as the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and for years mentioned a theatrical comedy she enjoyed watching on campus based on a novel titled “The Great Big Doorstep.” What a surprise to see LSU Press reprinting E.P. O’Donnell’s novel this year.
“The Great Big Doorstep,” published in 1941, centers on the Crochets, a Cajun family who live in a ramshackle house on the batture, that slice of land between levee and the Mississippi River. The Crochets salvage a lovely cypress doorstep from the river and dream of one day owning a stately plantation to match it. How these colorful characters work toward this goal makes up the comedic story.
Southern author Eudora Welty praised O’Donnell’s comic genius, citing his “supreme gift” for dialogue, while Bryan Giemza’s introduction in the LSU reprint underscores the work’s place in the tradition of comic Southern novels. Giemza is the author of “Irish Catholic Writers” and the “Invention of the American South.”
The play adaptation by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett was first staged on Broadway in 1942, starring Dorothy Gish and Louis Calhern. It was performed at Southwestern Louisiana Institute in 1949, directed by Phillip Walker, director of dramatics at the university during that time.
O’Donnell died in 1943.
As we enjoy this classic novel’s reprint, it might be time to also revisit staging the comedy.

New releases
Baton Rouge food writer Maggie Heyn Richardson became entranced with the Bayou State’s culinary traditions when she moved to Baton Rouge to attend graduate school in the 1990s. Since then she has raised a family on South Louisiana cuisine and writes about a few of the state’s most interesting traditions in “Hungry for Louisiana: An Omnivore’s Journey,” published by LSU Press.
“Food occupies a significant part of the collective consciousness of Louisianans as well as anyone like me who has lived in the state long enough to absorb its compelling customs,” she writes in the introduction.
The book contains wonderful essays on curious Louisiana foodways such as Creole cream cheese, blood sausage and one of my favorites, New Orleans Snoballs. She tackles our love affair with crawfish and oysters, tamales from Zwolle and the historical backgrounds to jambalaya and filé. Of course, there are recipes, for what would a Louisiana book on food be without one?
Richardson has covered the food and culture of Louisiana for national outlets as well as numerous regional publications, and she is a contributor to the 2014 LSU Press book, “The Louisiana Field Guide.” She lives with her husband and three children in Baton Rouge.
Richardson will sign copies of “Hungry for Louisiana: An Omnivore’s Journey” from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. today at Alexander’s Highland Market in Baton Rouge. 

Book events
Epiphany Day School and writing instructors Stephanie Judice and Margaret Simon will be offering a writing camp from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 13-17 for students entering fourth through 12th grades. For more information, call Simon at 380-4507/margaretsmn@gmail.com or Judice at 201-6848/judice989@gmail.com.
On Tuesday, the Historic New Orleans Collection is releasing its latest book, “Henry Howard: Louisiana’s Architect” by New Orleans‒based architectural photographer Robert S. Brantley, an illustrated work that explores the life and career of one of the most prolific southern architects of the 19th century. THNOC will host a book launch party from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Collection, 533 Royal St. in New Orleans. Brantley will provide a short presentation, followed by a book signing and cocktail reception. This event is free and open to the public. The book retails for $60 and is available at The Shop at The Collection, independent bookstores, and national retailers. An exhibition on Howard’s years in New Orleans is set to open this fall at THNOC.
          The Acadiana Center for the Arts Community at the Center will present Lyrically Inclined 2.0, featuring Acadiana’s musical, spoken word, and literary talent from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, as part of June’s ArtWalk in downtown Lafayette. The music and poetry performances of Lyrically Inclined normally occur every third Tuesday at Black Café, but moves to ArtWalk for a special event starring Angie Joelle, Knowledge, Bruised Lotus, James “Traverse” Blanchard, Smoov Ras, Chelsea Ellison and S.W.A.U.V.E. The event is hosted by Alex “PoeticSoul” Johnson.
Neal Bertrand will be signing “Dad's War Photos: Adventures in the South Pacific” from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Barnes & Noble Citiplace in Baton Rouge. He will be giving a presentation and displaying his father's World War II souvenirs.
The 2015 Berries, Bridges and Books Writers Conference will be from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Woodland Park Baptist Church, 1909 J. W. Davis Drive in Hammond. Speakers include Susan D. Mustafa, co-author of “The Most Dangerous Animal of All: Searching for My Father and Finding the Zodiac Killer” (with Gary L. Stewart); motivational speaker, storyteller and author Gwen "Ms. Chocolate" Williams and Wendy Duhe Woods, president of the Creative Minds Writers and other of several children’s books, among many more. For more information, visit http://www.creativemindswritersgroup.com/.
         The South Regional Library will host an “Author’s Alley” book sale and signing with local authors from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, June 14.

Louisiana Book News is written by Cheré Coen, the author of “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History,” Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “ExploringCajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” Write her at cherecoen@gmail.com.