Ready for a book club that focuses on the culinary arts? Consider Dish.
Dish meets at noon on the third Saturday of each month at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum, in the Riverwalk Marketplace Shopping Center near the Food Court.
The Physiology of Taste, the collection of recipes, experiences, reflections, history and philosophy by French gastronome Jean-Anthleme Brillat Savarin, is the first choice of the newly created book club of the Southern Food and Beverage Museum. The first meeting of the club will occur at noon on Saturday, Jan. 17, 2009.
We decided to start with the book that pretty much created culinary literature as we know it. The Physiology of Taste really had no precedent – it was a new creature that consisted of Brillat-Savarin’s food experiences and anecdotes in which gastronomy is raised to the level of art.
The Physiology of Taste contains Brillat-Savarin’s views on taste, diet, maintaining a healthy weight, digestion, sleep and dreams, and on being a gourmand. The book was published in France in 1825.
Brillat-Savarin is the man who famously said, "Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are." He led quite a life and produced this classic just a few months before he died. This is a great work that is much easier to read than one would imagine, and it provides a grounding for the other works to be read during the year.
The book can be found in any bookstore but also is available online and can be downloaded at no cost.
Readers of all stripes are welcome to read book club selections and to attend meetings. Admission to book club meetings is free to SoFAB members; $10 for non-members.
Attendees are encouraged to bring their own food to meetings. The Riverwalk Food Court is just steps away. In some cases, food events also will occur at the museum.
Participants also are encouraged to sign on in advance for book club meetings.
For more information, contact Chris Smith coordinator of the book club, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monday, December 22, 2008
Ready for a book club that focuses on the culinary arts? Consider Dish.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Looking at the Southern Food and Beverage event calendar, it is clear that the holidays are upon us. The usually busy event schedule is in hibernation mode until after the New Year. You will notice that the newsletter is taking a little siesta as well.
However, little breaks from these things give us all a chance to visit with family and, well, work on other museum projects. David Gallent and I are working on our e-zine, Okra. I'll be sending out a call for submissions soon. The first issue will be all about this lovely vegetable, so start thinking. Liz Williams has been working on an important project with the New Orleans Public Library, as you may have noticed from her previous blog. That announcement will come directly after the holiday season. The event schedule will pick up quickly after the New Year. One of the events that I am most excited about is the GW Fins presentation on January 31st. We've also got Mulate's coming and our first Tin Chef competition.
On a personal note, completely unrelated to SoFAB, but vaguely related to Southern food, I have just gotten a new puppy, a 10 week old black and tan coonhound. How is this related to Southern food? Her name is Sassafras.
Happy Holidays from the Southern Food and Beverage Museum.
Friday, December 12, 2008
These are tough economic times. Going to museums is something that people may not feel that they can continue to do with as much abandon as before. But we are not stopping. We continue to create partnerships and push forward our mission.
This month we will be announcing the opening of the reading room - the SoFAB Culinary Collection at NOPL (New Orleans Public Library). This brings to fruition the generosity of all of those people throughout the United States who have sent us their cookbooks. We are so grateful. Know that culinary students at two junior colleges, several high schools, and a university will have access to this library. In addition anthropology students and business students studying Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management from local colleges and universities will have access. People from throughout the New Orleans area, 80% of whom lost their cookbook and recipe collections after Hurricane Katrina, will also be able to find recipes and do culinary research.
This is a great note upon which to end 2008.
Posted by Liz Williams at 4:14 PM
Sunday, December 7, 2008
As part of The Big Read celebration, the Southern Food and Beverage Museum recently hosted a viewing of the movie, To Kill A Mockingbird at the New Orleans Museum of Art. Roughly 20 people attended the screening of the two-hour and twelve-minute movie. (We had a time limitation and I was definitely conscious of the duration of the movie.)
Believe it or not, I had never seen this classic movie which is odd because I am a devotee of the movie channels that broadcast the old films. I’ve seen bits and pieces of the movie through the years, but never the whole thing from start to finish. Though I am glad to have seen the movie, I have to admit that I was a little disappointed. As a person who had just finished reading the book (also for the first time), I felt the movie just didn’t stand up to Harper Lee’s writing.
For one thing, the movie left out almost all references to food with the exception of the scene in which Water Cunningham is invited home to the Finch household where he proceeds to pour molasses over his lunch. That’s it for the food.
Which means that many other key scenes in the book that involve food are completely left out – the emotional scene in which the townspeople thank Atticus for his defense of Tom Robinson by leaving food at his back porch; the scene in which Dill returns to Maycomb and is so hungry he eats all the leftovers; and the scene in which Scout visits relatives for a holiday meal and is given a profound three-word message by a cousin that “men don’t cook.”
Gone are the references to Lane Cake, scuppernongs, Tootsie Rolls, squirrel and possum, ambrosia, collards and other greens, etc.
Food is important in this book. It helps to set a time and a place. In Mockingbird, the presence of food helps to move along key scenes that define the social status of the characters and define the issues Harper Lee illustrates – hunger, the role of women, the role of African-Americans, the issue of social justice, and the general importance of food at the Southern table.
Besides food, there are other key parts of Harper Lee’s story that are left out of the movie. For example, the story of the morphine addicted Mrs. Duboce gets no attention; Miss Maudie’s house does not burn down; we do not get to see a key scene in which Scout and Jem attend Calpurnia’s church.
I know I’m being a little picky. I also know that it’s tough to transfer a book to the screen and leave it completely intact. Much has been written about Harper Lee being extremely pleased with the way her book was translated to film. She became close friends with Gregory Peck in the process.
Many people claim the movie is one of their all-time favorites. Good for them. However, the bottom-line for me is that the movie is very different from the book. The book is many times better than the movie, and if you want a great experience, sit down and immerse yourself in it. Reading Mockingbird definitely takes a longer period of time than watching the movie, but you will be rewarded for the time you spent.
This will be my last blog regarding To Kill A Mockingbird and The Big Read for quite some time. We are applying now for next year’s Big Read initiative; it looks like our choice will be Zora Neal Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. Our celebration will occur in November and December of 2009. If there’s a movie, we’ probably screen it.
In the meantime, we are undertaking more literary/culinary adventures and we will share them with you in the future.
Monday, November 24, 2008
We have finally created kids' cooking birthday parties at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum. They are for kids between the ages of 3 and 12 and the different themes make me want to be that age again.
During our summer culinary camp, one child constantly asked, "If I do _______, will the ______ blow up?" I created, "Mad Chemist in the Kitchen: The Science of Cooking" with you in mind, buddy.
Other themes are Soul Food, Louisiana Food, Southern Vegetarian, Playing with Food, and SoFAB's Top Chef (Cooking Like a TV Pro). For more info, click here.
Happy Thanksgiving from the Southern Food and Beverage Museum!
Posted by Stephanie Carter at 6:47 PM
Friday, November 21, 2008
The SoFAB Store carries a variety of one-of-a-kind items by regional artists and artisans. Our Christmas selection is no less unique. Among this years' hot items are the Mr. Bingle Coasters by New Orleans artist Kat Sagers. The set of four 4X4" tiles feature a Mr Bingle imprint of him fluttering about, and sells for $20. Each Bingle tile is a different color.
Mr. Bingle, for those of you not from New Orleans, is an iconic figure in the city's Christmas history whose importance to Christmas far outweighs that Santa Claus dude and his reindeer- even Ernie K. Doe! Bingle was employed by the Maison Blanche Department Store in 1947 as a spokesmodel for Chrismas and is considered the saviour of that company's bottom line for many a year.
Please visit his website at www.myspace.com/mrbinglenola, get in the Christmas spirit, then visit the SoFAB Store and buy...buy till it hurts!
Posted by Joe at 12:55 PM
Sunday, November 16, 2008
On Saturday SoFAB dedicated and named the tasting room. What was once generic is now the Edward A. Johnston and Carolyn T. Pearce Tasting Room.
I want to celebrate Edward and Carolyn. This desire to celebrate them is very personal, because they are two very accomplished people who listened to me for 4 years talk about the creation of a food museum in New Orleans that would preserve and educate, exhibit and collect, and become an important intellectual institution. They not only did not laugh at the idea, but they saw its merit and they believed that it could be done. When they talked about it with their friends and family, I am not sure that all shared their faith. But Edward and Carolyn made the leap of believing that we could create a real institution at the kitchen table.
I would like to honor their imagination, their perseverance, and their ability to see the mission through. Thank you Edward and Carolyn.
Monday, November 10, 2008
One of the pleasures of reading Mockingbird was becoming re-acquainted with ambrosia salad.
When a family member says they will be bringing ambrosia to a party or event, chances are they are talking about a popular salad that generally contains oranges, pineapple chunks, grapes, cocoanut and nuts. Some versions contain marshmallows, whipping cream, or sour cream while other recipes contain fruit cocktail, grapefruit or vanilla pudding. It’s a salad with plenty of options.
To the ancient Greeks, ambrosia has had many meanings too. Though researchers are not certain what the ancient Greeks thought the composition of ambrosia was (or its liquid counterpart “nectar”), it is believed that these mythical foods had some connection to honey.
In ancient Greek mythology, ambrosia gives immortality to those who consume it. Ambrosia also was guaranteed to satisfy the hunger or thirst of the residents of Mount Olympus. It was said that ambrosia was delivered to the gods by sacred doves.
There are several examples in Greek myth in which ambrosia is used by the gods and goddesses as a sort of balm, indicating the conference of to confer grace or even immortality (in the case of mortals) onto the recipient. When Achilles is born, Thetis anoints the infant with ambrosia and passes the child through the fire to make him immortal. In the Iliad, Apollo washes blood from the corpse of Sarpedon and anoints it with ambrosia, readying it for its ethereal return to Sarpedon's home of Lycia. Later, the sea-nymph Thetis uses ambrosia and nectar to preserve the body of the dead warrior Patroclus.
Making ambrosia involves no cooking, just mixing. Start with a very basic recipe, such as the one below.
· 1 cup orange juice
· 3 medium oranges, peeled and sectioned
· 1 can (8 ounces) pineapple chunks, undrained
· 1/2 cup seedless red grapes, halved
· 1/2 cup shredded coconut
· 1/2 cup chopped pecans
Combine juice, orange sections, pineapple, and grapes, stirring gently to blend. Refrigerate until time to serve. Fold in coconut and pecans just before serving.This recipe serves six people.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
While writing last week’s newsletter piece on election cake, I began to wonder what sort of things political people currently eat on election night. I imagined a friend of mine, who works on Capitol Hill, tasting different election cakes, arguing over which was better, kicking back in a large leather arm chair, maybe drinking a blue cocktail while watching the results roll in. Nope.
According to my friend, “Campaign offices are all about junk food and leftover Halloween candy. People bake brownies. Lots of pizza. We've been getting fat eating donuts and drinking coffee.” In four years, maybe I’ll mail his office an election cake.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Making red gravy and tomato sauce made me think a lot about authenticity. When I made the sauces I made my grandmother's sauce the way she would have, not the way I would have today. Similarly, I made the red gravy the way I had learned to make it from cooking with friends, not the way I would have made it. Of course, I did it that way so that we would have a true test, especially since the same cooks, Sara Roahen and I, were making both dishes.
But being a child of New Orleans, I would normally put green peppers in my tomato sauce, even if my grandmother wouldn't have. Being a child of Sicilian grandparents, I would still add my anchovy to red gravy for depth of flavor. Making these dishes very different made chosing between them easier. This one tastes like Italy. This one tastes like New Orleans. But when we cook, we carry all of these things around with us, and our food, regardless of recipes and faithful renditions of food remembered, is personal. And I think that this is what makes it authentic.
As I get older I am more anxious to remember and leave the memory, either in writing or on tape, because I feel like a bridge to an earlier time. The food is the continuity. I am not sure how to keep that continuity from being interrupted. That is where a lot of my energy goes right now, to finding a way to keep the connection between the past and the future. It used to always happen in the kitchen, and without as many people cooking, I have not seen another bridge forming. The kitchen connection isn't sacred, but some connection is necessary. I want to find it.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Last Monday night, about a dozen folks and I attended a culinary face off, of sorts, between traditional Italian tomato sauce and New Orleans red gravy. It was food writer, Sara Roahan's idea, since she wrote about the latter in her book Gumbo Tales. Liz Williams hosted the event and prepared both sauces: the tomato sauce was her Sicilian grandmother's recipe and the red gravy was based on her own experience tasting the sauce in other homes. One of the key differences between red gravy and tomato sauce is that the former has a roux to thicken it, while the latter is thickened only by time and lots of simmering. I will omit the comments Liz's grandmother made about red gravy, but tasting the two side by side was illuminating. After tasting the red gravy, one of the diners remarked "This tastes like New Orleans." It had the Hold Trinity (Liz grandmother eschewed green peppers) and the roux and well, yes, there was something familiar in it, even when served over pasta and looking like any other tomato sauce. But the truth is, overall, everyone at the table preferred the tomato sauce. The flavor seemed deeper, richer, which was probably a result of the concentration of all the tomatoes cooking down. And it tasted, well, more Italian. So what does that mean, really? Is one better than the other? No. One tastes like one place and one tastes like the other. And that's pretty cool
Posted by Elizabeth Pearce at 8:34 AM
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Perhaps the highlight of participating in The Big Read project is the opportunity to create a lesson plan for teachers regarding food in To Kill A Mockingbird.
The lesson plan is available at no charge for download. Go to www.thebigreadnola.com.
Food is an important element in Mockingbird. There are more than 50 types of food items mentioned and many are considered to be quintessential Southern fare – fried chicken, peach pickles, Lane cake, pickled pig’s knuckles, and more. The food mentioned sets the tone for the time and place of the story.
More importantly, the book features food- or eating-related scenes in which important points are illustrated or the plot is advanced towards its conclusion. For example, at the front of the book, Jem invites Walter Cunningham home for lunch and he proceeds to drip molasses all over his meal. Scout makes a rude comment and is hauled out to the kitchen where Calpurnia gives her a lesson in manners and hospitality. It’s a great scene that illustrates one of the principle tenets of the book – you never know someone until you walk in their shoes.
In another example, the townspeople show their respect for Atticus by placing food on the Finch back doorstep as tribute for his representing Tom Robinson, even though Robinson could not pay. It’s an emotional scene that illustrates the racial atmosphere at the time, as well as the toughness of the Great Depression.
The lesson plan provides ways for educators to teach and celebrate the book from a new angle – food. It provides teachers with quiz questions, essay questions, lecture topics, puzzles, and more.
The lesson plan was designed by New Orleans local Virginia Howard who performed her services at no charge. She did a wonderful job.
If you have any questions, or suggestions to make the lesson plan better, let us know. We’d be happy to keep adding as we plan to keep the Mockingbird materials on the site for as long as they are needed.
Friday, October 17, 2008
The Southern Food and Beverage Museum has made so many changes these past two weeks. I'll start with the newest. Right now, this second, there are Verges Rome architects building a giant birthday cake out of cans (out of things like Van Camp's beans and Veg-All. mmmm. sweet, creamy bean birthday cake) in one of our galleries. This marks the very first exhibit change we have made since we opened in June. Elizabeth Pearce is busy painting the the gallery a lovely shade of green in preparation for this new exhibit that will explore the history and importance of canning and display the winning sculptures from the Canstruction Contest.
All of this is going while Chris Smith eases into his new position as Director of Collections, which he started on Monday. Meanwhile, I am working on changing the newsletter and (finally) creating the ezine. I woke up in the middle of the night (3:18 a.m. to be exact) and could not fall asleep again until I had brainstormed ezine stuff.
And, our intern, Susannah, is creating a fantastic facebook page for us.
Come by the museum and see the new exhibit, check out our website, sign up for our newsletter, and see how we are growing.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
When I was very young, I remember that my Grandmother Marguerite would refer to something in her kitchen called an “icebox.” She was referring to a refrigerator. When she was young, food was kept in an icebox to keep it cold. She simply never changed her language when the technology changed.
Think about it – just 75 years ago, Americans did not have refrigeration. Major advances in refrigeration came later. The reason I bring this up is because the timeframe in To Kill A Mockingbird matches the period in which major technological innovations regarding food, food production and food storage occurred.
In 1926, the Electrolux Servel Corp. received the first U.S. patent for a household refrigerator cooled by a sealed gas refrigerant.
In 1927, Clarence Birdseye of Massachusetts receives a patent in the U.K. for frozen fish fingers.
In 1930, retail frozen foods go on sale for the first time in Springfield, Massachusetts. Birdseye had developed and improved the methods used to successfully freeze foods on a commercial scale. Various fruits, vegetables, meat and fish began to be offered for sale.
In the 1950s, when Harper Lee conceived of and wrote her masterpiece, refrigeration and frozen foods already had become commonplace. The jump from ice boxes to refrigerators took only one generation – or more likely, half a generation.
That’s the kind of thing I love about reading a great book – the ability to envision a very different past, like the period in which my Grandmother Marguerite was a child.
Posted by Chris Smith at 2:43 PM
Monday, October 13, 2008
Joe Sunseri offered this thought about this week's Cinq a Sept, which will feature Leah Chase's Gumbo Z'herbs, live music by the New Orleans Gypsy All-Stars, and a cash wine bar from the Savvy Gourmet. "Bring your fedoras and dancing shoes." How could you possibly miss it?
Thursday, October 9, 2008
I returned this week from a week in Besancon, France, where I spent a week preparing for and participating in the food and music festival, Musique de Rues. (You will see a video of me talking about why I was there. Just scroll down.) This was a wonderful experience linking food and music, a totally natural combination. The people were welcoming and I explored the local food of the Franche-Comte region.
I also learned a valuable lesson. Recipes fall far short of explaining how to fix food that is not natively yours. In the kitchen with culinary students, I saw that "small pieces" of chicken were not as small as I thought. That onions, bell pepper and celery - sauteed for the gumbo - should not be pureed, just because they puree everything. That gumbo is a soup, but they think that it should be served on a plate. They don't want to mix the rice and gumbo. It is wierd for them to sprinkle file on at the table. I learned a lot about foodways, what I take for granted, about their curiosity and openness, how to write a recipe, and the universal language of the kitchen.
I appreciated the opportunity to talk about the many French influences on the food of Louisiana. I learned about the warmth of the people who welcomed me. They brought me home to eat with them. Oh what we learn in the kitchen and around a table!
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
I hadn't been to visit a Disney park since I was seven, but I returned from Epcot not long ago after participating with the New Orleans, Jefferson Parish, St. Bernard Parish and St. Tammany Parish Convention and Visitors Bureaus in the Louisiana Pavillion which was created as a temporary addition to the park as part of the Epcot Food and Wine Festival. Yep, wine at Disney. And margaritas, too. Anyway, the imagineers at Disney recreated Louisiana scenes, complete with a Riverboat with a working paddlewheel, a Cajun cottage, a garconier, and sugar cane, rice and Tabasco peppers. Everyone who visited received a recipe card for shrimp Creole and was able to watch cooking demos of the dish as well as dance to the sounds of the Abita Blues Band, Amanda Shaw and the Treme Brass band. The goal was to promote Louisiana as a tourist destination and encourage all the visitors to Epcot to come to our state. Everyone who passed through the "iron wrought" gates remarked how pretty everything was and I hope both the state and the museum are able to garner some new visitors as a result.
Posted by Elizabeth Pearce at 8:51 AM
Thursday, September 25, 2008
If you'd look at my activities over the last few months, you'd think I was a drinking snob. You'd also think I had a drinking problem since most of the drinks I've had have been at work. We have had Brandy Milk Punch and Sazeracs, Lazy Magnolia beer and Pontchartrain Vineyard wine, and now, a number of whiskies. We often have experts around - the brewers, the wine makers, the bartenders that specialize in a specific cocktails. Last night, we sat around with four master whiskey distillers and mused over the topic, "American Culture and Brown Liquor." Jimmy Russell of Wild Turkey laughed with Jeff Arnett of Jack Daniel's, saying they are usually sampling whiskey before their morning coffee. Aaaagh. The life. Then, we all sampled a whiskey from each of their brown, delicious portfolios. Were you there? If not, you were invited.
This is of course, just another day in the life of the Southern Food and Beverage Museum. We have drinks and food and we do it on some other level. Bourbon House and the New Orleans Bourbon Society are hosting the second annual Whiskey Fest. This whiskey event one of the events. Tonight, they are auctioning off signed bottles and memorabilia from the distilleries to benefit SoFAB. Thanks. I raise my brown liquor to you all.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Today, with the help of volunteers from the Junior League New Orleans, we began our Saturday morning Culinary Camps. The schedule is on our website. Today we made jambalaya and peanut butter balls.
Making peanut butter is one of my favorite things. I love tasting the peanuts, shelling them and watching the transformation from peanuts to butter. Add a bit of honey and powdered milk, and we have the stuff of peanut butter balls.
After stuffing ourselves with jambalaya we were fortunate enough to have Virginia Willis sign her new cookbook, Bon Appetit, Y'all. We ate goodies from the book and mingled in the party.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
SoFAB inaugurated its Tuesday night after-work fall music series a little over a week ago. Yesterday was our SECOND Tuesday hosting this event. Live music by performers like The New Orleans Gypsy All Stars, complimentary hors d'oeuvres from restaurants like August and Cuvee, and a cash wine bar featuring selections chosen by the sommelier from The Savvy Gourmet is a sweet deal. While this is obvious to us, I always get a little worried when I am waiting to see if it is obvious to everyone else. It is.
Last night, SoFAB was filled with staff from the Windsor Court, young, hip couples, writers, a mother and her daughter. The crowd turned out to be rather varied. This brought me to a realization. Cinq a Sept at SoFAB is so cool because this notion is not only realized by one group of people. It seems that people from many groups have picked up on how great it is.
If you haven't made it yet, I encourage you to check the events section on our website. Even better, instead of paying museum admission for each event, become a museum member ($50/individual or $75/(you and 3 of your friends)) and come every Tuesday for free.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
September 8, 2008
While on Hurricane Hiatus – Discovering the Scuppernong
While evacuated to Monroeville to avoid Hurricane Gustav, I was “forced” to try several of the local delicacies – caramel cake, chocolate pie, and one of the foods mentioned in To Kill A Mockingbird that I did not comprehend – the scuppernong. We found them in all the grocery stores.
A scuppernong is a large type of grape that is native to the Southeastern United States. It’s named after the Scuppernong River in North Carolina, where it was originally cultivated in the 17th century. In fact, the scuppernong is the state fruit of North Carolina.
Some history: The earliest written account of the scuppernong occurs in the logbook of Giovanni de Verrazzano, a Florentine navigator who explored the Cape Fear River Valley for France in 1524. In 1584, Sir Walter Raleigh’s explorers wrote that the coast f North Carolina was “so full of grapes as the very beating and surge of the sea overflowed them . . . in all the world, the like abundance is not to be found.”
The scuppernong is a member of the muscadine family of grapes. When ripe, it has a greenish or bronze color. The grape has four parts: the outer skin; the pulp or “meat”; the seeds; and juice. The skin is very thick and tart. The pulp is sweet. Each grape has several small green seeds. The most desired part of the scuppernong is the sweet juice that lies underneath its skin.
Scuppernong grapes contain roughly 95-100 calories per cup. Scuppernongs are high in Vitamin C and contain potassium, vitamin B, and trace minerals. They are low in sodium and have no fat and cholesterol.
Besides To Kill A Mockingbird, scuppernongs figure prominently in William Faulkner’s novel Absalom, Absalom!
When I saw the package labeled “scuppernong,” I knew I had to try them. The skin is tough to negotiate – most people peel it away, then dig out the seeds, and go straight for the meat. I thought the meat would be sour, but it surprised me. It is sweet and quite tasty. People in the area make scuppernong pies. In fact, we entertained the idea of making one of these pies ourselves, but the time had come to return to New Orleans and the task of cleaning up.
If I had been thinking, I would have brought back a few packages in one of the many coolers I had lugged along for the evacuation.
September 4, 2008
Of All Places to Evacuate – Monroeville, Alabama
When Hurricane Gustav appeared on the Gulf horizon, little did I know that I would be heading to the very city that served as the inspiration for To Kill A Mockingbird.
It was the idea of my friend and fellow dog park companion Harriett Swift who grew up in Monroeville. Her cousin Jane-Ellen runs the tourism activities of the county (Monroe, of course) and has an office in the courthouse. Just a few steps from her office is the spectacular courtroom that served as the model for both the book and the movie.
The courtroom is kept in pristine condition. When you are in it, you cannot help but envision the courtroom scenes from the novel.
There are two rooms outside the courtroom. One is a gallery that is devoted to Harper Lee and To Kill A Mockingbird. The second gallery is devoted to another former citizen of Monroeville – the tiny terror who would become known as Truman Capote. Each exhibition provides some great photos of the two authors as well as information about their contributions to American literature and their relationships to their Alabama home.
Despite all the literature history, there is a certain eerie feeling for an avid reader on a pilgrimage to Monroeville. After all, Harper Lee is still alive and living a few blocks away from the town square. She’s 82 years of age, has recently had a stroke, and now lives in an assisted living facility.
Lee casts a long shadow over the town. Several businesses have “mockingbird” in their title, including a great eatery called the Mockingbird Café, recently re-opened after some unknown event. A mockingbird mural appears on a car dealership. There are other references.
Leaving your home because a hurricane is bearing down on it is an unpleasant feeling – what an understatement. Going to a place where history has been recorded was a welcome though brief respite.
I have a strange feeling I will return to Monroeville, Alabama.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
A Lesson in Longevity -- Twinkies
To Kill A Mockingbird is set in a tumultuous time in American history – the Great Depression. The book ends in 1935 when Scout Finch is roughly nine years of age.
If you’ve been reading this blog, you know there is plenty of food mentioned in the book, but off the page, in the real world, quite a bit was happening in the realm of food – many new inventions, technologies and policies.
One of those technological innovations was the Twinkie!
Twinkies, produced by The Continental Baking Company in Indianapolis, were born in 1930 and they were quite different from the ones we know today. The original version was a cream-filled strawberry shortcake. They were produced only when strawberries were in season.
One of the bakers came up with an idea to create a banana filling. The along came World War II and a banana shortage, so the banana filling became vanilla, which is closer to the version of today.
The eggs, milk and butter in early Twinkies gave them a shelf life of only two days. The original Twinkies sold for a nickel, and they were popular. Store shelves had to be replenished every other day, but the practice was expensive. So, the need for a longer shelf life led to many changes in the Twinkie recipe. Mostly because of packaging, today’s Twinkies have a shelf life of about 25 days.
Many myths have sprung up around the Twinkie's longevity, claiming that it stays fresh for decades, would survive a nuclear war, and that the company is still selling off the original batch made in 1930. None are true, but this one is: Twinkies get their name from a product manufactured and sold in 1930 – Twinkle-Toe Shoes.
Celebration? Time for a Lane Cake
Lane cake is mentioned several times in To Kill A Mockingbird, especially when there is a special occasion to celebrate.
Miss Maudie is the cook who makes Lane Cakes. In fact, in chapter five, she is mentioned as making “the best cakes in the neighborhood.”
In chapter eight, Miss Maudie’s house burns but she surprises Scout when she announces she will make a Lane Cake and give it to her neighbor Mr. Avery for his help in fighting the fire.
In chapter 13, when Aunt Alexandra arrives to stay with the Finches, Miss Maudie made a Lane cake to honor her arrival.
In chapter 22, Miss Stephanie pesters Jem, Scout and Dill about the trial but Miss Stephanie distracts them by asking them to her porch for cake.
Other cakes are mentioned too, such as angel food and pound cake, but Lane Cake is mentioned most often.
Lane cake is a symbol of the South
The first recipe for Lane Cake was first printed in Some Good Things to Eat, by Mrs. Emma Rylander Lane, which she published in 1898. It was originally called Prize cake because it place first in a baking contest at a county fair in Columbus, Georgia, where Mrs. Lane was demonstrating ranges.
Lane Cakes look simple from the outside but there is more to this cake than meets the eye. Lane Cakes generally are considered by many to be difficult to make due to the complicated preparations and multiple ingredients.
A traditional Lane Cake is a white cake, a type of sponge cake, made in layers. It has four layers separated by filling. Each layer is supposed to be made in a pie tins instead of cake pans, making each layer smaller. The layers have different ingredients, making the cake unique – and more labor intensive. For example, cocoanut, dried fruit, and nuts are common additions, but they are not included in the original recipe.
The outside usually has a white frosting made of water, sugar, and whipped egg white. It has a filling of butter, raisins, and whiskey. Each layer has different ingredients. For example, one layer may have pecans and coconut, the next layer almonds and raisins. The recipe has been modified many times through the years.
Miss Maudie prized her Lane Cake recipe. When her house burns and she is forced to move to Miss Stephanie’s house, she says: “Soon as I can get my hands clean and when Stephanie Crawford’s not looking, I’ll make him a Lane cake. That Stephanie’s been after my recipe for thirty years, and if she thinks I’ll give it to her just because I’m staying with her she’s got another thing coming.”
Stephanie had to wait, but you don’t. If you want to try to make Lane Cake, you can find all kinds of recipes on the internet.
Cameron Gamble will read Mockingbird on WRBH
One of the most delightful events to be created as part of The Big Read NOLA has been the partnership with WRBH, Radio for the Blind.
It was so easy. A phone call was placed, a meeting was convened, and WRBH folks explained what could and could not happen. In less than 30 minutes, WRBH employees had a plan in place to bring an American classic to local airwaves.
Many thousands of people will benefit from their leadership.
Beginning Sept. 1, local lawyer Cameron Gamble will read the book. The readings will occur daily, Monday through Fridays at 2 pm, and they will repeat at 8 p.m. each night. Each half-hour segment amounts to about 12-14 pages, meaning that the book will be completed in about 25 installments.
WRBH also will air The Great Gatsby, The Big Read book selected by FaulknerFest and the Jefferson Parish Public Library.
The people at WRBH “get it.” They were a joy to work with. If we apply again next year, and get an award, they’ll be the first people I call.
Food in To Kill A Mockingbird
If you are looking for a snapshot of food consumed in the American South during the Great Depression, all you have to do is read To Kill A Mockingbird.
Page after page, there are references to food and drink, meals and tea parties, desserts and oral medications, etiquette and intrigue – all around the kitchen or dining room table.
There are more than 50 foods mentioned in the book, including – pretty much in order – the following: Ice, wheat and flour; collard patch; crackling bread; hickory nuts; turnip greens; potatoes; scuppernongs; fried chicken; lemonade; pound cake; ice cream; Lane Cake; sugar; ham; summer vegetables; peach pickles; Ambrosia; biscuits and butter; coffee; cornbread; pork and beans; lemon drops; cherry wine; whiskey; eggs; biscuits and syrup; chicken; fried pork chops; Coca-cola; sardines; crackers; Nehi cola; bacon; squirrel; possum; rabbit; pecans; milk; potato salad; salt pork; beans; rolls; tomatoes; pickled pigs’ knuckles; Tootsie rolls; Charlotte; dewberry tarts; cookies; divinity; apples; taffy; and angel food cake
Some foods are mentioned in a generic manner, such as “sandwiches,” “three kinds of meat,” “two kinds of cake,” “hock of the ham,” etc.
There is also a reference early in the book to “chocolate malted mice” which are not for people at all. This “delicacy” is part of a story read to the class by Miss Caroline in which Mrs. Cat calls the drugstore to place an order for chocolate malted mice.
There also are two references to medicines that are taken orally: calomel and asafoetida.
There are three products mentioned by brand name: Coca-Cola; Nehi Cola; and Tootsie Rolls.
But it is not the mere mention of food that contributes to the book’s greatness or unique Southern perspective. Instead, it is way that food, drink, eating, meals, and parties help move the plot on its way and illustrate the great points of the story.
For example, early in the book, Scout and Jem invite a classmate home for lunch and Scout gets a major lesson in life when she makes fun of their guest for something (food-related) that he does. It’s a classic scene that illustrates the concept Atticus imbues in his children: “you can never know another person until you walk in his shoes.”
An emotional scene at the end of the book occurs when Atticus is thanked for his attempt to defend Tom Robinson, a task he performs for no money. He awakes one morning to find that his back porch is covered with food that townspeople have brought in gratitude.
And then, of course, there is the climactic scene at the end of the book in which Scout is dressed as a ham.
Part of the charm in reading Mockingbird for me was all the references to food. But when you think about it, a book in itself is food for the brain.
Monday, September 8, 2008
So I ended up outside Birmingham AL in my evacuation from Gustave, which was lovely. Pretty rolling hills, cheap BBQ and tea with so much sugar you could stand a spoon in it. Anyway, I decided to try and keep some semblance of normalcy among all the trashy lit reading and beer I mean tea sipping, so I contacted my friend Donna Florio who is the Senior Food Editor at Southern Living to see if I could come visit and do....something. She said sure and on Wednesday I headed up to Southern Progress, the home of Southern Living, Coastal Living and Cottage Living. I picked a great day. The recipe testers were sampling about 20 different dishes, from coleslaw to grilled pork to some tasty brownies. I got to taste everything and even put in my two cents about adding buttermilk to a soup instead of cream. The voting system was pretty straightforward. All the editors and recipe developers voted by raising their hands, giving a number on a scale of 1-2. A recipe that still needs some work gets a 1.5; a 2 is a solid recipe; a 2.5 is very good; and a 3 is outstanding. It was interesting to listen to the various critiques, especially listening the the various criteria: family friendly, kid friendly, an "interesting application" which meant a new use for a predictable food like broccoli. After all the sampling and voting, Donna introduced me to everyone and I talked about the museum, our mission, several of the projects we are working on and how everyone could help support us, whether through our Menu Project or in other ways. Everyone was really thrilled to hear about the museum and promised to come visit the next time they were in town. It was a tasty day.
Posted by Elizabeth Pearce at 1:20 PM
Friday, September 5, 2008
SoFAB is open for business. Gustav turned out to be a hiccup for the city of New Orleans. Our sympathy and concern go out for all of those who were seriously affected by the storm. But this time I would like to let everyone know that we were prepared. All of the books and artifacts and papers that we have been given are safe and sound. Once again, I would like to take the opportunity to thank all of you who have donated books, artifacts and papers to us. We are able to claim to be a maturing organization because of your support.
Since I only made a brief mention of it in a previous blog, I would also like to thank the four chefs who represented New Orleans at the special event in Medellin, Colombia - Otro Sabor. These chefs represented the best of the city as Medellin celebrated its African roots. New Orleans cuisine is a close relative of the food in Medellin, including red beans and rice. The chefs were Saundra Green of Creole Delicacies, Kevin Belton of Lil Dizzy's, Chef Alfred Singleton, Chef de Cuisine for Dickie Brennan & Co, and Kamili Magee Hemphill. All of them were brilliant and they worked tirelessly to feed the thousands of people who ate gumbo, jambalaya, etoufee and bisque for the first time.
Sunday, August 31, 2008
Earlier this week Elizabeth Pearce, Senior Curator, and I returned from a week in Medellin, Colombia. I had anticipated writing about how lovely the people were. How we learned so much about Afro-Caribbean connections all over the southern US and the islands and coast of South America. Beans and rice and seafood are everywhere.
But instead of emphasizing this wonderful connection, I am instead writing to reassure everyone that all is secure in light of the threat of Gustav. Of course, it is impossible to promise that something unanticipated and unpredictable won't occur. But I think that we are as prepared as can be and with a disaster plan as much in place as possible.
Thanks to all of you who have written to inquire after our safety and readiness. We look forward to next week's programs, the continuation of the BIG READ and the return to normalcy. I hope that all of you are well and safe. Thanks for remembering SoFAB.
Posted by Liz Williams at 2:10 PM
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
I Read the Book -- Now I'm Singing Like a Mockingbird
Nobody told me about To Kill A Mockingbird. I assumed it was good, but I didn’t realize it would be one of the best books I’d read in quite some time.
Also, the book wasn’t required reading where I grew up. I knew about the movie, but I’d only bits and pieces, enough to get the gist. Therefore, Mockingbird – no matter what it’s incarnation – just wasn’t on my radar screen.
I finally read the classic novel because the Southern Food and Beverage Museum teamed up with the New Orleans Public Library to apply for a grant with The Big Read, a program that encourages literacy and reading. It’s sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and Arts Midwest.
As the person designated to plan the museum’s events, I had that obligatory sense of responsibility to at least read the book, or at least skim it quickly. While shopping at a local Barnes & Noble, I picked up a copy. I splurged and bought the hardback version because I thought I needed a sturdy copy – one that I could mark up, use for reference, take to meetings.
I started to read the book on a Friday night and had completed it by Sunday noon. It would have taken less time but I had weekend errands to run. Even after only five pages, I knew it was going to be one of those books, the one that fit under the category of “I couldn’t put it down.”
In retrospect, I don’t know why I waited so long to read this great novel. In the past few weeks, I’ve recommended Harper Lee's tale to everyone I know. Nobody told me, but I am making it my duty to tell the world.
Welcome to my To Kill A Mockingbird blog.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
As Liz and Elizabeth attend a conference in Medellin, Colombia, I am at the museum. Sure, Colombia sounds good. Well, actually, it sounds amazing and I would love to be there. But, I also enjoy the little things that fall on my shoulders, the ones that would normally fall on someone else's shoulders.
Today, I gave a talk to Newcomb freshman. Since I once was a freshman at Newcomb and new to this city, I appreciated the opportunity to relive the past a little. During my presentation, one girl asked, "What's a poboy?" Fair question if you've never had one. Several had come from the north and had never had the delight that is an oyster from the Gulf. Oysters from cold waters have a clearer liquid and a brininess to them. Oysters from the Gulf grow in much warmer waters, giving them a creaminess and fattiness. Everything is new to them!
It would be amazing to try a poboy again for the first time or stare down into the mysteriousness that is etouffee. Reliving things this way makes you want to grab them all by the hand and take them to all of your favorite places and to tell them what the best things on the menu are. Instead, I followed a tradition and treated the museum as my home. (Sometimes it feels that way, anyway) For Cajuns, 19th centery etiquette required them to serve guests coffee, no matter the circumstances. Sometimes a bite to eat as well. Before work this morning, I made them white chocolate bread pudding and chicory coffee.
It was quite a pleasure to see a group of newcomers try these things that have become so normal to me.
Posted by Stephanie Carter at 3:41 PM
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Now that we are open, opportunity keeps knocking - a collaboration in Medellin, Colombia, podcasting, new exhibits - while we have to keep operating. This is exciting, but crazy-making. I am trying to decide whether we are a spinning top: something that is kept in balance by outside forces caused by the spinning or whether we are a gyroscope: something that is in intrinsic balance despite outside forces. The jury is still out.
Yet, despite this feeling of controlled chaos, (or perhaps because of it, I admit), the future seems very bright. We have assembled a remarkable staff, both paid and volunteer. We have the support and interest of a terrific board. We are deepening the exhibits and planning for very strong future exhibits. Our library continues to grow. Our partnerships with l'Institut du Gout and other institutions are expanding. Our work with children is also growing.
I look at it all in wonder. It must be a gyroscope that is at the center of all of this activity. It will keep our activities balanced as we go forward.
Friday, August 8, 2008
I spent 2 weeks in Mexico and ate lots of things I cannot spell. I also surprised myself by not thinking about the museum much. Well, not at the beach. Once I arrived in Mexico City, (or DF as many locals say, for Distrito Federal, something I'm also sure I misspelled) I was back on the clock. I met up with Ruth Alegria who leader of the Slow Food Convivium in Condesa/Roma ( a cool neighborhood just outside of the Centro) and is the IACP coordinator there, as well as Nicholas Gilman who is working on a second edition of his "Good Food in Mexico City" (my bible there) and Nick's partner Jim Johnston who recently penned "Mexico City: An Opinionated Guide for the Curious Traveler" (my other bible. you can have two, yes?). All three were so hospitable and fed me well. While there, I met with Azucena Suarez de Miguel, the Director of the Fundacion Herdez, which in addition to being a large international food company (yep, it's that salsa you buy) also runs a food museum downtown. We had a great meeting and I hope we are able to partner with them sometime in the future on an exhibit or conference. I can home tan, rested and full of ideas of how to embark on our global food empire building, I mean partnership building. And full of tacos al pastor, too. Which, now that I think about it, is just as satisfying.
Posted by Elizabeth Pearce at 1:43 PM
Friday, August 1, 2008
Today, kids' summer camp came to a close at SoFab. On Tuesday, we made egg salad sandwiches and ate grapes for a snack. One child, who "LOVES" grapes, tapped me on the arm and handed me two green grapes between two pieces of bread. He said, "Grape sandwich."
Cooking is about creation, self-expression, and sharing. For the camper, this took the form of a grape sandwich. And, it isn't really that different from my sister's roommate, who, upon realizing he had not purchased enough apples for the apple pie he had spent the day creating, substituted potatoes for apples so that he could still share it. (Hmmm.) And my sister's roommate is not that different from all of the professional chefs who have made misguided decisions in the name of creativity and expression.
So many people say they do not cook because they are too worried that it will come out all wrong. Even if these things taste a bit... um...well... questionable, at least they were attempted. It makes me glad there are grape sandwiches in the world.
Monday, July 28, 2008
I am jet-lagged, but very happy to be home. Having been away, I have lots of ideas, many stolen while on my trip, and lots of enthusiasm. I returned to a smoothly running machine. The Museum of the American Cocktail opened, so now the experience of visiting SoFAB includes MOTAC. That is a richer experience.
We are busily preparing plans for new exhibits as the current ones begin to cycle. I guess that we will never again be opening all of our exhibits at the same time. Our participation in The Big Read project, reading To Kill a Mockingbird, is really developing. Our own website, bigreadnola, is established and developing.
We are also working on a food and music series that will be beginning in September. More on that as it enfolds.
All of this while we continue to expand our library, collect menus, expand our collections of artifacts and archives, hold camp, expand the newsletter and do so much more. We are on our way to being a serious institution. I hope that you will continue to walk with us on this journey.
Posted by Liz Williams at 3:44 AM
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
This is my last day in France. We leave tomorrow morning. I have made many connections and new friends, as well as cemented relationships for SoFAB. One new relationship is with the Musee Escoffier de l'Art Culinaire in Villeneuve-Loubet. The museum is located in Escoffier's childhood home and holds mementos and other artifacts connected with this famous chef. The notebooks, the menus, the recipe notes, his tools, etc. Besides learning more about him, I was interested to see how things were displayed and how intimate the museum permitted the visitor to be with the materials.
This initimacy with the exhibits has been a serious lesson learned here in France. Even in the largest museums, the exhibits seem within reach and very human. It is a lesson that I hope that we can translate into our own exhibits at SoFAB.
I look forward to getting home, sharing more things that have been learned, and I want to start attending those fabulous programs that I have been reading about. I know I have really missed a lot.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
If you haven't made it to any of our weekend events, you are missing out. I didn't make it to our shrimp and grits demo this past weekend, and I am positive that I missed out. We also had a presentation and demonstration of oil and vinegar infusions two weeks ago. Every one took home beautiful bottles of, what should have become by now, strawberry vinegar and rosemary oil. We learned that blanching green herbs and adding a bit of parsley to the mix will make the oil vibrant green. We talked about curry oil, guajillo chile oil, and a carrot oil emulsion.
We are extremely happy that this Saturday at 2 p.m., IAN MCNULTY will be here to sign his book, "A Season of Night: New Orleans Life After Katrina."
The cost is only the price of admission to the museum. Of course, a membership will allow you to attend all of these events for free. And that way, you won't have to regret missing delicious, informative events at SoFAB. Maybe, I can talk Wesley into a sequal to the shrimp and grits demo...
Sunday, July 20, 2008
This will be quick post from the Route National in France. Tonight we will sleep in Montpellier and begin the classes in gout. But I have tasted the tastes of the Cote d'Azur and Provence. I have obviously not mastered the international keyboard. I have seen people make huge pans of ratatouille, seen fields of sunflowers and much more. I will share more when I return.
Posted by Liz Williams at 12:48 AM
Thursday, July 17, 2008
A few weeks ago, I left work feeling like I should take my laptop home with me and just keep working. How in the hell would I ever get caught up? Then Liz told me to accept the fact that I would never, never, ever get "caught up" and if I did, it would mean my job was over. You would think that would be daunting advice, but actually it was kind of liberating. Now I don't look at the whole pile. I look at each piece and I can now honestly say: Every day it's just getting better.
We reprinted the wrinkled panels. We only have a few typos left to fix. I filled out some holes in the captions department. More people keep volunteering every day (though still not enough, come on folks, sign up!). Stephanie has filled in programming till November. I just wrote the "Kid's Scavenger Hunt" and am going to have a dry run of it with the kids at camp. The gift shop is really filling out. People keep writing nice things in the guest book. The Museum of the American Cocktail is open. I've left work each day this week and actually felt like I made a dent in the looming, towering pile of "THINGS TO DO". Progress. Satisfying progress. Unfamiliar. Feels nice.
Posted by Elizabeth Pearce at 4:09 PM
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
There is so much exciting going on with SoFAB that it is hard to keep it straight. The Museum of the American Cocktail (MOTAC) will be opening very soon (July 21), I will be traveling to Montpellier, France next week to study at the Institut du Gout, and we have begun programming on a regular basis. Starting this Sunday there will be something happening at SoFAB every week-end. This week-end our own chef-educator, Stephanie Carter, will be demonstrating flavored oils and vinegars. What a great way to use those herbs that are overgrowing in our gardens. The demonstration is free with admission to the museum. There is no charge to members.
If you have paid for your membership and haven't received your card, please ask at the desk.
Please join us as we develop into a mature institution with layers of meaning and complexity.
Thursday, July 3, 2008
So I come to work every day and look around at all the things I need to attend to. The cabbages that are starting to wilt. The several dozen new emails taking the place of the four I managed to answer the day before. Fixing typos. Making new captions for new artifacts. Making coffee and tea for our tasting exhibit. Writing proposals for exhibit funding. For visitor funding. For me funding. And sometimes I get cranky. Why bother even cutting the head off this Hydra? I'm never going to be "caught up." I bit off too much and no matter how much I keep chewing, the metaphorical bite of po-boy just keeps growing and growing. And then I read the guest book. I'd forgotten we even had one. And I read things like "Great Job!" "Great Start" "I learned so much!" The unchecked use of exclamation marks usually drives me crazy, but in this instance, it made me smile. Then I got an email from a woman coming from the West Coast who is bringing people to work for Habitat for Humanity and wants to help us out while she is here. And she said "I think the work you are doing is underrated and amazing." Underrated and amazing. Yep, I think I'll just chew on that for a while.
Posted by Elizabeth Pearce at 3:26 PM
Friday, June 27, 2008
This past week we have been able to make improvements and fix things that were not perfect for our opening. Little details that had not been attended to, burned out light bulbs, typos on labels, and signage that we realize that we need, but had not anticipated. There is nothing like a grand opening to force you to finish things, make decisions and make do. Now we are in a position to make things better, deeper and even more interesting.
Our library plans are also becoming more elaborate, as our library grows and more people are looking forward to volunteering with us. Special thanks are owed to Ten Speed Press for its very generous donation of boxes and boxes of books, all of which make important additions to our library.
In New Orleans author, Elli Morris, will be discussing her book, author of Cooling the South The Block Ice Era, 1875-1975 will be doing a reading and signing of her book on Saturday, June 28 at 11am in the auditorium at the Main Library, 219 Loyola Avenue.
Look for big improvements in our July newsletter as we continue to make the Southern Food and Beverage Museum better and better.
Posted by Liz Williams at 8:25 PM
Monday, June 23, 2008
Last week, a couple in their early twenties arrived at the museum, jovially arguing about who would pay for the other's admission. Apparently, they'd spent a successful morning at the casino and had decided to celebrate by...wait...can you guess? Visiting the Southern Food and Beverage Museum. Instead of a nice lunch, or a cold beer, they headed straight to the museum.
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Getting the museum open was exhausting and exhilarating. I thought that once we were open, I could get "caught up" on bills, laundry, seeing friends, you know, the other part of my life. No dice. I was still coming home to dogs that looked at me querying "Who are you, again?" but whenever I mentioned this to friends and they would ask why I was so busy, I had to fess up. "Um, I have this cocktail party to go to at Liz's for Jacques Puisais. I'm bringing cheese straws." followed by "Oh, yeah, and then there's this dinner at the Ritz," and then the next day "OMG the Louis XV was AWESOME and then I danced with Mr. Puisais," to explain why I was zonked out. There I was, eating a delicious meal for work. Ah, hard, hard work.
And it is good that these kinds of moments and days and weeks happen. Maybe not so good for the liver, but the perks, they rock. But I gotta tell you what the biggest perk is: other people getting excited about the museum who don't have to. Mr Puisais was really impressed. His visit was followed by the volunteer meeting where people I do not know (not friends strong-armed into showing up) arrived early on a Saturday morning to tell me they planned on helping make sure this museum succeeded FOR FREE. Their presence merely echoed the support and encouragement we have received over the last 4 years, nudging us along in this quest to build this institution. And if I had to, I'd trade all the booze, cheese and chocolate for that kind of aid. But luckily, I don't have to. Yep, it's a hard hard life....
Sunday, June 15, 2008
On Saturday afternoon (yesterday) Jacques Puisais, the famous oenophile and founder of the Institute of Taste in Paris, spoke at SoFAB. Appropriately, he spoke in the Tasting Room. He talked about the personal experience that is taste and the fact that until you put something in your mouth, taste is only potential. Puisais is in his eighties and has devoted a great deal of his career as a scientist (he holds a PhD in chemistry) to the development of the theory of taste. It is fascinating to hear an intellectual presentation of taste. Like a discussion of art, music or literature, taste has an emotional component and an intellectual one. We seldom examine the intellectual side.
If you are looking for a chance to hear Jacques Puisais discuss his theories in an entertaining venue while eating and drinking a menu that he has prepared, I recommend the dinner at the Ritz Carlton on Thursday. He will take over the restaurant, Melange, and present an opportunity to think about the pleasures of the table. See you there!
Monday, June 9, 2008
For the past 8 years, I have been working toward creating a career in the food world that didn't involve cooking at all or writing too much but did allow me to eat and visit. For the past 4 years, I have worked specifically on getting this museum open and promoting its mission. And in that time, my one constant was pushing to find a space and get that space fit for display. All fundraising, all collecting, all PR, was geared to this overarching goal: Get Open.
And now? Well, now all we have to do is run it. And grow it. The last 6 weeks have been quite a ride. Lots of learning as we went. Everyone managing to still be polite to each other even after we had been in each others' company for 12 hours at a time. Everyone being scrappy and resourceful to stay under budget but still turn out quality work. Some frustration. Some elation. And soon, I hope, some vacation. The gala was such a delight or as Dr. John might say, Such a Night, and at the opening ceremony, I actually cried a bit. It was overwhelming and many friends who have been listening to me talk about this new life of mine for 8 years asked me what it felt like to have a dream come true. And I'm not sure. But while I am deciding, we are sorting out our plans. Programming. A children's room. Speakers. Demonstrations. Collecting. Cataloging. And maybe even some regular blogging. Come visit. Come volunteer (no really, I mean it. We need you). Donate some stuff or some money or your time.
I slept 11 hours for each of the past 2 nights, a sign my body was not only resting from some hard work. but storing up energy for what I know will be an even bigger task: The new normal. The open normal. It's not a dream; it's just the beginning.
Sunday, June 8, 2008
Well, it has finally happened. We are open. No more vague posts about what might be. We are here. I hope to post a few times about our exhibits, spotlighting important things. And then, you will find me talking about new plans.
But first let me tell you about the wonderful St. Joseph Day altar that forms a part of the Louisiana gallery. The altar was designed and conceived by Sandra Scalise Juneau, an expert on the religious and historical significance of the altar. Although the food on the altar is faux, produced by SoFAB Board member, chef and artist, Nora Wetzel (and friends), it looks real enough to eat. We are fortunate to have these talented women working to ensure accuracy and to support SoFAB. The altar is sponsored by Boscoli Foods and we thank them for their generosity.
Come visit the altar now, instead of waiting for St. Joseph's Day, to see the manifestation of tradition and belief.
Monday, May 26, 2008
Join us on Thursday, June 5. This is going to be quite a party. Board Members, Regina Charboneau of Twin Oaks Plantation in Natchez, Mississippi, Louis Osteen of Louis's in Pawley's Island, South Carolina, and Jeff Tunks with Acadiana in Washington D.C. will join these local culinary institutions in support of SoFAB:
Angelo Brocato's Italian Ice Creams and Italian Desserts
Ba Mien, New Orleans East, sponsored by Seedco Financial
John Besh of the Besh Restaurant Group
Darin Nesbit of Bourbon House
Stephen Stryjewski of Cochon
Tory McPhail, Commander's Palace
Jack Martinez of Dickie Brennan's Steakhouse
Leah Chase of Dooky Chase
Donald Link of Herbsaint
Paul Prudhomme, K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen
Ben Thibodeaux of Palace Café
Justin Kennedy of Parkway Bakery
Haley Bitterman of Ralph's on the Park
Roman Candy Company
Justin Pittenger of 7 on Fulton
Jo Ann Clevenger of Upperline
Kerry Seaton of Willie Mae's Scotch House
Legendary talent also extends to the bar. Classic southern cocktails including the Sazerac, Mint Julep, French 75, Pimm's Cup, and Brandy Milk Punch will be served by some of the best bar tenders in the city: Café Adelaide's Lu Brow, Chris McMillan of the Renaissance Pere Marquette Hotel, and Chris Hannah of Arnaud's. They will set the tone for the Museum of the American Cocktail at SoFAB. That wing of SoFAB officially opens July 08. The Sazerac Bar is sponsored by Tales of the Cocktail. Abita will have an array of beers available, and Mountain Valley Spring Water will be poured. Wine & softdrinks will also be served.
The Sponsor Reception is at 6:00 pm, and the Supporter Party is from 7:00 pm until 9:00 pm. Sponsor tickets are $125 per person and Supporter tickets are $60 per person.
Posted by Liz Williams at 7:40 PM
Sunday, May 18, 2008
There is nothing more important than planting a seed. Laura Martin Bacon is planting seeds. And SoFAB is reaping what she has sown.
Many people have been generous about helping SoFAB rebuild our library which was largely turned to pulp by the flood waters after Hurricane Katrina. It was Chris Smith, our Collections Manager, acting on advice from librarian friends, who first began circulating the request for books in library circles. The librarians and libraries, especially the Arkansas State Library, were generous.
Then IACP , through the give-back committee, dispensed the idea that SoFAB would benefit from donations of cookbooks from its members, who were having their annual conference in New Orleans. The idea was refined further as SoFAB promised to inventory the donations and to further dispense those duplicate books to other local libraries and appropriate organization who had also lost their cookbooks after Katrina.
After the IACP conference, which Laura Martin Bacon attended, Laura began writing to key blogs and listserves for writers and readers about SoFAB's need to rebuild its collection. She has planted a seed in the entire United States. From her seeds the blogging world has relayed the message time and time again. I know that if I try to list them that I will leave some out. Newspapers in California have picked up the story further carrying seeds in the wind. Every time I see a box of these books come in, which is almost every day, I know that I have to thank the donor, but I also have to thank Chris, and the IACP give-back committee, and I have to thank that dynamo of passion and good will: Laura.
Thanks to you all soon the citizens of New Orleans - and SoFAB - will have a working, stocked library of cookbooks. For New Orleans is a city of cooks and cookbooks are not only read, but used. We appreciate it.
Monday, May 12, 2008
This summer thanks to the generosity of the Emeril Lagasse Foundation SoFAB is able to offer an expanded version of our culinary camp. This summer we will have six weeks of camp for second, third and fourth graders in Orleans Parish and surrounding parish public schools. In addition to the campers we will be welcoming Junior Counselors from local middle and high schools.
Last summer we had great fun making peanut butter, bread, cooking Bananas Foster and making pizza. This year there will be more activities, because we will be at our home at the Riverwalk. We will incorporate the exhibits into our culinary activities.
If you are interested in enrolling your child or volunteering, please contact us at email@example.com.
Saturday, May 3, 2008
IACP was such a full week and I think my favorite part was the great responses I received about our SOFAB Menu Project. Every group of people I talked to immediately started talking about the Cajun, Creole, Soul Food or other Southern restaurant in their neck of the woods. I learned there is even a Creole restaurant in Oslo, called Storyville. Over and over I met people who were excited about the museum and happy that they could offer something from their home to help us create our collection.
In particular, I met many people willing to help at the Chef Jam fundraiser. What a great night? Fantastic food from all of Emeril's restaurants and a demo from the man himself. Music from Harry Marrone, but also from a band put together of chefs, mostly from the Bethleham, PA area who all generously donated their time and talent to provide entertainment. Janet Cabot and Martha Torres worked so hard to ensure the event was successful and many people told me afterward that it was one of the best Culinary Trust events they had ever attended. It's so affirming to have people willing to work hard to help our museum get off the ground.
I am hopeful that many of the connections we made will lead to partnerships in the future. Who knows what can happen?!
Posted by Elizabeth Pearce at 6:53 AM
Saturday, April 26, 2008
Last week the conference of the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) ended. The group decided to hold their meeting in New Orleans in support of the city's recovery. Thanks to them for coming to New Orleans and letting the city do what it does best.
There were special tours - culinary and architectural - that kicked off the conference. Then on the Mississippi River there was a grand reception of heritage foods - shrimp, oysters, jambalaya, great New Orleans bread, gumbos, turducken, calas, Creole cream cheese and cochon du lait, just to name a few. Leah Chase and Chef John Folse were serving up delicacies. The Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry was on hand.
SoFAB showed off its space with a hard hat tour, which was well attended by the curious. We made friends for the city of New Orleans and for SoFAB throughout the conference. The IACP adopted SoFAB as one of the organizations that IACP would support. One form of support was Chef Jam, a fundraiser starring Emeril Lagasse, which was sponsored by the Culinary Trust. A great time was had by all. Another form of support has been a very generous outpouring of cookbooks that members of IACP have been sending to SoFAB.
Thanks to all of the generous IACP members, thanks to Emeril Lagasse and thanks to the Culinary Trust.
Posted by Liz Williams at 7:54 PM
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
wow. I haven't blogged in a month. ok, here goes. New York was great, though slightly chilly. I arrived Monday morning, and let me just say for the record that 6am flights are awful. I got some work done and that night I met with Christine Carroll of the Culinary Corps, Jamie Tiampo of Seefood media, Courtney Knapp at Martha Stewart and Meryl Rosofsky who just left my house at del'Anima, a restaurant where Jamie is a partner. Everything was delicious, especially the housemade pasta. I spent Tuesday morning at the Google Headquarters helping Jamie who was a guest chef there. He served this yummy butternut squash bisque with a crabmeat and fennel topping. I usually don't care for fennel, but this was delicious. Of course anything mixed with crabmeat usually goes down easy. It was accompanied by bacon and tarragon biscuits. also yummy, but again, anything with bacon...I actually participated in their program indirectly, since Jamie (from Vancouver) had little experience with making biscuits and since I honed my biscuit making expertise on my hurrication in Oxford, I assisted. They were light and bacony...not a bad way to begin a day. The Jamie and I schlepped over to the Astor Center for Wine and Spirits to prepare for the fundraiser. It was exciting to know it had sold out and the whole crew there really worked hard to ensure everything was in place. I visited all night and at the end of the evening, we got some new members and I got to meet Ray Sokolov, whose food history work I have been a fan of for some time. Susan Spicer of Bayona was on hand to do a demonstration and she coordinated all the delicious food, including the smoked duck with cashew nut butter, pepper jelly and red onions, also known as the best sandwich on the planet (according to my friend, Gavin). Late night finished with dandan noodles which yes, did burn my mouth but not in the way I'd expected. I spent the next day working on the Gumbo Project with Jamie, a book documenting the ingredients that go into gumbo, whose proceeds will benefit the museum and IACP Culinary Trust. That evening, I met with Meryl and her friend Tina who took me around the corner to Bonnie Slotnick's, who deals in antiquarian cookbooks. Soooooo nice to just look and laugh. Had a slice from Bleeker Street Pizza, voted by somebody as the best pizza in NY. Very crunchy crust. The adorable Eastern European behind the counter who flirted shamelessly with me didn't hurt, either. Off to see Patti Lupone in Gypsy. Yes she was very very very good. Sleep. Thursday I got to hand out with my friend, Neil, and I spent a whole day not talking about the museum. Then I headed out to Newark and spent the next 12 hours trying to get home. Ah, the modern wonders of air travel. got back in time for lunch with Betty Fussell and IACP, but I'll talk about that in my next post.
Friday, April 4, 2008
FRP has generously supported the new edition of Red Beans and Rice-ly Yours. The book looks wonderful. The cover is slick and attractive. The red bean logo graces every page. The text is red bean colored. A very nice upgrade of the booklet thanks to FRP. Many thanks.
Work continues on the museum. We have advanced to painting. Special installations have begun. We have begun printing and planning. Artifacts are being dusted off and prepared. We are putting together the details of the gala. In every way we are preparing for this exciting opening.
Please mark your calendars so that you can join us.
Posted by Liz Williams at 5:17 PM
Sunday, March 30, 2008
So I have a big week planned in New York next week and if you know of anyone who lives there, please pass on some info about the goings on...I will be assisting my friend Jamie Tiampo as he is guest chef at Google headquarters and after eating too much, then I will head over to the Astor Center where Doug Duda is having a fundraiser for us at the Astor Center for Wine and Spirits. Susan Spicer will be there, signing her new cookbook, Crescent City Cooking and dishes from her cookbook as well as some delicious wine and spirits will be available for the hungry. For tickets, you may visit http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/31233 for tickets. So that's Tuesday. On Wednesday, I will be teaching a class at the Culinary Center at the Whole Foods in the Bowery. It will be about sugar and I'll have teach recipes for pralines, candied citrus peels and bourbon balls. So I'll be busy. Hope to see you there.
Posted by Elizabeth Pearce at 5:25 PM
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
I am very happy to introduce two new members of the SoFAB Board: Rick Ellis, food stylist and food historian, and Tom Head, writer and consultant. These two gentlemen have long and successful credentials in the world of food and drink, and they are also generous of spirit. We are honored that they have decided to officially join our Board and lend their names and energies to our endeavor. Both of them are award-winning in their fields.
Construction continues at our museum space. Very soon, the actual installation of exhibits will begin. It is really exciting to be able to see the transformation into a museum. We will be sharing a photo very soon.
We can also share with you the exciting news that we have selected a SoFAB Store manager. He is Joe Sunseri. If you have products that you think belong in our museum store, please get in touch with us. We are making our selections for opening right now!
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Whenever I have company coming, I go into total Southern hostess mode. Well, sort of. I intend to make a strata or buy a king cake or at least have milk for coffee. I usually don't. In fact, while Meryl Rosofsky was here from the NYU Food Studies program working on her thesis which is about New Orleans food organizations and how they have contributed to the rebuilding of the city, I came dangerously close to running out of toilet paper. Martha Stewart I ain't. But I do know how to show people a good time. We hit Dick and Jenny's, Parkway Bakery and Tavern, Commander's, The Amite Oyster Festival, Middendorf's, Dickie Brennan's Bourbon House, Tipitina's, The Howlin Wolf and The Clover Grill. SOmewhere in there, Meryl actually interviewed people about her project. And she left yesterday and now Jamie Tiampo is on his way here, also from NY to scout out locations to photograph the ingredients in gumbo for a book to benefit the food museum, which will be shot by IACP food photographers. And he's staying here too. And nope, I still have nothing for breakfast (except the Babka from Russ and Daughters that Meryl brought me) though I did pick up some TP. Why am I writing this? Because the reason these guys are staying with me is because of work. I count them as friends, but also colleagues. I want to show them a good time, but I'm also still working as ambassador of New Orleans and want to make sure they leave able to talk about the food scene (and all the other scenes) as articulately and accurately as possible. And even though it's been hard to get the writing done I need to (like, um, this blog for instance) I keep reminding myself that when I'm slurping oysters, dancing the two step and knocking back I mean sipping Sazeracs, I am also working! Man my job is great.
Posted by Elizabeth Pearce at 12:04 PM
Thursday, March 13, 2008
We are being asked to speak about SoFAB now that our opening is imminent. June 7 is right around the corner and we are moving at warp speed. Recently I spoke about sugar at the Rural Life Museum in Baton Rouge, LA. Next week-end I will be moderating a panel at the Tennessee Williams Festival in New Orleans.
In April Elizabeth will be traveling to Memphis to install Restaurant/Restorative and to party in Memphis. She'll also be going to New York to go to the Astor Center and Whole Foods. I'll be attending the Invitation to the Southern Table in Natchez at Twin Oaks.
We are also beginning to receive requests to have parties and receptions in the new SoFAB. Keep those requests coming. We want to share with everyone.
If you want to volunteer - become a docent, help in construction, work on exhibits, do anything - please let us know. In any case, join now! We'll see you in June!
Friday, March 7, 2008
I can finally announce that real work - the kind that stirs up dust - has begun in our exhibit spaces. This week-end we will begin setting up the library and uncrating the artifacts that have been in storage, and really beginning to plan the flow of the museum. People are beginning to join - at our specially discounted pre-opening rate - and they are beginning to volunteer. It is so exciting to see all of our dreams for a fabulous institution materialized.
In addition to the tangible progress that we are experiencing, people in other cities in the South and out of the South are offering to help through fundraising parties and through opportunities for us to appear and speak. And books are coming into our library. And photographs and other documents are being offered for the archive. Menus continue to be collected.
And we are making international connections to France and England. We hope that these connections will grow and reach into other countries.
I can finally announce that real work - the kind that stirs up dust - has begun in our exhibit spaces. This week-end we will begin setting up the library and uncrating the artifacts that have been in storage, and really beginning to plan the flow of the museum. People are beginning to join - at our specially discounted rate pre-opening rate - and they are beginning to volunteer. It is so exciting to see all of our dreams for a fabulous institution materialized.
In addition to the tangible progress that we are experiencing, people in other cities in the South and out of the South are offering to help through fundraising parties and through opportunities for us to appear and speak. And books are coming into our library. And photographs and other documents are being offered for the archive. Menus continue to be collected.
And we are making international connections to France and England. We hope that these connections will grow and reach into other countries.
Thanks to all of you for your support, your ideas and your imagination.
Monday, March 3, 2008
I've been working on creating the Louisiana food exhibit, which is daunting and I am constantly reminded of what I haven't covered and then realize I can never cover it all and even if I could, it wouldn't all fit in the space and somehow that is comforting. Anyway, I am working on the Red Beans section and have consulted notes from a talk I gave at Satchmo Fest last summer on red beans where I served Louis Armstrong's recipe for red beans, and was remembering the experience. And questions from that talk got tangled up with talks I used to give at Hermann-Grima where I did hearth cooking demonstrations. And people would ask "Is that authentic?" and I wanted to ask them "For when? For whom?" Because even cooking over a hearth cannot be "authentic" when you store your cold ingredients in a refrigerator. But it especially cannot be authentic when you are a free white woman cooking in the 21st century and not an enslaved black woman you get to take the food home with you to your air-conditioned house when the volunteering is over instead of serving them to the family who owns you and then making something else for yourself over that same hot hearth.
And asking whether these beans taste like the beans Louis ate is impossible for me to answer, but I'd hazard to answer "Yes and No." Because with this type of cooking, one rarely follows a recipe exactly. And when you cook with sausage, every pot tastes differently because every link is different. But mainly, I think that every time we eat something, even if we make it the exact same way as our mother or grandfather or Louis Armstrong, if we were there to watch them do it, every time is different because our circumstances are different. Food tastes different if you are happy or sad or with friends or alone or sober or drunk or if the weather is lovely or hot or freezing or you are worried about paying your obscene Entergy bill or tax bill or are happy because you just got a raise. And that's why it's culture and that's why it's art and that's why we get to build a whole museum around it. Well, all we have to do is build it. Back to the beans...
Posted by Elizabeth Pearce at 5:51 PM
Thursday, February 28, 2008
Until now, we have been holding back on the process of opening. But now we can begin sharing. WE ARE ABOUT TO OPEN! Scream it from the rooftops. Our exhibits are exciting, people have been supportive. Now is the time for everyone to jump on board and join. We are offering a great bargain to those who join now. Your membership is good for one year from the time of opening, but if you join now you get a great discount. Since all Southerners appreciate a bargain, take a look.
We are also looking for products for our gift shop. Please let us know if you have a great Southern culinary product - food, linens, jewelry, anything. We want to include special items that represent the South.
If you have any artifacts, books or other materials that you no longer want, let us know. We are most willing recipients. People tell us that we'll be sorry, but that hasn't happened yet. We have located many treasures.
We look forward to seeing you on June 7, 2008 at the Riverwalk.
Posted by Liz Williams at 8:53 AM
Sunday, February 24, 2008
So every day I learn something new about my state. Like we had cowboys. And rice farmers are also crawfish farmers. And access to flour was expensive and rare for a long time. Even though there is a lot of administrative work in my day, I still get to research and read about my state and its history. I feel like I am getting the Master's that I've always wanted. Except without the debt. How lucky am I?
Posted by Elizabeth Pearce at 4:40 PM
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Tonight I received an email from Echoing Green . According to their website "Since 1987, Echoing Green has provided seed funding and support to nearly 450 social entrepreneurs with bold ideas for social change in order to launch groundbreaking organizations around the world." This email informed me I had been nominated as a participant in a leadership training session in New Orleans. Among the many skills I am promised to pick up at this session is the ability to "Transform enemies into allies, hatred into goodwill, and conflict into collaboration". Wow. I barely transform my laundry into clean, folded clothes. I wonder what kind of facility I'll have with transforming hatred....But really, though I am poking fun at the enemies part, I am heartened to know that Liz (that's who reccomended me) thinks that I am a "compelling, emerging leader in the New Orleans community." And as my composition students might say "It made me think."
It made me think, or rather reminded me, that this work that I am doing:writing summaries of rice production in Louisiana, figuring out how to create a paper mache ox to pull a plow that has been donated to us, creating collages of menus we have collected over time and giving lectures about the Menu Project, pestering people for money and artifact donations, talking with food anthropologists on the phone for over an hour about flour distribution west of the Atchafalaya Basin prior to railroads, and asking my mom and step-father to be on call to help paint our space if necessary...all of these individual tasks, some silly, some tiresome, some fascinating are small pieces in this giant tinker toy of an institution that Liz and I have been assembling stick by stick and now it's finally starting to look like a building.
I have always know that this institution will draw people's attention to the city, put New Orleans in the news in a positive way, encourage people to come here and visit and spend their money and go home and tell people what a great time they had and what all they learned about Southern food. And as a lover of this city, these are important attributes. But I am finally learning to look past that into the future, long after my ashes are scattered into the Mississippi River following the St Anne parade on Mardi Gras Day (FYI that's how I wanna go). I am helping to create something that will preserve, protect and sustain a crucial part of this country's culture, history, and soul. I see so clearly how this will go on and on. It's way too cool to fizzle out and die, even after Liz and I are no longer there as its main cheerleaders. I am making something that will do greater work than I could ever do in my lifetime. How cool is that? I feel like Gandhi. Except for the vegetarian part. And the fasting part. And taking on the British Empire. And getting assasinated, okay, maybe not like Gandhi at all. But still, very, very pleased and proud.
In the meantime, I'll go learn how to transform my enemies into friends. Hey, like Gandhi!
As to being an emerging, compelling leader? I'll get back to you on that. Gotta go do some laundry first...
Saturday, February 9, 2008
I am trying to write the blog entry and not say anything. We are so close to our announcement that I am afraid that I will let things slip out too soon. So this entry will be short to avert temptation. Keep watching. SoFAB is about to explode into a full blown institution. Please become part of it.
I will also use the time to once again encourage you to enter things into our wiki. Biographies, histories, entries about food. Your entry is welcome. And if you feel that you cannot enter something, send us the copy so that we can enter it for you. Our wiki will gradually become THE place to find information about the food and drink of the American South.