Friday, June 27, 2008

Finishing Touches

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.

Monday, June 23, 2008

It really is that exciting.

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.

To me, this illustrates the excitement people feel about the museum.  And the excitement really is warranted.  Last week, we hosted a culinary camp for kids.  Every morning, children were walking through the museum with dough-covered hands, discussing the merits of a good, home-made root beer.  We also added a couple new things to the museum experience.  There is now a place to taste and vote for sweetened or unsweetened tea.  (I voted unsweetened.)  There is also a place to do the same with pure coffee and coffee with chicory.  (Chicory, definitely.) Besides the camp and all the things that are changing in the museum, there are also the events that happen outside the museum.

Last week, there was a dinner at the Ritz Carlton with Jacques Puisais, called "The Philosophy of Taste."  During the dinner, diners were challenged to treat the three courses as a play in three acts, with the actors being the food and wine.  The action of the play was the way all of these "actors" interacted with each other.  For example, my wine thought she was happy, until she met my beef.  Then she discovered real happiness.  My lobster claw was charmed to meet my citrus beurre blanc, but when Louis XV met my tiny glass of grappa, a little war ensued.  (Perhaps you had to be there.)

At any rate, if I did not work at the museum, and ended up with about ten extra dollars in my pocket, from gambling or whatever, I would totally celebrate at the museum.  It really is that exciting.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

it's a hard-knock life

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

Looking forward to Jacques Puisais

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

getting back to normal?

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

We're Here!

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.