Monday, December 22, 2008

Dish - SoFAB's newest iterary adventure

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

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Holiday Season

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

Moving Forward

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.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Mockingbird the Movie—It’s Always Better to Read the Book

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.