Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Leah Chase Louisiana Gallery

I think the world of Leah Chase. She is one of those people who, without being sickly sweet (I think she is peppery), is wonderfully loving and generous. She is a supporter of the arts and music, someone who was creative and innovative, someone who raised a terrific family, worked hard, and never forgot to embrace the world through food. She is a tireless supporter of the city of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana.

There will be a dedication ceremony - including Chef John Folse - to celebrate the naming on July 1. But the excuse for fun, for the celebration of Leah Chase, will happen at SoFAB on July 2. Tickets are still available on line and at the door. This will be a wonderful event with great food and drink.

Join us in celebrating this remarkable woman.

Here is the new drink, the Creole Queen, developed just for her.

1 to 2 mint leaves
1 to 2 strawberries
Mint Turbonado
Simple Syrup to taste
dash of Peach bitters
Splash of Obsello Absinthe
1 1/2 ounces Port of Barcelona Gin
on the rocks

Monday, June 22, 2009

Irrevent Cookbook Pokes Fun at Battle of Sexes

The other day we received a great donation to our cookbook collection titled “The Chauvinist Guide to Gourmet Entertaining” by Stan Fedyszyn. It’s a paperback; has a copyright from 1980; and is 190 pages. It sold for $5.95.

The book focuses on eight complete, seven-course dinners in American, French, Russian, Poynesian, Chinese, Polish, Mexican and Italian cuisines.

As you might guess, this book has an interesting viewpoint. It is designed, as it says in the introduction, to be used “against the enemies of the Male Chauvinist Pig.” The goal of the book is to show men how to cook to impress a woman. In fact, the woman is referred to as “the Fox” throughout the book.

Here’s another passage that you might find interesting:

“What we have tried to do is create a system where a good cook can be made to look like a super one by playing on her sympathies and her naïve prejudices. For instance, no Chinaman in his right mind would eat the Chinese meal the way we suggest that you serve it. The Chinese prefer a style akin to the buffet, as opposed to courses. But she, the Fox, won’t know that. In all the movies she’s watched on the Late Show, Cary Grant and Kate Hepburn eat seven course meals. That’s what she wants and that’s what she’ll get, regardless of what the Chinese Embassy says.”

Classy stuff, eh? So far, I’m just quoting from the introduction, which comes with a serrated edge with instructions from the author to cut it out and burn it once it has been read.

Are we happy to have this book? Of course. It’s not just another gimmicky cookbook that is trying to find its niche. It’s an artifact that is of tremendous value to us and to researchers and scholars down the road. They’ll be might amused by this bit of culinary history.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Memories of Leah Chase, Creole Queen

At 16 years old, my high school best friend Cyrene invited me to New Orleans to visit her older sister in college, I was thrilled. When I came to New Orleans in 1992, I immediately fell in love. Eating beignets, jambalaya, drinking on virgin daiquiris and hearing New Orleans music wherever we went was a treat for two Midwestern girls from Chicago. Yet when Cyrene’s older sister took us to Dooky Chase’s restaurant, I literally lost it. We walked into her restaurant which was surrounded by an art collection that was good enough to exhibit in any major art museum. We toured the restaurant like we were in an art gallery. When it was time for us to be seated, the intoxicating smell of Creole spices from the kitchen floated us to our table where we devoured Leah Chase’s food made with love. Chase, walked over to us with a glowing grin and asked us if we were from New Orleans where we responded that we were from Chicago but Cyrene’s sister was in college in NOLA. We politely remembered our manners and answered with, “Yes Mam, No Mam,” until she gave us some quick advice and walked off to attend the kitchen. I always admired women like Leah Chase. She reminded me a lot of many women I know or read about but particularly one of my idols, the Cuban singer Celia Cruz(now deceased)who likewise created a community filled with love based on her artistic talent and jovial spirit. Leah Chase, a woman of poise who would freely praise or scold to no matter who it is. Chase is truly a New Orleans legend and anyone who ever met her and had the chance to eat her amazing food is forever touched by her beautiful human spirit. So now that I am older, meeting Leah Chase again was like that really good wedding cake frozen in the freezer for 1 year and brought out only to relive the sweet memories again. Likewise, planning for an exhibit in her honor, making sure that the gala event is a huge success, researching and speaking with her is a pleasure for all of us at SoFAB and we all look forward to honoring her on July 2, 2009 at our gala event. So come out New Orleans to celebrate the life and achievements of the Creole Queen, Leah Chase!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Why I Love this Job!

I could be accused of being obsessed with my work. I am not a detail person, but I cannot find a detail too small that is related to SoFAB. I worry about smudges on the the glass doors and new ideas for partnerships and projects. But the most fun is our programming. This Monday night we have a fabulous program that I am looking forward to sharing with everyone. It is free to members and free with admission to everyone else. Three terrific chefs will be in the museum doing great things for us and serving their food, Chris DeBarr of The Green Goddess Restaurant, Michael Farrell of Le Meritage, and Adolfo Garcia of Rio Mar. That food will be paired with great spirits from Esmeralda Distillery, Obsello Absinthe Verte and Port of Barcelona gin. Join us for our spirited tasting!

This is not a blog full of questions. This is a blog of happiness. I look forward to sharing with everyone, drinking with everyone, eating with everyone, on Monday night. What could be better than that?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Treme Culinary Online Exhibit, Coming Soon!

On cold Chicago winter nights, where I am originally from, former New Orleanians in my Southside neighborhood would cook up a pot of gumbo and talk about days gone by in their native land and complain about the quality of seafood in Chicago. To make gumbo, with all its ingredients was hard in itself, coming from a red meat packing industrialized city as Chicago. New Orleanians could only find a fishery way out in the boondocks where they had to buy overpriced, unsatisfying seafood and frozen andouille sausage. But what were their options?, not much. For us Chicagoans, especially those of us who grew up around New Orleanians who fled Storyville and then later Katrina, frozen gumbo in a bag was a treat but to them it was a saddening reality that they were far away from home. We would watch them with envy, wishing that they would take us into their kitchens to teach us their Creole & Cajun food majic while we smelled their warm spicy food as it traveled from door to door.

Some time later, I was accepted as a 3 month intern at the Southern Food & Beverage Museum where I am currently interning while I pursue my Master's degree in Museum Studies at the University of Toronto. I jumped at the offer. So when the director, Liz Williams, gave me one of my first assignments; to help collect and plan an online exhibit of the culinary memories and traditions of the Treme neighborhood, I was thrilled to be able to work with a community that embodies so much history and culinary feats and probably have family in my Southside Chicago neighborhood.

So far, I have reached out to various members of the Treme community but I am hoping that as many as possible communicate with me so I can make sure that their culinary memories become part of what I know will be an amazing online exhibit to celebrate the culinary history of Treme. We do have some previous research done by Bethany Bultman where she researched and interviewed Italians and African-American former residents of Treme. However, we still need more to contribute. So, if you are a former resident or resident of Treme and have any culinary memories, family recipes, and/or would like to be recorded please contact me. Also, if you are a scholar or writer on Treme your participation in this project would be greatly appreciated.

*Tremé is one of the oldest neighborhoods in New Orleans. It was a Mecca for free people of color, Creoles, African-Americans, Sicilians, Caribbeans and Caucasians. It is also the home of the historical Congo Square, Storyville red-light district and Jazz. For more information on the history and culture of the Treme neighborhood, watch a film documentary called Fauborg Tremé: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans which was produced by Dawn Logsdon & Lolis Elie and look for an upcoming HBO series called Treme which will be based on Post-Katrina and the residents who live there.