18
Aug 14

Louisiana Dog Day Morning

In the dog days of summer after the fresh-split firewood reeking with the sweet acerbity of tannin is stacked in a neat pile close by the house, we become crepuscular. Like certain amphibians striving to maintain a proper balance of body fluid and temperature, we venture forth into the out-of-doors only in the twilight hours of dawn and dusk, leaving behind our artificial cocoons of refrigerated and dehumidified air. Even the cicadas are now out of sorts, droning about their business at mid-day when a pregnant cloud passes in front of the sun. In the first slow light of morning we sip strong coffee on the back porch facing east and the hardwood forest where the birdsong rises. The cardinal calls first; then the liquid flute of the wood thrush sounds from the understory.

Jefferson Island Sunset

Thoreau wrote of the wood thrush song, “Whenever a man hears it he is young, and Nature is in her spring; wherever he hears it, it is a new world and a free country, and the gates of Heaven are not shut against him.” This cousin of the bluebird is now tracking the declining hours of daylight with a mysterious sundial embedded deep within his brain. On a night in mid-August he will flush at a silent alarm and begin a nocturnal journey that will end for the season in the coastal lowlands of Central America. As for the cardinal, he suffers not from innate wanderlust and with his kind will still be around to serve as Christmas ornaments in the vanishing dogwood trees of Union Parish. With coffee cups almost empty, we are surprised this morning by the running-late possum that peeks over the edge of the porch on his routine check of the bird feeders. We all conclude that in spite of the bidding thrush and Thoreau’s doggerel to the contrary, it is time to seek shelter again until the evening respite.

Kelby Ouchley was a biologist and manager of national wildlife refuges for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for more than thirty years. He and his wife Amy live in the woods near Rocky Branch, Louisiana, in a cypress house surrounded by white oaks and black hickories. He is the author of Bayou-Diversity: Nature and People in the Louisiana Bayou Country.


12
Aug 14

Greetings from Tori Gill, Associate Director of Development

Greetings! My name is Tori Gill and I am the newly hired Associate Director of Development for LSU Press and The Southern Review. A month into my tenure, I am enthusiastic about the future of development here! My predecessor did a fantastic job in this role and I look forward to building on her successes.

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As we embark on the new fiscal year I am excited about engaging with our current supporters and recruiting additional literary enthusiasts. Over the next couple of months you will be hearing about ways you can participate in our upcoming Annual Fund appeal. Please take a moment to see how you can join us in supporting LSU Press and The Southern Review as your essential gifts help us build our legacy of the best scholarly and creative writing.

I am pleased to announce that this year we plan to launch an exclusive benefit for our closest supporters: a membership card that will include discounts on all LSU Press books and The Southern Review when you buy at our scheduled events. Be on the lookout for a sneak peek at the card and information on how you can get involved.

In the latest edition of Cornerstone, our very own Leslie Green and her parents, Drs. Ed & Linda Green were featured with their generous endowment to honor Leslie’s 10-year work anniversary. The James Dudley Wells Memorial Endowment, named in memory of Leslie’s late older brother, will help support the publication of The Southern Review. Take a look at the article, entitled, “Cover to Cover.”

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If you would like to learn more about what you can do to further our mission and help sustain great writing, please give me a call at 225-578-6416 or send me an email at vgill2@lsu.edu. Thank you in advance for your support and friendship!

 


08
Aug 14

LSU Press Marketing Department Seeks Interns!

Interested in academic publishing? Want to learn more about the marketing of academic and trade books to a wider audience? Apply for our Fall 2014 marketing internship!

The marketing intern assists in generating awareness and interest of LSU Press’s award-winning list of trade and academic books. Candidates should have strong communication and organizational skills, experience in customer service, and an interest in public relations, advertising, and sales. This six-month internship requires a minimum of two to three days a week for increments of three to four hours. Additional time can be earned off site. The internship is unpaid, but hours are flexible and portions of the workload can be suited to interest. This position provides valuable experience in the rapidly changing world of publishing and grants interns access to industry and media contacts across the country. Please send resume and letter of intent to erolfs@lsu.edu.


04
Aug 14

Of Poets & Pets

Fred Chappell’s new collection, Familiars, prompts LSU Press to reflect on poets and their feline companions

Today at LSU Press, we’re celebrating the release of Fred Chappell’s newest poetry collection, Familiars. Chappell salutes the literary cats of decades past—George Herriman’s happy-go-lucky Krazy Kat, Don Marquis’s grande dame mehitabel—and the imagined cats who claim as their companions the characters from Chappell’s own past poems. The cats in Familiars are alert and affectionate, equal parts cherished friends and unknowable mysteries. Learn more, or buy your copy, at our website!

In honor of Familiars, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite cat poems to share with you. First up, head over to the Soma Review to read Margaret Atwood’s strange and understated poem “Our Cat Enters Heaven,” in which a cat has a matter-of-fact conversation with the Almighty about the perks of being dead.

Meow, said our cat.
Meow, said God. Actually it was more like a roar.
I always thought you were a cat, said our cat, but I wasn’t sure.

(We’d like to imagine that the God in this poem appears to Margaret Atwood’s cat in a form not dissimilar to our beloved Mike the Tiger.)

Next check out DonMarquis.com for their excerpts from Don Marquis’s unforgettable duo Archy (a literary cockroach) and his friend Mehitabel (an alley cat with the motto Toujours gai). The world first met Mehitabel in “Mehitabel Was Once Cleopatra,” but we particularly enjoyed learning more about her in “The Song of Mehitabel”:

mehitabel . . . claims
that formerly her spirit
was incarnated in the body
of cleopatra
that was a long time ago
and one must not be
surprised if mehitabel
has forgotten some of her
more regal manners

As a publisher of French history, we can’t omit Baudelaire’s “Le Chat,” which you can read in French and in four different English translations at Fleurdumals.org. We are slightly partial to Lewis Piaget Shanks’s translation, who maintains the rhyme scheme and assumes the cat’s female:

she prowls around my shadowy brain

as though it were her dwelling-place

— a great soft beast of charming ways,

meowling in a mellow strain

Of course, no list of literary cats would be complete without a mention of T. S. Eliot, whose Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats formed the basis of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Cats (don’t judge us, we love it). Over on Brainpickings.org, the always-wonderful Maria Popova has posted a SoundCloud recording of T. S. Eliot reading “The Naming of Cats.” Eliot reads his poem like the fussy poet grandpa you never knew you wanted.

But above and beyond there’s still one name left over,

And that is the name that you never will guess;

The name that no human research can discover –

But THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess.

Finally, we have the newest addition to the canon of cats immortalized in verse: Fred Chappell’s Familiars. Below is an excerpt from “After Hours,” a poem about Nora, the library cat.

Midnight in the main branch library,

The hour when Nora makes her faithful rounds,

Tasting smells, investigating sounds

That could mean threats to the security

Of the stiff wisdom of laborious sages

Who sputtered ink on all these frowsty pages.

 

She’s velvet black and melts into the blacks

That lie in oblongs on the lobby floor,

Thrown by streetlight through the windowed door.

They pave the way to the darkness of the stacks

Wherein she enters now with stealthy tread

Among the dog-eared Read and crisp Unread.

Want to read more? Buy your copy of Familiars today!


30
Jun 14

The Enduring Legacy of Musician Huey “Piano” Smith

As one journalist who covered Huey “Piano” Smith and the Rocking Pneumonia Blues wrote, people may not have heard of Huey, a rock ’n’ roll pioneer and classic rhythm-and-blues artist from New Orleans, yet they certainly have heard his songs.

Those songs include Huey’s 1958 hit “Don’t You Just Know It,” recently featured in a pair of TV commercials, one for an athletic shoe and another for a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles video game. Transcending the decades, Huey’s music stays fun, joyful, infectious. And he’s been a major influence upon generations of songwriters and musicians.

In 2011, Paul Simon told the U.K.’s RadioTimes about the love he developed for music from Louisiana during his youth in New York City. “I didn’t know it was from Louisiana,” Simon said. “But I loved Fats Domino. I loved Huey ‘Piano’ Smith. I liked Frankie Ford.”

Art Garfunkel, Simon’s partner in the folk-rock duo Simon and Garfunkel, loved Huey’s music, too. In a 2014 story that appeared on the U.S.-based MusicRadar website, Garfunkel listed Huey’s “Sea Cruise” at No. 5 among the 10 songs that changed his life. “‘Won’t you let me take you on a sea cruise?’” Garfunkel quoted. “Nothing rocked quite like this record. For me, it was the door opening to rock ’n’ roll. … I also love Huey ‘Piano’ Smith’s ‘Don’t You Just Know.’ It makes you wanna get up and dance.”

In 2011, punk-rock pioneer Sylvain Sylvain, guitarist with the New York Dolls, told the U.K’s The Observer newspaper much the same about “Don’t You Just Know It”: “This is the one I remember knocking me sideways as a little kid,” Sylvain said. “That rocking piano, the dance beat, the audience participation. I was just hooked.”

In 1999, following The Lovin’ Spoonful’s nomination to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, John Sebastian, front man for that 1960s vocal group from New York City, told MTV that he and his Spoonful bandmates were “students” of such rock ’n’ roll pioneers as Fats Domino and Phil Spector, both of whom are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and Huey Smith, who is not in the Hall of Fame. Sebastian referred to all three men as “the professors.”

In 1992, Robbie Robertson of The Band — that quintessential roots-rock music band that also featured Levon Helm, Rick Danko, Garth Hudson, and Richard Manuel — spoke of his fascination for New Orleans music to then-Crescent City resident John Sinclair for a story in Bomb magazine. Robertson’s lifelong interest in New Orleans music began when he was a 14-year-old novice musician in Toronto, playing in a Huey “Piano” Smith wannabe band called Little Caesar and the Consuls. The leader of the group wanted to be Huey Smith, Robertson recalled. “We played this music,” Robertson remembered, “that made me think, wait a minute, there’s something going on here — there is something about this whole thing that’s different and unique. There’s this mystery, there’s this fun, there is this thing you can’t quite put a finger on.”

John Wirt is the author of the first biography of Smith, Huey “Piano” Smith and the Rocking Pneumonia Blues.

This summer, LSU Press is “Made in Louisiana”! Through July 4th, read local and you will receive 35% off Huey “Piano” Smith and the Rocking Pneumonia Blues and hundreds of other titles by Louisiana authors. Learn more at our website, where you can use offer code 04LALOVE at checkout.


27
Jun 14

Recipe: Pralines

This recipe comes to you from Cynthia Nobles, author of The Delta Queen Cookbook, in honor of our Made in Louisiana sale. Until July 4th, shop books by Louisiana authors or about Louisiana and receive 35% off and free shipping, using the offer code 04LALOVE. And stay tuned every day this week for more authentic Louisiana recipes!

Pralines
Makes 24-36, depending on size. Recipe is by Cynthia Nobles.

Pralines originated in France, where legend has it that the personal chef of sugar industrialist Marshal du Plessis-Praslin (1598-1675) created a sugar-coated almond confection that was named for his boss. It is believed that Ursuline nuns brought the recipe to New Orleans in 1727 and substituted native pecans for almonds. The praline, also known as pecan candy, was popular with both early Acadians and New Orleans Creoles. In Old New Orleans, street vendors selling pecan pralines were called “pralinieres.”

Ingredients

2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 cup evaporated milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 tbsp butter
3 cups pecan halves

Instructions

  1. Cover a hard surface with parchment paper.
  2. In a large heavy saucepan combine brown sugar, white sugar, milk, salt, and cream of tartar. Bring to a boil and simmer over medium heat, without stirring, until mixture reaches the soft-ball stage, 238 F. (Recipe works best using a candy thermometer).
  3. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and butter. When butter is melted, add pecans and stir until creamy and cloudy, and pecans are suspended in the mixture.
  4. Using a tablespoon, quickly drop candies onto parchment paper. Cool completely. Can be stored 2 weeks in an airtight container.

26
Jun 14

Recipe: Crawfish Etouffee

This recipe comes to you from Cynthia Nobles, author of The Delta Queen Cookbook, in honor of our Made in Louisiana sale. Until July 4th, shop books by Louisiana authors or about Louisiana and receive 35% off and free shipping, using the offer code 04LALOVE. And stay tuned every day this week for more authentic Louisiana recipes!

Crawfish Etouffee
Makes 4 servings. Recipe is by Cynthia Nobles.

Etouffee is the French word for smothered, and crawfish typifies Cajun food probably more than anything. When this dish was invented in colonial times, butter was scarce in Louisiana, so cooks of the period would have made roux with hog lard or bear fat.

Ingredients

4 tbsp butter
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup minced onion
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups seafood or chicken stock
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
cayenne pepper to taste
1 lb. crawfish tails, with fat
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped green onions
hot cooked rice for serving

Instructions

  1. In a large heavy skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add flour. Stirring constantly, make a dark brown roux. (Takes 4-5 minutes).
  2. Remove skillet from fire and add onion, bell pepper, and celery and stir until roux stops sizzling. Stir in garlic.
  3. Return skillet to fire and carefully add stock. Stir until well blended. Add tomato paste, salt, black pepper, and cayenne. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer, and cook (uncovered) 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Stir in crawfish, with fat. Cover and simmer 5-10 minutes, depending on size of crawfish.
  5. Stir in parsley and green onions. Serve hot over rice.

25
Jun 14

Recipe: Calas

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This recipe comes to you from Cynthia Nobles, author of The Delta Queen Cookbook, in honor of our Made in Louisiana sale. Until July 4th, shop books by Louisiana authors or about Louisiana and receive 35% off and free shipping, using the offer code 04LALOVE. And stay tuned every day this week for more authentic Louisiana recipes!

Calas
Makes 2 dozen. Recipe is from The Delta Queen Cookbook (LSU Press, 2012).

In the 1800s and well into the twentieth century, Creoles enjoyed this rice fritter for breakfast with café noir (black coffee) or café au lait (coffee with milk). Originally made with yeast, the batter adapted well to the modern baking powders that became widely available after the mid-1800s.

Ingredients

2/3 cup unbleached flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 cups cold cooked rice
Vegetable oil for frying
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Instructions

  1. In a medium bowl, sift together flour baking powder, and salt.
  2. Whisk in eggs, sugar, nutmeg, and vanilla. Stir in rice. Refrigerate batter while oil heats.
  3. In a deep fryer or heavy pot, heat 1 1/2 inches oil to 365 F. Drop batter by a rounded tablespoon and fry until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes. (Refrigerate batter between batches).
  4. Remove cooked calas from oil, drain, and liberally sprinkle with confectioners/ sugar. Serve hot.

24
Jun 14

Recipe: Sazerac

This recipe comes to you from Cynthia Nobles, author of The Delta Queen Cookbook, in honor of our Made in Louisiana sale. Until July 4th, shop books by Louisiana authors or about Louisiana and receive 35% off and free shipping, using the offer code 04LALOVE. And stay tuned every day this week for more authentic Louisiana recipes!

Sazerac
Makes 1 drink. Recipe is by Cynthia Nobles.

The basic recipe for the Sazerac was created in the 1830s by Antoine Amedie Peychaud, a New Orleans apothecary who immigrated from the West Indies and created his own brand of bitters. The drink was originally made with a cognac named Sazerac de Forge et Fils. On June 23, 2008, the Louisiana Legislature designated the Sazerac as the official cocktail of the City of New Orleans.

Ingredients

2 oz. (4 tbls.) rye whiskey
1 tsp. simple syrup
3 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
Big splash Herbsaint
Lemon twist

Instructions

  1. Fill a rocks glass with ice and set aside.
  2. In a separate glass, mix whiskey, simple syrup, and bitters. Add a couple of ice cubes.
  3. Discard ice in chilled rocks glass. Add Herbsaint and swirl around until glass is thoroughly coated. Pour out excess.
  4. Strain whiskey mixture into the chilled and coated glass and garnish with the lemon twist.

23
Jun 14

Creole or Cajun: What Exactly Am I Eating?

Stay tuned every day this week at the LSU Press blog for Louisiana recipes from Cindy Nobles!

Tourists flock to New Orleans for Cajun crawfish, boudin, cracklins and tasso, but the menu availability of these specialties in Louisiana’s largest city is relatively new. Until the 1980s, New Orleans food was strictly Creole (meaning born in the New World). Cajun (of the Acadians) was still relegated to the state’s western swamps and prairies, and really didn’t become popular in New Orleans until Chef Paul Prudhomme introduced it to the world. But together the two cuisines have made Louisiana one of the most heralded food regions in the world. And here’s a primer on how the basic ingredients and techniques for our famous dishes got here in the first place.

We’ll start with the first Louisiana inhabitants, Native Americans. Long before the French arrived, tribes like the Choctaws, Chickasaws, Natchez, Houmas, and Chitimachas had been drying fruit, herbs, and meats, and simmering game and turtle in stews. They also gathered pecans, cultivated sweet potatoes, caught fish and shellfish, pounded sassafras leaves to make the thickener file, and ground corn into grits.

The Catholic French sailed here in the late 17th century, and by 1718 had built the Port of New Orleans. This is important because the port and Catholicism were magnets for future immigrants whose plants, livestock, and cooking techniques combined to create our food.

The French themselves brought memories of classic Parisian cuisine. They had a knowledge of making roux, sauces, and stocks, and of seasoning with herbs and starting many a dish with a mirepoix, a mixture of diced carrots, celery, and onion. The colonial French were also fond of the seafood soup known as bouillabaisse, along with pralines (the French original made with almonds), and imported liqueurs and wine.

Slaves were imported to the region in 1719, and with Africans came black-eyed peas, watermelon, okra, a love of simmered greens, and the knowledge of growing rice. Slaves also knew how to season with spices, and in the kitchens of their masters they continued doing what they had done in their own countries: skillfully stew and fry.

Because slaves were considered too valuable to spend time growing food to sell to locals in New Orleans, in the 1720s Scottish speculator John Law lured in Germans. An industrious group of them settled in what is today St. James and St. Charles parishes, where this industrious group set up the state’s first dairies. They also grew turnips, spinach, cauliflower, artichokes, onions, garlic, cabbage, white potatoes and sweet potatoes, and were prolific bakers and knew how to cure meats, such as the smoked pork sausage we call andouille.

When the Spanish took over the Louisiana colony in 1762, they brought along jamon (ham), chaurice (spicy smoked sausage), tomatoes, and cayenne pepper, along with a love of onions, garlic, and parsley. They also had an affinity for eating beans with rice and for cooking paella, the one-pot ham and rice dish.

The Acadians arrived in New Orleans in 1785 and ended up isolated west of the City in the uncultivated prairies and marshes, where they foraged for just about anything that flew, crawled, climbed, or swam. Although they’d been living in Nova Scotia, Louisiana’s first Acadians were still partial to the one-pot meals of peasant France. This displaced population was also totally unfamiliar with Louisiana ingredients and consequently adopted cooking techniques from established residents. Over time they morphed what they learned into their own hearty “Cajun” cuisine, including robust roux-based versions of gumbo and jambalalya (as compared to the delicately-seasoned tomato-based recipes from New Orleans). In time, the Acadians became experts at cattle ranching and smoking meats, and are now the state’s leading rice growers.

Although Jesuit priests had brought the first sugar to Louisiana in 1751, Etienne de Bore didn’t grow the first successful crop until 1795. Commercial salt production in the state started in 1790, and the arrival of Saint-Domingue refugees in 1809 brought a variety of hot peppers and Creolized dishes such as bouilli, courtbouillon, étouffée, and meunière.

By the 1840s, New Orleans, had become the second largest importer of coffee in the U.S. Also during the 1840s, commercial sales of oysters, fish, and shrimp got a big boost with the arrival of seasoned Croatian fishermen. These former sailors from the Adriatic Sea lived on Louisiana’s coast south of New Orleans, and started the state’s oyster cultivation.

Chicory is common in France, and during the Civil War the blockaded French in New Orleans began using this ground up root as a coffee extender. The mirliton arrived around 1870, likely from Mexico or the Caribbean, and bananas didn’t arrive in New Orleans until the 1880s, the same time as waves of Sicilians, who brought with them a passion for bread, wine, pasta and tomatoes. Louisiana’s Italians took to truck farming almost immediately, growing vegetables like zucchini, spinach, garlic, lemons, eggplant, fennel, figs, leeks and cucumbers. In many cases, traditional Italian dishes melded with Creole dishes, and the resulting recipes are known locally as Creole-Italian.

The word “Creole” became an icon in the late nineteenth century and was fashionably attached to all sorts of foods, including vegetables, eggs, and coffee. And although the line of distinction between “fancy” Creole cooking and rustic Cajun cooking has over the years been blurred, Chef John Folse makes the distinction eloquently: “Creole…is that melange of artistry and talent, developed and made possible by the nations and cultures who settled in and around New Orleans.” And Cajun is “the mirror image of [the Cajun] unique history…a cooking style that reflects their ingenuity, creativity, adaptability, and survival.”

So there you have it, a quick history lesson on the beginnings of Creole and Cajun food. And next time you pick up a menu in New Orleans and you can’t remember who created what, don’t worry – it’s all delicious, and it’s all reflective of a state historically culturally diverse as its food.

Cynthia LeJeune Nobles is the author of The Delta Queen Cookbook: The History and Recipes of the Legendary Steamboat. She lives in Baton Rouge.

This summer, LSU Press is “Made in Louisiana”! Through July 4th, read local and you will receive 35% off The Delta Queen Cookbook and hundreds of other Louisiana titles. Check them out at our website, and use offer code 04LALOVE at checkout.