06
Oct 17

Six Cookbooks that Capture Louisiana’s Unique Flavor

There’s a cornucopia of Louisiana cookbooks out there. Some, like The Fonville Winans Cookbook, the one I co-authored with Melinda Winans, not only have good recipes, but they give the cook an overall idea of what makes the cuisine of south Louisiana so unique.

I’ve been a food writer for the Newcomb College Culinary Writers Group and the Baton Rouge and New Orleans Advocate newspapers, and I’m currently editor of the LSU Press cookbook series “The Southern Table.” I thumb through a lot of cookbooks, and I’m always amazed at how much I learn from those mouthwatering pages. Remarkably, in this digital age, readers still find physical cookbooks entertaining. I, for instance, am the type who’d rather get lost in a cookbook at night instead of a novel. I like turning a page to find someone’s family’s favorite soup, or a new chef’s innovative desserts. There’s also something about a clever recipe title or a heartwarming header that is, well, exciting.

While with the Newcomb group, we were writing a scholarly book on food, and I was instructed to scour that institution’s massive cookbook library for my research. Wow! I was in heaven. At my fingertips were copies of some of the first cookbooks published in Louisiana. From them, I figured out how gumbo evolved over the years, how calves foot jelly was once popular, and that now-hip quenelles, egg-like shapes of forcemeat, were common on nineteenth-century New Orleans tables. All it took was a little detective work, and I had the basis for my work. It was also at this time that I realized that the popular cookbooks of bygone eras had two things in common: their recipes were relatively easy to make, and reading them made you want to rush out to your stove. Both of these distinctions still separate extraordinary cookbooks from the rest.

I met Melinda Winans at an Herb Society meeting in Baton Rouge, and we instantly connected based on one thing—we both love everything about food. Like me, she has an extensive home cookbook library, where there are books she turns to time and time again. Also, her late father-in-law, the internationally famous photographer, Fonville Winans, liked to cook, and he wrote down a mountain of his recipes. One day while browsing through Fonville’s scribbles, we realized we were not only reading a cherished family keepsake, but we had the foundation for an outstanding cookbook.

To make things interesting and to put things in perspective, we made The Fonville Winans Cookbook a compilation of recipes, his photographs, and his biography. He spent most of his youth in Texas, and is most famous for his photographs of the impoverished Depression-era Cajuns who lived on Grand Isle on Louisiana’s coast. During those years, when he was in his early twenties, he became good friends with many of his subjects, and they taught him how to cook what became his favorite cuisine, Cajun.

Fonville later settled in Baton Rouge, where he raised a family, became a sought-after portrait photographer, an inventor, and a pilot. He was also a cook who incessantly experimented. And it is from the many, many versions of his recipes that we get a glimpse of what families were eating in mid-century south Louisiana.Fonville adored both Creole and Cajun food, but his natural curiosity led him to experiment with cuisines such as Mexican and Chinese, creating dishes that were mostly unheard of in the region at the time. His notes tell us that he studied cookbooks, too. He was especially enamored of a book called The Thousand Recipe Chinese Cookbook by Gloria Bley Miller. In our cookbook, we include many of Fonville’s interpretations of what was, for him, exotic fare. These creations give insight into a man who was definitely ahead of his time, and who was often credited with introducing many new dishes to the Baton Rouge mainstream.

This brings us back to the question of what makes a cookbook exceptional. To me and Melinda, any cookbook tells a story. But many, such as the ones listed below, are encyclopedic, not so much for their girth, but for what their recipes tell us. Importantly, they give a broad spectrum of what folks in Louisiana think is good food. Most of those recipes have a history, some that can be traced back hundreds of years. These recipes also work in a home kitchen and, above all, our modern palates think they still taste great. Once you start reading through them, you’ll pick up on recipe titles, ingredients, and cooking techniques that are found nowhere else. Like The Fonville Winans Cookbook, they capture the local food experience, and any meal made from them would put something authentically Louisiana on the table.


Six Cookbooks that Explain Louisiana’s Unique Flavor:

River Road Recipes: The Textbook of Louisiana Cuisine (The Cookbook Marketplace,1950) – This “textbook of Louisiana cooking” was published by the Junior League of Baton Rouge, and has sold over 1.3 million copies. Recipes were contributed by home cooks and run the gamut from roux to courtbouillon to the now-world-famous Spinach Madeleine.

The Encyclopedia of Cajun and Creole Cuisine (Chef John Folse & Company Publishing, 2004) – This is the first of Chef John Folse’s gigantic cookbooks. Along with a healthy dose of culinary history, he includes 700 recipes for cooking traditional south Louisiana cuisine.

Cooking up a Storm: Recipes Lost and Found from the Times-Picayune of New Orleans (Chronicle Books, 2015) – In 2005, Hurricane Katrina washed away many a recipe collection. Times-Picayune food editor Judy Walker and food writer Marcelle Bienvenu came to the rescue with this cookbook based on treasured local favorites.

Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen (William Morrow Cookbooks, 1984) – Chef Paul Prudhomme shook up traditional New Orleans Creole cooking with his down-home, rustic Cajun cooking. This cookbook is classic Cajun.

A Confederacy of Dunces Cookbook: Recipes from Ignatius J. Reilly’s New Orleans (LSU Press, 2015) – Cynthia LeJeune Nobles turned the food found in John Kennedy Toole’s Pulitzer-prize winning novel into a cookbook that reflects what was popular on tables in New Orleans in the 1950s and 1960s, before south Louisiana cooking was all the rage.

Lift Your Spirits: A Celebratory History of Cocktail Culture in New Orleans (LSU Press, 2016) – Elizabeth Williams, Director of the Southern Beverage Museum, and Chris McMillian, co-founder of Museum of the American Cocktail, teamed up to write a detailed history of New Orleans’s varied cocktails. Authentic recipes are included. If you’re interested in cocktails, this book is a must.


Cynthia LeJeune Nobles, series editor for “The Southern Table” from LSU Press, is the author of A Confederacy of Dunces Cookbook: Recipes from Ignatius J. Reilly’s New Orleans (LSU Press, 2015) and The Delta Queen Cookbook: The History and Recipes of the Legendary Steamboat (LSU Press, 2012).

With Melinda Risch Winans, Nobles co-authored The Fonville Winans Cookbook, which was published by LSU Press earlier this week. You can read more about their cookbook in The Advocate and SIBA News. Take 30% off select Louisiana titles, including this one, during the month of October with offer code 04LBF! Buy your copy while it’s still hot off the press by clicking here.

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22
Sep 17

A Budding Gardener’s Library

Gardening is dear to my heart and I practice constantly—growing vegetables in the children’s garden at the LSU AgCenter Botanic Garden, conducting vegetable trials across the state and playing in my own home herb and vegetable gardens with my husband and children.

It is the perfect hobby for all ages. Whether you are a professional grower, a child in school, someone who likes to cook or wants to learn how to cook with fresher ingredients, I love helping people make their harvest more bountiful.

Gardening releases tension, and this time of year, allows us to enjoy the outdoors in near perfect temperatures. All it takes is one container and you’ll be hooked. This fall, try planting a single broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, or kale plant… you’ll be surprised by how fun it is to watch it grow. The Louisiana Urban Gardener is specifically geared toward beginners, but as you grow your garden you can grow your gardening library as well. In addition to my new book, I would suggest picking up the titles I’ve listed below.


Louisiana Home Vegetable Gardening (LSU AgCenter, 2014) is a great read, catering to medium to larger sized vegetable gardeners.

Dan Gill’s Month by Month Gardening (Cool Springs Press, 2001) reminds us of seasonal garden chores that take landscapes from blah to wow!

Gardening in the Humid South (LSU Press, 2004) authored by two very intelligent and funny men, Dr.’s Ed O’Rourke and Leon Standifer is a must read for anyone who missed out on their charming yet informative Country Roads garden column,  LSU classes, or garden tips shared over morning coffee.

Heirloom Gardening in the South: Yesterdays Plants for Today’s Gardeners (Texas A&M University Press, 2011) by William Welch and Greg Grant. Interested in heirlooms plants and vegetables? Then William and Greg’s book is a must read. It includes excellent stories and beautiful pictures.

And finally, every gardener needs a cookbook to help determine how to cook store and share our abundant produce. Chef John Folse nailed his last cookbook, Can You Dig It: Louisiana’s Authoritative Collection of Vegetable Cookery (Chef John Folse and Company, 2015), when he dedicated it to vegetables. This new cookbook will make veggies everyone’s favorite part of the meal.


Kathryn Fontenot is assistant professor and extension specialist with the LSU AgCenter’s School of Plant, Environmental, and Soil Sciences. She specializes in farmer’s markets and in home, community, and school gardens.

You can read more about Fontenot in 225 Magazine or do one better and buy her new book, The Louisiana Urban Gardener: A Guide to Growing Vegetables and Herbs.

Don’t forget to follow LSU Press on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook!

30
Jan 17

A Lifelong Love of Mardi Gras

Brian J. Costello is the author of the new book Carnival in Louisiana: Celebrating Mardi Gras from the French Quarter to the Red River.

As other Louisiana cultural historians will doubtless be, I am indebted to the foresight of LSU Press and its wonderful staff for agreeing to publish my manuscript Carnival in Louisiana: Celebrating Mardi Gras from the French Quarter to the Red River (February 2017). This first-known attempt to document all of Louisiana’s Carnival celebrations goes beyond the customary publications and print and media accounts that have focused mainly on Greater New Orleans’ world-famed celebration, plus some emphasis on the colorful Courir du Mardi Gras events of rural Southwest Louisiana.

Carnival and its climax of Mardi Gras, with its street parades, masked balls, street masking and myriad other forms of pre-Lenten revelry have been ingrained on my psyche and have provided for much of my civic and cultural participation since my earliest years. A native and lifelong resident of the old Creole French community of New Roads and an 11th generation Louisianan, I witnessed my first Mardi Gras parades in my home town at the age of five, in 1972, and have never missed one since. The success of New Roads’ duo of parades, the first known to be established as charitable fundraisers, became a primary concern when I accepted the post as chairman of the New Roads Lions Carnival parade in 1993.

In my teenage years, I experienced my first New Orleans parades and, shortly thereafter, those of Lafayette, Thibodaux and Houma. Expansion of Louisiana’s parading calendar drew me to other parades and activities in Livonia, Maringouin, Plaquemine, Baton Rouge and Batchelor among other communities. Meanwhile, since the age of 12, I began to collect newspaper accounts and read all of the books I could find on the subject of Carnival and began to amass a collection of articles, parade and ball programmes, doubloons and glass beads, old ball favors, ducal decorations and vintage photos kindly given me by family, friends and strangers form near and far.

Assuming the journalism profession in 1987 and beginning to author books in 1993, I have devoted considerable attention to the history and traditions of Carnival in Louisiana. My membership in New Orleans krewes allowed me to ride in parades and participate in balls in the Carnival City while continuing to promote New Roads’ Mardi Gras traditions and supporting the parades and balls in several other cities and towns. I am blessed that my wife, Mary, has been of support in my various endeavors, and has accompanied me to parades, balls and other Carnival events since before the time of our marriage in 2000.

Having conducted research since 1979 on Louisiana’s Carnival history and traditions, I thought the time had come by 2015 to put the fruit of my labors into manuscript form and offer it to a publisher of great repute, namely LSU Press. Through the kind editing assistance of Mrs. Margaret Lovecraft and coordination with many of the Press’ talented and kind staff, I am confident that we have produced a work of lasting value that pays homage to one of Louisiana’s richest cultural assets, in its many manifestations and locations throughout the Carnival State.

Place an order for Carnival in Louisiana through our website before Feb. 28 and get 30% off. Use code 04THIRTY at checkout.


04
Jun 12

Renowned Photographer Richard Sexton Captures Region’s Distinct Landscapes and Heritage

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 4, 2012

Contact: Erin Rolfs, LSU Press Book News
erolfs@lsu.edu/225.578.8282

New Roads and Old Rivers: Louisiana’s Historic Pointe Coupee Parish

Baton Rouge, LA—”New Roads and Old Rivers,” available in September 2012, reveals the natural and cultural vitality of Pointe Coupee Parish, Louisiana, as seen in the stunning photographs of Richard Sexton, with text by Randy Harelson and Brian Costello. Pointe Coupee is one of the oldest settlements in the Mississippi Valley, dating to the 1720s. French for “a place cut off,” the name refers to the area’s three oxbow lakes, separated from the Mississippi over centuries. Edged by the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers, Pointe Coupee remains a land rich in Creole heritage, distinct in geographical beauty, and abounding in historic homes and farms.

Continue reading →


18
May 11

Naturally Phenomenal Happenings

Margaret Lovecraft, Acquisitions Editor

Tornadoes, wildfires, earthquakes, flooding—it has been a volatile spring in the U.S. and worldwide.

On May 18 here in Baton Rouge, we saw the Mississippi River crest at 45 feet, the highest level since the historic flood of 1927. Without the levees, Baton Rouge would be inundated at a river level of 35 feet. As William Percy, in Lanterns on the Levee, recorded in the year 1927, “The greatest flood in American history was upon us. We did not see our lands again for four months.” In 2011, we are depending on those levees to hold!

Then for more meteorological excitement, on June 1, hurricane season begins. This year will be one to watch no matter what, according to Barry Keim, Louisiana’s state climatologist and coauthor of Hurricanes of the Gulf of Mexico (which is full of fascinating data and history, by the way). The U.S. coastline has not been hit by a major hurricane (meaning a category 3 or higher when it comes ashore) since Wilma hit southern Florida in 2005. That’s the good news. But the U.S. has also never—since official storm record-keeping began—gone more than five years in a row without being hit by a major hurricane. So we’ll either set a new record this season or we’ll see something big land somewhere on our coastline. Those of us near the Gulf Coast favor the record-breaking alternative.

Other than floods and thoughts of future hurricanes, spring is a glorious season in Louisiana, with ideal temperatures and riotous flowers and green everywhere. In the relatively quiet offices of LSU Press, the serene green covers of four new regional books greet the eye. Probably it is a coincidence that these books all have green-hued jackets—created by different designers at different times.

Ray Neyland’s Field Guide to the Ferns & Lycophytes of Louisiana, a slim paperback, transports us to a world of delicate greenery—and other colors too. Louisiana’s amazingly large array of ferns, the second largest in the U.S., varies in size and appearance far beyond the front-porch potted kind.

Lake Douglas’s Public Spaces, Private Gardens explores the rich history of New Orleans’s urban greenscapes. Audubon Park, City Park, Congo Square, Jackson Square, secluded gardens, and even the neutral grounds—we appreciate and enjoy them, of course, but rarely consider how they have developed over centuries. A multiethnic collaboration, the designed landscapes of New Orleans are unique in the U.S.

Spring can unleash the desire to explore, and the treasures and surprises of the local region called Acadiana—22 parishes in size—are impossible to exhaust. Historic homes, pastoral countryside, essential waterways, wildlife, townlife, music, cuisine, and churches—just to mention a few highlights. Now is a good time to visit—in person or via the new book Acadiana, by historian Carl Brasseaux and photographer Philip Gould.

A more far-flung adventure may be had in Look Away, Dixieland, by James B. Twitchell. I doubt you’ll want to retrace by car this road trip from Waycross, Georgia, to Coushatta, Louisiana, but why should you? It’s more fun to drive it with Twitchell, and you don’t have to pay for gas. Part travelogue, mystery, history, tragedy, and comedy, the book’s subtitle says it all: A Carpetbagger’s Great-Grandson Travels Highway 84 in Search of the Shack-up-on-Cinder Blocks, Confederate-Flag-Waving, Squirrel-Hunting, Boiled-Peanuts, Deep-Drawl, Don’t-Stop-the-Car-Here South.

 


19
Aug 08

New Danny Heitman video

Danny Heitman and his book, A Summer of Birds: John James Audubon at Oakley House, were featured on a news story last night on WAFB Channel 9 (Baton Rouge).  Click here to watch the video.  Great job, Danny!


11
Jul 08

Danny Heitman interview (video)

Danny Heitman, author of A Summer of Birds:John James Audubon at Oakley House, was interviewed on 2une In (WBRZ, Baton Rouge) this morning.  Watch him give an overview of the book as well as discuss his reason for writing it:  Danny Heitman on 2une In (3:05)


08
Jul 08

Heitman’s bird book garners a lot of attention

Danny Heitman’s A Summer of Birds is garnering a lot of attention. Read the recent reviews in Living Bird magazine and the New Orleans
Times-Picayune
. Also be sure to catch Danny on Channel 2 / WBRZ’s 2uneIn this
Friday morning.


29
Apr 08

LSU Press author Larry Powell elected as SAH Fellow

Congratulations to LSU Press author Lawrence N. Powell, who was recently elected as a Fellow of the Society of American Historians.  Fellows are chosen in recognition of the literary and scholarly distinction of their historical writing.   LSU Press recently published The New Orleans of George Washington Cable: The 1887 Census Office Report, edited with an introduction by Mr. Powell.   


29
Apr 08

The News & Observer spotlights Yellow Shoe Fiction

The News & Observer (Raleigh, NC) recently ran a great feature on LSU Press and its Yellow Shoe Fiction series.  Click here to read the full article.