Required Reading: SoFAB's Favorite Cookbooks for the Fall

From Jennie Merrill

Summer in New Orleans is similar to winter up North; we tend to hibernate! In July and August, tourists choose more beachy destinations, local industry workers and teachers head out of town, restaurants close up and take a well-deserved break, and locals generally look towards vacation escapes that feature cooler climes. While all of us in the tourist industry bemoan the sluggish attendance numbers, there is a certain charm about this season. Summer at the Museum is the perfect time to assess programs and inventory, to take a breather and focus on the micro, and even to build solidarity with everyone you see also braving the sticky summer months here in New Orleans. It also provided the time for us to look and see what we have in The Pantry and direct it to what folks are looking for! Here’s what we have cookin’ in the gift shop:

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1.  Creole and Cajun Classics- It struck me that on multiple senior tours, the guests commented on River Road Recipes being their introduction to the kitchen, and in many cases given to them by their future mother-in-law as some sort of long standing tradition (kind of like “Oh the Places You’ll Go” when you graduate). It seemed culturally necessary to keep this gold standard available in the gift store more diligently so that we can do our part to help keep that tradition alive. We have River Road Recipes 1-3 available, as well as the Lafayette equivalent Talk About Good that has been getting some great press lately! Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen is a staple in many a kitchen, and I’ve heard similar tales of it being the reason people picked up a skillet and gained culinary curiosity; this will now be available in our inventory and not just the occasional worn copy coming through the sale table! The Picayune’s Creole Cook Book joins Lafcadio Hearn’s Creole Cook Book in our offerings of original Creole documentation, although to be honest it’s fairly hard to follow from a modern perspective. Regardless, if Creole cooking is part of your heritage or even just your interest, these are musts for your own personal collection. Each of these books is a perfect present to introduce someone to how it all started! What was The Book that introduced you to Creole or Cajun cooking?

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2. Cultural Influence- There are so many cultures that have left their culinary footprint on Southern food, and when I give tours and lectures I like to break down and shine the spotlight on each of the contributions. I decided to follow this up in the gift store, finding books that are affordable, represent people of multiple backgrounds, and are historic examples of these cultural influences. We now carry Soul on Rice: African Influences on American Cooking ($4.95) as well as French Cooking in Early America ($3.95), both small pamphlets by Patricia B. Mitchell. We have The Cooking Gene by popular blogger and historic reenactor/chef Michael W. Twitty, a book sure to make waves. We also have titles focusing on German baking, Italian foodways, and Caribbean influences among many more! What cultures influenced your cooking style?

3.  We have some pretty great autographed books available, which makes any cookbook a little extra special. We have several autographed copies of Miss Ella of Commander’s Palace, and recently found in our inventory, a few autographed cookbooks by the late Frank Davis! I’m most pleased though, that we have several Cookin’ Up a Storm copies signed by both Judy Walker and Marcelle Bienvenu, (which is quite the feat to track down Ms. Beinvenu outside of Cajun Country!) a cookbook that compiles recipes from the Times-Picayune archives and contemporary chefs to replace many of the newspaper clippings folks lost in their cookbooks during Katrina.

No admission needed to peruse the gift shop, come by and check out our book as well as our other food related memorabilia any time Wed-Mon, 11-5:30pm!