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Posted September 28, 2008
Food Culture Experience
Even before you open Gumbo Tales: Finding My Place at the New Orleans Table, a new book by Sara Roahen, you might get a sense of the place. The beautiful dust jacket evokes the spirit of New Orleans, a city of traditions that involves not only food, but celebrations, music and much history. The cocktails sign may be a little faded , like the city itself, but the wrought iron lanterns over the doorways are warm and welcoming . Roahen serves up chapter after chapter of New Orleans¿ specialties as vignettes of the different inhabitants of the city. There is a tremendous amount of interesting history of the people and their indomitable spirit who eventually called New Orleans their home and blended their culture with the cultures of others. The reader experiences the joy of St. Joseph¿s day, the riotous enjoyment of Mardi Gras and other such ethnic diversions. Through the different foods, the reader is introduced to the importance of gumbo, oysters and po¿boys. It seems in New Orleans, errant husbands do not bring home flowers, they bring po¿boys ! Interesting note that Italian culinary traditions have spread in the Metro area, second only to Creole. Whatever ethnic neighborhood, food and family are the common themes. . Style of writing - beautiful descriptive phrases make reader feel they are transported to New Orleans and the specific location she is writing about . Roahen writes with an incredible use of imagery the reader can almost smell the cooking aromas and feel the presence of the other diners in what ever restaurant she is describing. In one café she describes, there are only two other people in the bar with her, a lone drinker of Chivas Regal and the server. The room is dim and only lit by the light from the window. While the jukebox wails out its plaintive song, the server begins to dance while humming and spinning around with her eyes closed. The man sipped his drink while Roahen samples some turkey gizzards. This is just one of such numerous dining experiences. If you have never been to New Orleans, after reading this charming tale , you will feel as though you know the city and its people quite well. There is also such a sense of poignancy and heart break about the city after Katrina changed not only the landscape but the people but there is also hope for new beginnings. Roahen states one of her strongest lesson so far is ¿the power of the place is not limited to where: it can also be a why and a how.¿ Whether you are a die- hard foodie or not, or just have an interest in the history of different cultures, people and their traditions, you will enjoy this book. Almost four pages of bibliography for further looks into cooks, cooking, and how to make a perfect cocktail round out this personal memoir of a former line cook turned food critic in her much beloved city of New Orleans . A recommended read.
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Posted December 6, 2010
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