Sara Roahen Speaks at Garden District Book Shop
Garden District Bookshop owner Britton Trice introduces Sara Roahen.
"Gumbo Tales" author Sara Roahen spoke to the Book Shop's Cookbook Club Monday, discussing her book and the pleasures of the New Orleans table. "Gumbo Tales" is the subject of this years One Book New Orleans program, and the book's journey through a host of the Crescent City's favorite dishes is a real delight to read. Roahen brings alive the characters and flavors that define the way New Orleans eats, from artisan snowball makers to the folks who run Liuzza's at the Track to Miss Lovie's seafood gumbo. Scrupulously researched and vividly written, Gumbo Tales is an unmissable read for anyone interested in the history and the stories behind our city's cuisine.
A podcast of the discussion at the Cookbook Club may be downloaded here.
The Garden District Book Shop Cookbook Club is all about food, and participants brought a host of delicious treats to share. One Book New Orleans representatives provided an entire turducken and oyster dressing from Langensteins, as well as a big plater of home-made Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches.
The turducken prior to carving.
Yes, folks, that's what a turducken looks like. It's a turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with a hen. With stuffing in it. Chef Paul Prudhomme, never one to shy from decadence, is said to have invented these beasts not too long ago, and they've been popular ever since. Some gourmets revile the mighty Turducken as too over the top, a heinous display of unbridled decadence, but I gotta say, the flavor was just plain delicious. Just don't think about the entire process too much.
Carving the mighty turducken.
Sara Roahen's adventure in turducken making can be read at the Gambit's website. I quote: " The turducken offers no excuses. A deboned, stuffed chicken enfolded in a deboned, stuffed duck sewn into a deboned, stuffed turkey, roasted together for a quarter of a day and wetted with duck fat gravy -- what could it possibly say in its own defense?"
The pork banh-mi were delicious as well, with fresh French bread, crunchy Vietnamese daikon and carrot slaw, mayonaisse, and lemongrass pork. Banh mi derive from Vietnam's French colonial years, and are derived from the French countryside "salad sandwich". They've become increasingly popular around the USA and are available in many venues in New Orleans: lemongrass chicken, pate, Vietnamese meatballs, tofu, and other protein sources form common filling.
Roahen wrote about Vietnamese food's impact on the local cuisine in "Gumbo Tales" - during the bookclub discussion, that section of the book prompted a hilarious discussion about the consumption of fertilized duck eggs (balut), which are considered a nice special-occasion food in Southeast Asia. Don't click on that Wikipedia link if you're eating something.
Banh mi are often referred to as "Vietnamese po-boy's" on local menus. I can see it.
For dessert, we had made-to-order snoballs, provided by William's Plum Street Snoballs, complete with all those esoteric cream flavors we love so well.
These folks are the official snoball suppliers at Jazzfest, in case you were wondering where the heck you'd seen them before. They were just the refreshing thing after a big ol' slab of turducken.
Snoball making in action. The portable snoball machine is a pretty handy piece of machinery.
We also had Langenstein's oyster dressing....
Miniature pies from the Real Pie Man, alongside some other treats....
Crawfish corn bread....
A home-made chess pie....
7 layer dip.....
And a host of other dishes, including some grade-A red beans and rice.
The Cookbook Club meeting and Sara Roahen's talk proved to be a big success, combining gastronomical pleasure and an illuminating discussion of the art of food writing. Next meeting is November 9th. Now you know why you should turn out.
One Book New Orleans will be conducting a variety of events revolving around "Gumbo Tales" this fall: check out the schedule on their website.