“When did New Orleans become self-consciously gourmet?” writer and broadcaster Tom Fitzmorris asked at a May 19 event celebrating Louisiana cookbook authors while benefiting the Alzheimer’s Association.
“When ‘du jour’ began appearing on menus,” he said, answering his own question.
Fitzmorris served as master of ceremonies at the fifth annual Literary Luncheon, “Chefs in Kind,” to benefit the Alzheimer’s Association at The Cannery in midtown New Orleans.
This year, the organization’s Louisiana Chapter invited chef and restaurateur John D. Folse, who has co-authored 10 cookbooks including his “Big Book Series”; Ti Martin of the Brennan family, co-proprietor of Commander’s Palace and co-author of three cookbooks; Cynthia LeJeune Nobles, author of “A Confederacy of Dunces Cookbook: Recipes from Ignatius J. Reilly’s New Orleans” and series editor of the LSU Press’ The Southern Table; and Poppy Tooker, who hosts the NPR-affiliated radio show “Louisiana Eats!” and authored the recently published “Tujaque’s Cookbook: Creole Recipes and Love in the Grand New Orleans Tradition.”
Tooker told the audience she has always been interested in the food of her native New Orleans. Her mother didn’t do much cooking. Tooker said she “was the only person in junior high and high school going home to cook dinner every day.”
Fitzmorris noted that many culinary professionals from throughout the country refer to Folse’s book, “The Encyclopedia of Cajun & Creole Cuisine,” now in its 13th printing, for information on Cajun and Creole food and culture. “Reference was never our goal,” instead the aim was to make it more of a history book with extensive recipes, Folse replied.
John Kennedy Toole’s “A Confederacy of Dunces” refers to more iconic New Orleans foods than just Lucky Dogs and Dr. Nut soft drink, Nobles assured Fitzmorris. Nobles said she ended up with more than 200 recipes that have relevance to the early 1960s time period of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.
Martin was accompanied by Commander Palace Executive Chef Tory McPhail, co-author of “Commander’s Wild Side” (2008). McPhail said he loves hunting and fishing in Louisiana and the book was inspired by the restaurant’s “Off the Menu” television series.
Martin talked mostly about her upcoming book about her mother, Ella Brennan, the “grande dame’ of the Brennan family’s restaurant business. The book, scheduled for a Sept. 13 release, is titled “Miss Ella: I Don’t Want a Restaurant Where a Jazz Band Can’t Come Marching Through.” Her mother actually said that, Martin noted.
She had the audience in laughter when she pointed out her greatest business accomplishment — “getting someone to pay me to make cocktails” while testing recipes for “In the Land of Cocktails: Recipes and Adventures from the Cocktail Chicks,” which she co-authored with her cousin Lally Brennan in 2007.
Since it’s blueberry season in Louisiana, just in time for making treats for Memorial Day get-togethers, here are two terrific recipes using blueberries, one from Nobles’ book and the other from Folse.
Cheramie Sonnier is a food writer and columnist. Contact her at email@example.com, and follow her on Twitter, @CheramieSonnier.