One of the food-related topics that really interests me is how food styles have changed over time.

When did cedar-plank salmon become more popular on Louisiana menus, for instance, than pompano en papillotte?

Why do we bring feta cheese tortes with pita chips to parties now instead of aspic molds surrounded by club crackers?

And when did arugula with balsamic vinegar replace Roquefort-soaked iceberg wedges in the salad department?

It’s fun to ponder how food styles have changed, much like fashion and architecture, which is why I was thrilled to hear from Flo Ulmer, president of the Garden District Civic Association. She and her organization have a project that touches on this very topic, and they need our help!

The association is publishing a community cookbook, one of three fundraising events intended to help celebrate the neighborhood’s centennial. The theme of the book will be “Recipes ... then and now,” and the association is seeking favorite family recipes from current and former residents of Roseland Terrace, Drehr Place and Kleinert Terrace, the three neighborhoods that comprise the Garden District.

“We need recipes from folks who lived in the Garden District in the past or who inherited a favorite dish from family members who lived here,” Ulmer explained. “We want recipes that compare the way we cooked back then to the way we cook now ...”

“What was a favorite appetizer, say, in 1950? With any recipe submitted, we would love to have any anecdotal information about the dish and memories that go along with it.”

I can’t think of a more meaningful neighborhood project, especially for such a wonderful neighborhood. I had the pleasure of living on Olive Street in the Garden District during my senior year of college, and consider myself fortunate now that I live close enough to the Garden District that I regularly have occasion to drive through it and admire its lovely tree-lined streets and charming, early 20th-century homes.

Ulmer, who is a passionate tireless advocate for her neighborhood, reminds us that the Garden District was not always so picturesque, and posits that food and family celebrations are some of the unifying elements that have made it the strong community with a genuine sense of place that it is today.

“The Garden District was once a barren, treeless suburb of Baton Rouge built on pasture land in the middle of nowhere with rows of craftsman-style bungalows,” she said. “But look at us now! And the key reason our neighborhood is vibrant and growing is because of the 'neighbor’ mentality that began 100 years ago ...”

“One of the main ingredients of that mentality is food. Whenever we get together, we eat. Then we share the recipe. It’s a moving history of food that has been the tie that binds us together.”

If you have any recipes and stories to contribute to the book, please email them to the Garden District Association by Aug. 17 to gdcookbook@gmail.com.

Ulmer asks that you include your current or former address, when you lived in the Garden District, and any stories and photographs about the neighborhood you’d like to include.

I told her I’d be happy to help plug her cookbook if she’d share a favorite recipe with us. In keeping with the theme of the book, she sent me a simple but delicious recipe for Onion Pie, which she was first served, appropriately, by a neighbor at a neighborhood dinner party. It has since become one of her favorites.

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