"The Fonville Winans Cookbook: Recipes and Photographs from a Louisiana Artist” by Melinda Risch Winans and Cynthia LeJeune Nobles, LSU Press, $40, 229 pages, hardcover
People who have lived in Baton Rouge for a long time know his name. If not his name, then certainly his photographs.
Fonville Winans documented the lives — weddings, babies, young women hoping to be professional models — of many in the city. Winans, who earned a pilot’s license in 1938, also took aerial photos throughout south Louisiana.
Winans also loved to cook and shot many, many photographs of food.
And it’s his interest in food and cooking that has resulted in the newly published “The Fonville Winans Cookbook: Recipes and Photographs from a Louisiana Artist” by his daughter-in-law, Melinda Risch Winans, and co-author Cynthia LeJeune Nobles.
In the book’s foreword, chef John Folse credits Fonville Winans’ 1933 photo of Visier Boudreaux, “The Oysterman,” for the success of his best-selling cookbook, “The Encyclopedia of Cajun and Creole Cuisine.”
Melinda Winans and Nobles, series editor for "The Southern Table" from LSU Press, met as members of the Baton Rouge Herb Society and taught cooking classes together for several years.
“She mentioned to me she had rescued hundreds and hundreds of original recipes from the trash” after Fonville’s death in 1992 at the age of 82, Nobles said.
“He kept doing his recipes over and over. He definitely was a perfectionist. He told his oldest son, Bob, if he hadn’t been a photographer, he would have been a chef," Nobles said. "That’s how serious he was about cooking.”
Nobles calls the cookbook “a new way of looking at the life of Fonville Winans. Everyone knew he was an important photographer, and his large circle of friends also knew he was an outstanding cook.”
Fonville, as he was known, had a regular cooking segment with host Jean Wheeler on Baton Rouge television station WBRZ’s “Today in Louisiana” show through the 1960s and 1970s.
“When Fonville’s wedding schedule was so busy one year, he had to give up the show,” Nobles said. “For his replacement, he recommended his good drinking buddy Justin Wilson.”
Melinda Winans said she and her husband, Walker Winans, youngest of Fonville Winan’s three children, treasured the black loose-leaf notebooks containing her father-in-law’s recipes, but “they just sat there” until Bob Winans called to ask for his father’s flan recipe.
“That reminded me about lost family recipes. Families have a grandmother or aunt with a special recipe and they never got it. That’s a shame. It got me to thinking about a cookbook. Cynthia kept encouraging me,” Melinda Winans said.
In the cookbook, she recalls the first dish she ever made for her in-laws, sauerbraten, from an unfamiliar recipe that required four days of preparation. Her latest version of that dish is in the cookbook.
“When he would come to my house, he would stick his head into the kitchen to see what was going on,” Melinda Winans said, “But, it was Meriget (Winans Turner) who really cooked with her dad. She was his sous chef. In that family, it was really a privilege to be able to cook in that kitchen. Consequently, all three children are good cooks.”
She expressed “appreciation for Bob and Meriget’s support and generosity with photos and their memories” of life with their parents.
The cookbook is heavy on seafood and rice recipes. Fonville Winans photographed the Crowley Rice Festival and developed an appreciation for rice. Nobles’ favorites among the cookbook’s recipes are the tamales, eggplant and shrimp casserole, flan, Fon’s beef and squash pie, Fon’s scalloped oysters and trout amandine. Melinda Winans recommends the easy-to-make sauerkraut and ribs, shrimp toast and the chicken recipes.
“The Fonville Winans Cookbook: Recipes and Photographs from a Louisiana Artist” will appeal to cooks, those who enjoy reading biographies and those interested in photography.
“I don’t think many people have seen some of these pictures, especially the family photos and there are some other Cajun prints,” Melinda Winans said. “Everyone knows 'Oysterman' but I don’t think anyone has seen 'Oyster Boy,' and it’s an adorable picture.”
Cheramie Sonnier is a food writer and columnist. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow her on Twitter, @CheramieSonnier.
Melinda Winans and Cynthia Nobles will sign copies of “The Fonville Winans Cookbook” and offer samples from their book.
WHEN: 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: East Baton Rouge Parish Main Library, 7711 Goodwood Blvd.