New Orleanians who have traveled a bit can probably relate to something the author Kim Sunée experienced during her years living abroad.
“Once people found out I knew how to make Louisiana dishes, that was all they wanted to talk about,” Sunée said. “As much as I tried to learn the local culture and focus on that, there was always someone bringing me back home. People are just fascinated with it; they always wanted me to cook Louisiana food for them.”
So it goes that in a new cookbook based on her travels, “A Mouthful of Stars” (Andrews McMeel Publishing, $27.99), tips for pairing a Provencal beef stew appear beside advice for sourcing proper andouille for jambalaya. The pages turn like the author’s own passport, with recipes for food (and drink) from Korea, France, Tuscany, Scandinavia and North Africa sharing space with Deep South staples and highly personal New Orleans cravings, like chef Adolfo Garcia’s tres leches cake and Frank Brigtsen’s BBQ shrimp.
Born in South Korea, Sunée was abandoned as a toddler and adopted by a family from New Orleans, where she grew up in the 1980s. After graduating from the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, she lived around Europe for 10 years and traveled extensively elsewhere, an experience she recounted in her bestselling 2008 memoir “A Trail of Crumbs.”
“A Mouthful of Stars” is the cookbook follow-up in a way. But it also stands on its own as the culinary codebook for a life expressed through flavor memories and cultural explorations that always lead back to the table. It’s a world of food as seen by someone who learned to love food in Louisiana.
So what does a globetrotting girl from New Orleans eat first when she visits home again?
“Po-boys, because of the bread,” Sunée said. “You just can’t replicate that anywhere else.”
You might run into Sunée at a po-boy shop while she’s in town this week promoting her book, though it’s a sure bet to catch her tomorrow, May 8, at Ancora (4508 Freret St., 504-324-1636; ancorapizza.com). The Neapolitan pizzeria hosts a cocktail reception and book signing from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. The event is free, though Ancora requests online registration beforehand (go to eventbrite.com and search under “mouthful”). The Garden District Book Shop will have books for sale at the restaurant.
Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter @IanMcNultyNOLA.