Editor’s Letter

September 21, 2010

It is with great excitement that I announce the death of this version of SoFAB Monthly.  The end of the SoFAB Monthly marks the birth of our new online magazine, OKRA.  The monthly newsletter has communicated museum news, exhibits, new artifacts, and events since we opened in 2008 (and actually before that).  That information, as well as information on the development of OKRA, will now be included in our weekly email blasts, edited by Kelsey Parris.  Recipes from the newsletter will be moved to OKRA, along with the new columns and articles that we are developing for it.  We hope you enjoy this change and we look forward to hearing your ideas, suggestions, and whatever else you have to say regarding both publications.

I am also excited that our Words in Food Symposium is upon us.  Liz Williams, our director, has done an outstanding job bringing this event together.  On October 1-3, 2010, James Carville, Jessica Harris, Todd Price, Elizabeth Pearce, and many more will present and sit on panels that explore the effects of disasters like the oil spill and the culinary exchanges that occur in these regions.  Attendance is limited, so there are plenty of opportunities to talk with speakers and others.  Additionally, an anonymous donor has made several scholarships available.  If you are interested in one of those, contact Liz Wiliams at 504-569-0405.  I’ll be there and I hope to see you.

Cheers,

Stephanie Jane Carter

A BBQ Artifact, Bullet Holes and All

September 21, 2010

Shadden’s BBQ, opened for more than 40 years in Marvell, Arkansas, was a place of BBQ pilgrimages for many years.  Housed in a 100-year old general store building in Marvell, Arkansas, Shadden’s was known at various times as the town in a non-town, the place for craps, dancing, fighting, and eating.  Levon Helm of The Band was a regular.

According to a documentary on All South Networks (http://www.allsouthnetworks.tv/details/shaddensbbq.html), Shadden’s was most recently known as an eating place rather than a gambling place.  During its gambling days, 400-500 people would be there on a Saturday night.  According to Wayne Shadden, a $500 fine and a year in jail changed that.  For BBQ lovers, this was the best shift in focus a place could ever make.  Since then, Shadden’s has become a necessary stop on any BBQ pilgrimage.

In its post-gambling incarnation, it was a cross between a roadside grocery and a museum, with “yellowed pictures of smiling families and once-young enlisted men everywhere,” according to Gary Saunders of DixieDining.com.  Jars of giant dill pickles, pickled sausage, and pickles eggs graced the counter tops.

Wayne Shadden died this year at the age of 77.  Shadden’s closed.  With the help of Randy Ensminger, Arkansas board member at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum, the Shadden’s sign (conspicuously dotted with bullet holes) will live on at the SoFAB in its growing Arkansas exhibit.  BBQ lovers can still come and pay their respects to Shadden’s.

Click here for Shadden’s BBQ Sauce Recipe, from High Cotton Cookin’

SoFAB is always looking for artifacts.  If you want to help, let us know…504-569-0405 or leave a comment on our website, http://www.southernfood.org.

Shadden’s BBQ Sauce

September 21, 2010

Shadden’s BBQ Sauce

  • ¼ cup oil
  • ½ stick butter
  • 2 small onions (chopped very fine)
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ bottle A-1 Sauce
  • ¾ bottle ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • ½ tablespoons Tabasco
  • ¼ lemon (grated; including rind)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Cayenne pepper to taste (for added heat)

— Sauté onion in butter and oil until tender

— Add other ingredients, mix well and cook for 30-45 minutes.

(SHADDEN’S BARBECUE, MARVELL, AR; from High Cotton Cookin)

Shadden’s BBQ may have closed, but its bullet-hole studded sign lives on in the Southern Food and Beverage Museum.  Click here to read more…

Eating in the Gulf of Mexico and the Carribean Basin – 2010 Words in Food Symposium

September 20, 2010

Join the Southern Food and Beverage Museum for our second annual Words in Food Symposium Friday, Saturday and Sunday, October 1st through 3rd. The theme of the 2010 symposium is Eating in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Basin. Scholars, researchers, food writers and others will discuss the cross influences in the region, the ecology and cultural exchanges, as well as other issues and ideas. We will also discuss the effects of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill on the food and culture of the area. Presentations will focus primarily on the countries that have a coast on the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. Participation in the symposium is open to all.

The symposium covers three days, October 1-3, 2010.  Speakers and panelists include James Carville, who will launch a new lecture series at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum, Contemporary Issues Impacting Southern Food and Beverages.  He will speak about the cultural impact of the oil spill, culinary and otherwise. Jessica Harris, noted culinary historian, author, and educator, will give the keynote address and sit on other panels, including Rum.

Please visit our website to learn more about the panels, panelists, and other speakers.  http://southernfood.org/sofab/explore/events/2010-words-and-food-symposium/

New Orleans con sabor Latino

September 20, 2010

by Kelsey Parris

Edgar Sierras' Plaintains Foster. Photo by Natalie Root Photography

New Orleans has always been a city that thrived on new people and cultures, absorbing the different traditions and foods and integrating them into the city’s own culture. La Louisiane was never a homogenous community, and its ability to accept different ethnicities and adapt to the land was key to its survival. French, Acadians, Germans, Spanish, Native Americans, and Africans were among those people who had to work together to create livable settlements. Food collaboration was an important part of making ends meet, and settlers learned how to produce and use native foods while introducing their own techniques and flavors, thus creating the cuisine of Louisiana Cajuns and Creole. Over the years, later immigrant populations brought their own cuisines, and some larger groups such as the Sicilians and Vietnamese were able to retain their culinary identity while adapting to the local styles and products.

Historically, New Orleans and Louisiana have been closely tied to Spain, Mexico, and Latin American countries.  Even though Spain ruled the Louisiana territory from 1763 until 1803, Spanish speaking influences never seemed to be able to penetrate the dominant French culture.  There are interesting exceptions to that rule, though, as the Isleños of Saint Bernard Parish show. Groups of Spanish Canary Islanders arrived in 1778 as part of the Spanish government’s plan to protect the city of New Orleans from hostile invasion from the British. It was thought that by settling sympathetic people in vulnerable areas, the threatened invasion of the English from the Eastern territory could be halted.

Although this invasion never quite came to pass, the Isleños settled throughout Louisiana, with a pretty serious concentration in St. Bernard Parish. Since it was a fairly insular community, a dialect of Spanish was spoken, and foods such as paella, empanadillos, flan, and candies, as well as a love of fresh fish and game were passed through the generations. Caldo is one example: a soup that is a traditional Canary Island staple, made with tons of fresh vegetables, beans, pork, and carefully guarded family recipes. The Isleños Museum in Chalmette chronicles the lives of this group, and also holds an annual festival, Los Isleños Fiesta, that celebrates the culture of the community. Spanish and Latin American immigrants must have appreciated the existence of the Spanish cultural community and it gradually expanded and crept into the city of New Orleans.

In 2005, a new threat was realized, and this time the British had nothing to do with it. New Orleans and Louisiana were devastated by Hurricane Katrina, and the area was again dependent on immigrant populations to help rebuild and repopulate the city and strengthen the culture that made it special. Latin Americans from Mexico, Honduras, and other Central American countries recognized the need for labor and the potential for good and steady income, and settled in New Orleans to man the rebuilding efforts.

Suddenly a great need for authentic Latin American food arose with this new influx of workers and their families. As the population settled in, the stores and restaurants that sprang up, stocking food supplies and brand names that the immigrants were familiar with, are usually owned and operated by native Spanish speakers who want to reach out and create a sense of community. Shelves overflow with peppers and tortillas, tamale wrappers and corn cakes. Thanks to the higher demand for food on the go, the food truck phenomenon has finally arrived in New Orleans through the now ubiquitous taco trucks.

Adolfo Garcia's LA Drum with Crabmeat Catacones and Avocado Remoulade. Photo by natalie Root Photography

In SoFAB’s newest exhibit, New Orleans con sabor Latino, photographer Natalie Root and curator Zella Llerena have gone through the city and the surrounding areas, finding people with Latin American ties, whether it be ancestral, like Isleños Mike and Donna, first generation, like Chef Adolfo Garcia, or recent arrivals to the city. Through their research, they have found through preparing their traditional food while incorporating elements of Louisiana’s foods, a new cuisine is evolving. Some home cooks add okra to their dishes, others use grits. In professional kitchens, chefs have brought flavors of their homes to the menu while weaving them into the bounty of Louisiana produce and seafood.

This is a cultural shift that seems like it will slowly integrate itself into the food and culture of New Orleans and Louisiana, and it is important to recognize the changes that are taking place, and to give credit to those who are helping to make it happen. In the same way that Sicilians and Vietnamese have gradually introduced their foods and communities through stores and restaurants to become part of the fabric of the region’s culture, Latin Americans are poised to settle in.

More reading…

Gambit’s article on Latin American Food stores: http://bestofneworleans.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A49431

Slate’s article post-K about influx of Latin American workers: http://www.slate.com/id/2140224/entry/2140240

Rio Mar’s site and mission statement: http://www.riomarseafood.com/about-us/welcome/

John Folse’s Caldo

Prep Time: 2 Hours
Yields: 8 Servings

Ingredients:

1 pound white beans
1 pound diced ham
1 pound pickled meat or smoked sausage
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 cups diced onions
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced bell peppers
1/4 cup minced garlic

1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 gallon cold water
1 (15-ounce) can string beans
2 (15-ounce) cans mustard greens
2 (15-ounce) cans spinach
1 (15-ounce) can corn
1 (15-ounce) can peas
1 (15-ounce) can sweet potatoes
1 (15-ounce) can yellow squash
1 (15-ounce) can new potatoes
1 and 1/2 heads shredded cabbage2 ears corn
salt and black pepper to taste
Louisiana hot sauce to taste

Method:

In a 12-quart Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add ham and pickled meat and sauté until golden brown. Stir in onions, celery, bell peppers and minced garlic. Saute 3–5 minutes or until vegetables are wilted. Add white beans, tomato sauce and water. Bring mixture to a rolling boil and continue to cook 1 hour or until beans are tender. Blend in all canned vegetables along with cabbage and fresh corn. Continue to cook over medium heat approximately 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt, pepper and hot sauce. Additional water may be added to retain consistency during cooking. Serve as a soup over steamed white rice.

Recipe from WFAB.com

Book Review: Twain’s Feast by Andrew Beahrs

September 20, 2010

Review by Liz Williams

Twain’s Feast: Searching for America’s Lost Foods in the Footsteps of Samuel Clemens by Andrew Beahrs, Penguin Press 2010

The sub-genre of food memoir that is the culinary journey has become popular of late.  Not a retrospective look at where life has brought the writer – not that journey – but rather more a travelogue of planned travel.  There are fine examples of such books, notably Coming Home to Eat by Gary Nabhan, but others have defined a goal and eaten their way to it in ways that seem forced and narcissistic. Andrew Beahrs has set a goal in Twain’s Feast: Searching for America’s Lost Foods in the Footsteps of Samuel Clemens to eat through the regional American foods pined for by Samuel Clemens in A Tramp Abroad and other works.  It is an example of the former.

Twain is very much present in this book.  His very strong opinions about American food – especially as contrasted with European food – are appealing and obviously heartfelt.  Beahrs allows Twain’s writings and thoughts to be paramount, even as he recounts his own experiences with each of the foods he has chosen to explore.

Beahrs participates in each of the dishes either by cooking the food (as he does with the steak at breakfast or preparing raccoon in Gillett, Arkansas) or cultivating it (as he does the San Francisco Bay oysters).  He also explores the relationship of the food to Twain’s life, and the historical and cultural context of the dishes.

Beahrs makes you appreciate America’s table.  The bounty that we have lost to homogenization and commercialization is apparent.  It was becoming obvious to Twain as well.  We no longer have lives with the time to appreciate these delights daily.  But what a pleasure it is to explore them now and again.

Beahr isn’t just reading or researching the past – he is living it.  Beahr makes the connection to the past real and tangible by actually eating it.  He makes eating an integral part of the process of understanding the past.  It has made me ready to find a terrapin or a raccoon and begin cooking.

Recipe: Watermelon Rum Punch

September 20, 2010

Stephanie Jane Carter

The blue, dented pick-up truck that parks in the shade of the oak trees on Carollton Avenue is the kind of vehicle that makes me smile.  With a hand-painted sign announcing its wares, watermelons filled the bed of the truck this week.  While the weather has started to give us a break, it is still hot in New Orleans and watermelons are still the answer for a couple more weeks.  Here is a cocktail to celebrate the end of summer.

photo by Stephanie Jane Carter

Watermelon Rum Punch

Makes one cocktail

1 cup red seedless watermelon, cubed

2 ounces white rum

1 tablespoon agave nectar

juice of 1 and a half limes (about 3 tablespoons)

1 tablespoon chopped mint

crushed ice

Chile Lime Salt (optional)

Combine the cubed watermelon, rum, agave nectar, and lime juice in a blender (or in a bowl if using an emmersion blender).  Puree until the mixture is smooth.  Strain through a fine mesh strainer.  Set aside.  If desired, coat the lip of a glass with the chile lime salt by rubbing the lip with a damp towel and dipping the lip into the salt.  Fill the glass with ice.  Add watermelon mixture and chopped mint.  Stir well.

Tethered Knives and the Joys of Menu-Collecting

August 6, 2010

photo courtesy of One Flew South

by Stephanie Jane Carter

After settling on the Cole Porter: Day as the perfect layover libation, I grasped the menu for One Flew South and asked, “May I keep it?”  A few things happened in between and then the manager was suggesting to that the bartender show me his knife, which turned out to be tethered to the bar by a rope that I only imagined people would use if they weren’t kidding around.

One Flew South is a restaurant in the Atlanta Airport that is worth a long layover, and I used my dining time to expand the menu collection at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum in New Orleans.  Formally known as the Menu Project, it is quickly becoming recognized as the only large-scale collection like this.  The collection comprises menus from all over the American South (the Chinese delivery place down the street, the menus you collected on your honeymoon to Charleston in the 1950s, the restaurants in the Atlanta Airport, famous and not famous restaurants, restaurants that still exist and those that do not, and…).  Additionally, the collection comprises those restaurants outside of the American South that purport to be Southern.  For example, visiting Rochester, New York, I found a Louisiana-inspired menu that had to substitute available ingredients for those commonly used in common Louisiana dishes such as gumbo.  A “gumbo” of clams and Chorizo over “Southwestern rice” is one example.   The Southern Food and Beverage Museum encourages  everyone (yes, you)  to collect menus for the project.

The Menu Project preserves ephemeral items that reflect trends in food, beverage, culture, language, and many other topics.  A World War II era menu from Galatoire’s Restaurant in New Orleans reminds us of rationing during that era – the menu reminds guests that they may only have one pat of butter for their entire meal.  If you’ve been to this restaurant, you will most likely find this rule inconceivable.  One pat of butter at Galatoire’s?  Chills… Another particularly old Galatoire’s menu betrays secrets, but not too many,  of a society that met there.  The menu was obviously created especially for what it clearly states as “secret sessions.”  There are enigmatic rules, such as “Particularly short men should open a window.”  Language on these older menus was much more formal than newer ones.

Newer menus reveal a trend toward using  nouns like parsley and rosemary  as verbs  (they are NOT) .  For example, “parsleyed potatoes” and “rosemaried lamb.”  How does one rosemary a lamb?  We can also see that the trend never extended to certain herbs – thymed soup just never happened.  In addition to more relaxed language, the menus demonstrate a changing aesthetic, advances in technology, shifts in populations, and so many other important topics.

Besides that, participating in the Menu Project can be fun.  Usually people are excited to share their restaurant’s menu once they know about the Menu Project.  Sometimes, they will display the kind of enthusiasm I encountered at One Flew South, eagerly sharing  details about the restaurant, the little things that no one else knows, and the things they are particularly proud of.  SO, the tethered knife… To have a restaurant in an airport in a terminal (read passed security) is a bit if a trial.  The knives have to be checked and recorded.  Once security clears them for use in the restaurant, they must remain tethered at all times.  A HUGE fine is incurred if a knife is found not to be tethered.  This means that chefs can’t bring their own knives in with them each day.  When cutting, chefs cannot move beyond the radius of the tethered knife.  The bartender who showed me his knife can only cut lemons and limes in that one spot.  And for this bit of knowledge, I raise my Cole Porter:Day to the Menu Project.

…..

Stephanie Jane Carter is a writer and editor at SoFAB.  To learn more about the Menu Project, visit the website, http://www.southernfood.org

Recipe: Avocado Vichyssoise

August 6, 2010
Avocado Vichyssoise

Avocado Vichyssoise

by Stephanie Jane Carter

“But in summer, when the soup seemed to be too hot, we asked for milk for which to cool it.  Many years later, it was this inspiration to make the soup which I have named Creme Vichyssoise.” (Louis Diat 1885-1957)

When the French-born chef, Louis Diat, was the chef at the Ritz Carlton in New York, he remembered a pureed potato soup served to him by his mother in his hometown, a village near Vichy in France.  Served hot, he often asked for milk to cool the soup.  From this concept, Diat created one of our most well-known soups, cold and refreshing Vichyssoise.

In this version, we have added another item that says summer to us, the avocado.  We find the flavor refreshing and surprising and we hope you do too.

Avocado Vichyssoise

Serves 6

2 leeks, trimmed, washed, and thinly sliced*

1/8 cup unsalted butter

2 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters

6 cups water

1 bouquet garni (2-3 sprigs parsley, 1 sprig thyme, 1 bay leaf)

Salt, to taste

3 medium avocados, peeled and pitted

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

1/2 cup Creme Fraiche

1/4 cup chopped chives

1.  Sweat the leeks in the butter and a pinch of salt.  Allow them to soften without developing color.

2.  Add the potatoes and the water and another sprinkling of salt.

3.  Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer.

4.  Simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft.

5.  Remove the bouquet garni and puree the soup.

6.  Let soup chill thoroughly.

7.  Add the avocados to the soup and puree until smooth.

8.  Just before serving, add the lime juice and stir to incorporate.

9.  Ladle into bowls and garnish with a dollop of creme fraiche and a sprinkling of chives.

*Normally, with a vichyssoise, one would only use the white parts of the leeks so that the soup could remain white.  However, this is not necessary in this version since the end product is green due to the addition of the avocados.

From the Director’s Desk

August 5, 2010

By Liz Williams

Liz Williams, SoFAB Director

August is going to be a terrific month at SoFAB.  Of course, it all starts with our spectacular Tailgating Party on August 8.  Besides the very special riffs on tailgating food that our chefs will produce, we can promise great music and fun entertainment.  This year the Muff-A-Lottas will be dancing for us.  In addition the Big Easy Roller Girls will bring their celebrity presence to the scene.  Even the Zephyrs mascot will make an appearance.

But the month also promises absinthe.  Besides  Damian Hevia’s beautiful photographs, Absinthe Visions, hanging in the photography gallery, we have a month’s worth of talks about the subject sponsored by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities.

And we are looking forward to a very ambitious and exciting symposium in early October.  With that symposium will be a new exhibit about the Gulf of Mexico/Caribbean Basin and its food exchanges.  With a serious nod at the Deep Horizon Oil Spill and its impact this symposium will present an exciting and important perspective on current culinary matters.  In addition our Clearinghouse makes it possible for all of the researchers on the cultural impact of the Deep Horizon Oil Spill to make connections to others as well as see what others are doing.

In spite of all of the activity in August, things will be a bit more quiet behind the scenes.  We have said good-bye to interns from Yale, Duke, Tulane and France.  They were so helpful, making great advances in the exhibits, organization and identity of SoFAB.  Thanks to all of them for all of their hard work.  And click on the French flag on our website and read about us in French!

I hope to see all of you on August 8.

….

Liz Williams is the Director of the Southern Food and Beverage Museum