Archive for the ‘Letter from the Editor’ Category

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.


Stephanie Jane Carter


SoFAB Opens a New Display on Oysters

July 6, 2010

Exhibit Shows the Passion of a Collector and Portrays an Industry Now Under Assault

By Chris Smith
The Southern Food and Beverage Museum has created an exhibit that explains the important role that oysters play in the life of Gulf Coast residents.

The exhibit includes old oyster cans from processors, an oyster bucket, ceramic oyster jug, antique oyster knife, oyster forks, oyster plates, and historic photography. Several photos of several oyster plates can be viewed at

Exhibition artifacts have been loaned to the museum from the collection of Jim Gossen, owner of Louisiana Foods Global Seafood Source, headquartered in Houston. Though he collected many types of oyster artifacts through the years, his major focus of collecting has been oyster plates.

“I started collecting around 1977 or 1978,” says Gossen. “Even though I was in the seafood business, I had no real interest in collecting any items. I remember that I was in Chicago at the National Restaurant Association meeting and I was staying at the Drake Hotel. Every time I went to get my car, I had to pass a little shop that had some oyster plates in the window that always caught my eye. They were cobalt blue. I went into the store and talked to the lady and they were more than I wanted to pay, just way too much. But something made me go back and I bought them and that was the beginning.”

Even though he had been involved in the oyster industry for years, and felt he was familiar with oyster lore, he became acquainted with an entirely new realm of bivalve history.

Though oysters have been consumed for thousands of years, it was during the Victorian era that ostentatious presentations involved in serving oysters reached its zenith. The Victorians honored oysters by serving them with special utensils and by using highly decorated plates designed exclusively for serving oysters.

From the mid-nineteenth century to the early twentieth, hundreds of different oyster plate designs were created in Europe, Asia and the United States. The plates have wells or depressions – usually three to six – as to hold the shucked oyster meat as well as other depressions for sauce, lemons or crackers. The design of the plate interior was limited only by the imagination of the manufacturers and artists who designed and decorated them. The plates range from delicate to massive and were manufactured materials such as porcelain, earthenware, glass, silver and pewter.

“A lot of people don’t know what oyster plates are,” says Gossen. “They do not come as part of china sets. And they are not the most practical thing; they are somewhat aristocratic. You tend to see them more in areas where there are oyster bed and oyster farming.”

After his original purchase in Chicago, Gossen says that he didn’t buy another oyster plate for several years and in fact, he had no intention of starting a collection. Gradually, he began to meet other collectors, including those from the eastern seaboard states where oyster plates were considered works of art. He bought the few books available that described oyster plates, their history, and their values. He also began to search out antique stores in search of plates.

Gossen’s wife, Diane, developed the oyster plate collecting bug. Eventually, the couple amassed a collection of more than 300 plates, including some of value.

“Our collecting philosophy has changed from when we first began,” he says. “Now we know a lot about oyster plates and we know the values and whether something is fairly priced.”

Because they now have a significant well-rounded collection, they are interested in purchasing only the hard-to-find pieces that come into play infrequently. They know there are a lot of counterfeit plates as well as legitimate copies, and what the Gossens have created is a collection of plates that are mostly 100 years of age and older. “When we started, there were no counterfeits out there; the plates had the appropriate markings so there was no way to mislead people. Also, there was no eBay. Like anything else, it’s buyer-beware unless you know the seller.”

Most of the Gossen’s oyster plates are stored away. However, when they built a new house in Houston, Gossen’s brother, an architect, designed a dining room that has a cabinet in each corner. Each cabinet is specially lighted to exhibit roughly 30 plates in each cabinet.

Photos of many of the Gossen’s oyster plates appear on the Louisiana Food website:

“I’ve had fun with it over the years,” he says. He seems to surprise himself when he remembers that he’s been collecting for more than 30 years. “I never dreamed that some of them would be displayed in a museum.”

The oyster display will remain on exhibit through the end of the year.

Letter from the Editor: June 2010

June 9, 2010

This summer, words like tophat, topkill, junk shot, and phrases like a giant set of shears have become commonplace in the vocabularies of Gulf Coast residents.  BP can’t agree with anyone on the definition of plume and we are all worried about our seafood industries and coastline.  As we wonder what the effects of the spill will be on our marshlands that protect us from hurricanes, we brace for what experts predict to be a very active hurricane season.  Much of the current media attention focuses on the environmental and economic impact of the spill.  The Southern Food and Beverage Museum is building a webpage to act as a clearinghouse for researchers who are investigating the cultural impact of this spill.  SoFAB is aware that many academics and researchers have undertaken individualized efforts to collect such cultural data, and the goal of the online clearinghouse will be to streamline research efforts by offering a forum where one may post overviews of research projects, as well as project locations and logistics. By eliminating overlap, we hope to expand Gulf collection efforts in a meaningful way. If one is interested in adding a research initiative to the clearinghouse, please contact SoFAB President Liz Williams via email, at

We are also sponsoring the 4-14 Festival in Dijon, France, which will highlight New Orleans cooking and Louisiana seafood.  As Louisiana tries to combat the misconceptions that local fishing has stopped and that the existing seafood is unsafe to eat, we are excited to know that the French will be eating Louisiana seafood at the festival this summer.

The Southern Food and Beverage Museum is looking forward to a productive and exciting summer, filled with collecting oil spill cultural data, cooking in France, and working with our fabulous summer interns from Tulane, Yale, and Duke.  In celebration of our 2nd birthday, we are giving you a present when you renew your membership (or sign up for the first time).  Click here.

Have a wonderful summer!

Stephanie Jane Carter

stephanie AT southernfood DOT org

Letter from the Editor

May 11, 2010

photo by David Gallent

Dear Friends,

Just a few months ago, the Gulf Coast oyster industry was threatened with a proposed oyster ban.  It has been a trying month for the entire Gulf Coast seafood industry as the BP oil spill creeps closer to the coast.  During this time, it is important that we support our Gulf Coast fisherman.  Much seafood remains safe to eat and many seafood organizations encourage us to continue buying this Gulf Coast Seafood.  Click here to find out the oil spill forecast, what fisherman are doing, and more, visit the Louisiana Seafood Promotion Board.  Also, visit the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to see closures and to get information about the oil spill response.

The Southern Food and Beverage Museum has some excellent information on the history of the Louisiana seafood industry in the Leah Chase Louisiana Gallery.  Please check it out during your visit!

To learn more, visit our beautiful, new, updated website at

Cheers, ya’ll!

Stephanie Jane Carter

stephanie AT southernfood DOT org

Editor’s Letter: April 2010

April 1, 2010

Many of you have noticed and commented that, like Spring, the Southern Food and Beverage Museum is ALWAYS growing.  Every time I walk through the museum, there are new artifacts, new exhibits, new things to learn and celebrate.  Of course the ways to learn and celebrate go farther than the exhibits in the museum.  As you will read in Liz Williams’ Director’s Desk Update, April is as jam-packed with events, cooking demos, lectures, symposiums, parties, as herb gardens will be with parsley, dill, tarragon, thyme, sage, cilantro, lavender, chamomile, and arugula this month.  On the topic of April gardening, I’ll be representing the Southern Food and Beverage Museum at the Historic Virginia Garden Week tour this month.  I’ll be at Randleston Farm on April 24 and 25.  I’d be delighted  to know if you plan on being there.

In March, I had the opportunity to talk about the Teen Culinary Club with Chef Tenney Flynn, Chef at GW Fins Restaurant, and Janee’ Taylor, President of the Teen Culinary Club at SoFAB, on the WWL-TV Morning Show.  We are completing our first year of the program and it was great to be able to tell everyone a little bit about what we’ve been doing.  Our final meeting of this school year will be in April and we hope to have many more teens join us.  We are in the planning stages of the 2010-2011 school year program and we look forward to hearing from anyone who may want to participate as a sponsor or presenter.  For information, email me.  stephanieATsouthernfoodDOTorg.  The Teen Culinary Club is for high school students with a strong interest in food and students who are interested in exploring a career in the food industry.

On that note, we would like to congratulate some wonderful people who already have outstanding careers in the food industry…

Congratulations to our current and former board members on their nominations for the James Beard 2010 Awards!
John Besh (Best American Cooking Cookbook: My New Orleans)
David Guas (Best Baking and Dessert Cookbook: DamGoodSweet)
Linton Hopkins (Best Chef in the Southeast: Restaurant Eugene)
Jessica Harris (Who’s Who of Food and Beverage In America Inductee)
Leah Chase  (Who’s Who of Food and Beverage In America Inductee)

And Congratulations to all of our supporters who have appeared or helped the museum in some way for their 2010 James Beard nominations!
Susan Spicer (Who’s Who of Food and Beverage In America Inductee)
Jonathan Gold (Craig Claiborne Distinguished Restaurant Review and
Best Writing on Spirits, Wine, or Beer)
Donald Link (Best American Cooking Cookbook: Real Cajun with Paula Disbrowe)
Emeril Lagasse (Best Television Special: Emeril Green: Emeril’s
Culinary Adventure: Napa)
John T. Edge (M.F.K. Fisher Distinguised Writing Award: Article in The
Oxford American)
Matt and Ted Lee (Best American Cooking Cookbook: The Lee Bros.)

Cheers, Ya’ll,

Stephanie Jane Carter

Letter from the Editor: March 2010

March 17, 2010

Dear Friends,

The Southern Food and Beverage Museum is about to undergo several exciting exhibit changes.  Our new exhibits will be Spoiled: The post-Katrina Refrigerator photographs by Tom Varisco, classic food photography by Eugenie Uhl, and a new exhibit devoted to Galatoire’s Restaurant, a New Orleans institution.  Join us at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum for a Party celebrating these exhibits on March 28, 2010.
Of note is the research our very own grammy-award winning Joe Sunseri has been working on an upcoming exhibit exploring juke joints and food.  He made a research-oriented trip along Highway 61, staying at campy places like the Shack Up/Cotton Gin Inn in Clarksdale, Mississippi.  We all received token wine openers from that establishment (thanks, Joe!).  He also ate at some cool places, like the Loveless.

While Joe works feverishly on this exhibit, we hope you will join us for Eat Well Do Good, a wine event on April 4.  We know you will be ready to relax with some wine and good food after you run the Crescent City Classic on the 3rd.

The event  will feature famed New Orleans restaurants Dooky Chase and Bennachin’s, the West African restaurant in the French Quarter.  The reception will feature wines from our official sponsor, Heritage Link Brands, along with tasty libations from the Museum of the American Cocktail, New Orleans Brew, and more.  The VIP reception features fried chicken from Dooky Chase, paired with South African “Champagne”, Cape Classique, and reserve wine tasting.  I will be there.  How about you?

Cheers, Ya’ll!

Stephanie Jane Carter

Letter from the Editor

February 1, 2010

Dear Friends,

Houses in New Orleans are shimmering in the traditional Mardi Gras colors, purple, green, and gold.  However, they are also shimmering in black and gold, the colors of the New Orleans Saints to celebrating the Saint’s first trip to the Super Bowl.  In that spirit, my favorite thing going on at SoFAB right now is the auction of a print of the Blue Dog with Drew Brees by George Rodrigue.  The George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts has generously donated this autographed silkscreen print in support of the Southern Food and Beverage Museum.  Appropriately, the auction ends on Super Bowl Sunday (February 7).  It is cool way to support SoFAB in the spirit of the New Orleans Saints.  These prints are limited in number.  To bid or to learn more, click here.

We wish you the best in your bidding and all the best football food and drinks this Sunday.  Who Dat!


Stephanie Jane Carter

Letter from the Editor: November 2009

November 12, 2009

I can’t say that visions of sugar plums are dancing in my head quite yet (it is only November) but with Thanksgiving and Christmas just around the corner, it does seem that desserts are on many people’s minds and plates.  They are certainly permeating our activities at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum lately.  NOLA Pastry, a philanthropic group of professional pastry chefs, has been holding its organizational meetings at SoFAB.  Plans are set for David Guas’ dessert party at SoFAB, celebrating the release of his new book, DamGoodSweet.  The Big Read NOLA, sponsored by the Southern Food and Beverage Museum, just held a cake and pie contest.  Later this month, our Culinary Club for Teens will enjoy a special presentation by Robert Plouffe, the Executive Pastry Chef for the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans.  The human tendency toward sweet tastes began with fruit.  As the sweet satsumas begin to ripen, DISH book club marks the season with a book about citrus, Oranges. Of even bigger note, the book club will now meet in locations around town that seem relevant to the featured book.  This month’s meeting takes place at La Playa with Greg Surrey of Surrey’s Juice Bar.   So, in honor of the sweet season, we celebrate sweet stuff in this issue of the SoFAB Monthly.


Send us your favorite family dessert recipe!  stephanie (AT) southernfood (DOT) org


Stephanie Jane Carter, Editor

Letter from the Editor – October 2009

October 13, 2009

Dear Friends,

This past month has been busy. The Association of Food Journalists hosted their party at the museum. Emeril Lagesse, Liz Williams of SoFAB, and Chris McMillan of MOTAC graciously welcomed AFJ and the chefs to the Southern Food and Beverage Museum. It was two glorious hours of cocktails like the French 75, the Sazerac, and the Corpse Reviver, and food by chefs like Emeril Lagasse, Donald Link and Slade Rushing.

While it was a busy month, we hardly have time to look back at all the fun. We are preparing to host our First Annual Food Symposium and Literary Feast on October 23 and 24. Sara Roahen, Judy Walker, Iam McNulty, Paul Freedman, Susan Tucker, Rien Fertel, and many others will all be our guests on various panels. Please join us as we explore the inventing of Cajun/Creole Cuisine and the World’s Fairs.

The Big Read is in full swing and we encourage you to “friend” the Big Read NOLA on Facebook and explore all its offerings.

There are many special events coming up. Please view our sidebar for a sampling and our “events” section of our website for a full list.


Stephanie Jane Carter
Director of Communications
Editor, SoFAB Monthly

Email me:
stephanie AT southernfood DOT org