Archive for the ‘Recent Acquisitions’ Category

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 (, 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  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,


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,

Collections Update: Alberta’s Oyster

March 17, 2010

By Chris Smith

photo by Stephanie Jane Carter

The Southern Food and Beverage Museum’s case devoted to artifacts from the World’s Fair has a new item – an artificial oyster made by a local artist that was a precursor to today’s fake food industry.

The oyster is on loan from the artist, Alberta Lewis, a ceramist who lives at Sebastopol Plantation in St. Bernard Parish. The shell is real – a Louisiana oyster selected by Lewis herself for its unique beauty. But the “meat” of the oyster was Lewis’ own creation, a clay representation of the mollusk rendered in brown, black, taupe, green and even blue.

“The color was the big challenge,” she recalls. “It had to look natural and give a representational idea of what an oyster looked like to all of the people who would see it in New York.”

Yes, New York but more specifically the borough of Queens, the site of the 1964 World’s Fair, which predated the New Orleans World’s Fair by exactly two decades. The fair’s theme was “Peace Through Understanding,” dedicated to “Man’s Achievement on a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe.” The fair featured 140 pavilions on 646 acres.

One of those pavilions was created by the state of Louisiana which recreated New Orleans’ Bourbon Street inside its pavilion complete with jazz musicians that performed in the restaurants that lined the street. Another attraction was the Gas Pavilion, which included a “Theatre of Food” with demonstrations by chefs from all over the world.

At one of these pavilions, Lewis does not remember which one, demonstrators from the New Orleans Public Service Incorporated (NOPSI) were showcasing a classic local creation, Oysters Rockefeller, a huge hit at the fair.

The oysters were a huge hit with the people who watched NOPSI demonstrators prepare them. However, they oysters had become a significant issue for food inspectors in New York. In order to make the dish, oysters were shipped regularly from New Orleans and were prepared for cooking. According to Lewis, the food inspectors wanted to put warning signs alongside the dish. Also, it was expensive to constantly ship oysters to New York for the demonstrations.

The solution was to create fake oysters that looked as realistic as possible. The NOPSI demonstrators could then place the oyster on the shell, prepare the spinach and cheese concoction to cover the oyster, and then pop the dish in to the oven. Because the fake oysters were made of porcelain, they could withstand the heat of the oven and could be washed after each demonstration.

“I was contacted by an acquaintance who knew I worked in clay and who wanted to know if I could make ceramic oysters,” she recalls. “My challenge was to make a dozen oysters that looked like real oysters. The oyster shells were easy. The meat was the tough part.”

Lewis began to experiment, mixing different color combinations into her clay, and creating different glazes that would replicate the watery sheen of a freshly opened oyster.

“The color had to be natural,” she said. “I had to capture the translucency of an oyster. It couldn’t look dry; it needed to look fresh. The eye, where the oyster is attached to the shell, had to look realistic and not too opaque. The edges needed to have darker edges in order to look realistic. I ended up using several different methodologies until I got something that worked.”

It didn’t take her long to create a suitable oyster. When she thought she had the right formula, she made 12 of the faux oysters and packed them off to New York. “They were accepted and I was paid for my work. That was the last I heard from them.”

But she kept one of the extra replicas, the piece that is now on loan to the museum. After almost 50 years, it remains as fresh and translucent as the day Lewis created it, making one wonder why she didn’t try to create a pearl.

Collections Update: The Big Grey Tower

December 14, 2009

by Chris Smith, Director of Collections, SoFAB

The newest exhibit at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum features a tower of recipes donated by a couple with a penchant for collecting and cataloguing recipes.
The tower, which stands almost six feet tall, features 22 grey drawers, or 11 drawers stacked side by side. The recipes are catalogued by food group. For example, Drawer 1 is dedicated to “chip dips and party goodies.” Drawer 10 focuses on shrimp. Drawer 14 is devoted to ethnic Italian, Slovak and Greek dishes.

The recipe horde is the gift of Rick and Monica Defenbaugh, formerly of Metairie, La., but now residents of a retirement community in Georgetown, Texas. They donated the tower when they made the move to Texas in the summer of 2009.

The collection represents a lifetime of culinary curiosity for the Defenbaughs and their daughters.

Both Rick and Monica were born in the mid-1940s, grew up in the 1950s and ‘60s, and had mothers they described as excellent cooks, though they didn’t teach either of them how to cook when they were young. Rick and Monica began their culinary adventures as young adults during their first marriages.

Monica grew up in West Virginia. She learned to cook primarily from her grandmothers, first generation immigrants – one from Romania and one from Czechoslovakia. Her mother influenced her too, although later.

Rick grew up in the American heartland, but worked as a waiter at the Texan Restaurant in Bryan, Texas, where he observed a professional restaurant kitchen in action. It was there that he developed an appreciation for good food that was well served.

Both moved to New Orleans where they would meet in 1975, and then marry in 1978. That’s when their adventures in cooking began.

“When we combined households (and recipe files), we shared the cooking duties,” the pair wrote in a letter to the museum describing the collection. “We strongly believe in a sit-down ‘family meal’ most evenings and required each of our two daughters (one from each of our first marriages), during their formative years, to cook the family meal once a week. As a result, both learned to cook, and had mastered a few well-rehearsed recipes when they left home for college.”

Family members routinely clipped recipes from the New Orleans Times-Picayune, magazines and cookbooks. Through the years, the collection of 4×6 recipe cards grew large enough to occupy several grey metal index card cabinets.

“Often, we stamped each recipe card with a rubber stamp to identify the magazine or cookbook that was the source of that particular recipe. Whenever we cooked a recipe for the first time, we marked the top edge of that recipe card with a red marker, to easily distinguish the previously prepared recipes from the ‘not-yet-cooked’ ones.”

The large recipe file allowed them to accumulate recipes they wanted to prepare in a convenient and organized manner, and to compare multiple recipes for the same or similar dishes. By comparing the ingredients and procedures from several recipes of the same dish, it became clear to the Defenbaughs which ingredients were key, which were optional or of lesser importance, and which procedures were simpler or efficient or suitable for their kitchen.

In 1993, the Defenbaughs began typing recipes into the computer to document favorite, routinely cooked, or family heirloom recipes. They printed the recipes and organized them into binders. In 16 years, the “Rick and Monica Cookbook” has morphed into 10 large ring binder notebooks and includes more than 1,000 recipes.

In 2002, the Defenbaughs discovered the internet and went on a recipe-printing binge. They discovered that they could print many more recipes than they could clip and they no longer needed the big recipe card file. They “mothballed” their 4×6 cards and began to store their recipes in their computer. They used the grey filing cabinets as an archive where they could find old favorites and heirloom recipes.

Eventually they decided they needed to find a home for the filing cabinets and the cards inside.

The Southern Food and Beverage Museum accepted the gift in July 2009 and it can be found on display in the Cookbook Corner of the museum.

To learn more about donating objects to the Southern Food and Beverage Museum, please learn more by visiting our site,

Collections Update: Toy Stoves

November 11, 2009

by Stephanie Jane Carter

IMG_3083Due to the generosity of Ms. Alberta Lewis of Sebastopol Plantation of St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana, the Southern Food and Beverage Museum has acquired a second early-1900s cast-iron, child’s stove.  The stove, which bears the name pet on the door, was originally Ms. Lewis’ mother’s toy stove, and then Ms. Lewis’ childhood stove.  It features a four-burner top, chimney, and grate.  Little cast-iron pans and kettles, as well as a lid-lifter, accompany it.  The collection at SoFAB was inspired by a toy stove donated by board member Julia Johnston, also originally her mother’s.

During the late 19th and early 20th century, stove manufacturers began creating these miniature versions of adult stoves.  They bore names like pet, doll, dainty (an American cast-iron version that was anything but “dainty”), baby, OUR baby, and midget.  Some bore tougher names, names that transcended any drudgery in the kitchen, names like Jupiter, Eagle, and Eclipse. Other name’s were less imaginative, but equally interesting, such as an American cast-iron nickel stove know as Buck’s Junior 2.

The perceived motivation behind the creation of the little stoves is often debated.  Some believe that the heavy little stoves were salesman samples, lugged door to door by men hoping to tempt the lady of the house with an example of the stove she could touch.  While some of the little stoves may have been placed in stores to entice buyers, it seems impractical that many of them were carried door to door.  According to Florence Theriault, author of Toy Stoves, 1850-1950, the saleman sample theory is “largely discredited today, somewhat by applying common sense, and somewhat by a detailed study of those same manufacturers’ catalogs.”  She does say that at least one company, The Home Comfort stove company of St. Louis, did produce miniature stoves as saleman’s samples from 1910-1940.  Whether they were created for adults or children, it is undeniable that part of the motivation in their creation was to entice people to buy that brand of stove.

A childhood love of a specific brand toy stove could grow into an adult trust of that same brand.  The little stoves instilled brand recognition in children early on, in hopes that would be translated to brand loyalty when it was time to purchase a full-size stove.  Of course, children love to emulate their parents, so little stoves provided immense enjoyment for children, and the stove companies made a little extra money.

For many of us, our first attempts into the world of baking and pastry, and all other cooking, were with toy stoves.  Over time models that mimicked coal-burning stoves gave way to lighter, plastic or wood versions.  As my grandmother baked bread in her kitchen in North Carolina, I toiled away on my miniature, pink, plastic stove next to her.  She gave me batter to mix in a little bowl.  When it was done, I poured the gooey substance into a little loaf pan and placed it in my pink plastic oven.  I opened the door and peered in, considering the possibility that my little oven did not actually work.  My grandmother reminded me to be patient and when I turned my back, she would replace my loaf pan of batter with a loaf pan of perfectly warm, sweet cake.  With patience, cakes (and miracles) could happen in a toy stove.

The Southern Food and Beverage Museum looks forward to continuing to expand its collection of children’s cooking-related toys from many eras.  To view SoFAB’s collection policies, click here.  To view SoFAB’s FAQ page regarding collections, click here.  To contact the Southern Food and Beverage Museum, click here.

Collections Update – Old Menus, New Life

September 18, 2009

Barbara Hazzard of Paragould, Arkansas, donated more than 30 old menus from the 1950s and 1960s. The menus are from restaurants throughout the South, but they focus mostly on Texas and New Orleans.

“We were from Chicago but moved to Lamarque, Texas, and then to Galveston,” she said. “My mother and I used to drive River Road between New Orleans and Galveston and we would stop at restaurants along the way. We would try anything. It was such fun.”

She began to collect menus and soon family and friends were collecting them for her. “I had so many that one time I thought I would wallpaper a bathroom with them.”

Some of the donated menus include the following:

  • A small menu from Pat O’Briens describing two cocktails – the Breeze, and the Squall
  • An Antoine’s Restaurant menu from its centennial year, 1940.
  • A Commander’s Palace menu from the 1950s. For $4, patrons could get shrimp Remoulade, Commander’s Steak, Brabant potatoes, sliced tomatoes and coffee.
  • Restaurant Sclafani, in Metairie, Louisiana, features the standard oversized menu of the era but also includes a typed menu of specials for the day, including oysters Rockefeller or oysters Sclafani for $1 per half dozen.
  • A menu from Bill Williams Restaurants which features the Cisco Kid (Duncan Renaldo) and Pancho (Leo Carrillo) in a classy 1950s rendering on the cover.
  • A beautiful color menu from the Traveltown Motel Dining Room and Restaurant in Cloverdale, Virginia. One item that stands out: half fried chicken with soup, salad, vegetables, bread, beverage and dessert for $2.
  • The Menger, San Antonio, featured a daily special of broiled flounder, julienned potatoes, cole slaw, and coffee, for $1.50.
  • A menu from Bob Adamcik’s Café, west of Schulenburg, Texas, where there is “26 hour service.”

The Southern Food and Beverage Museum has an extension collection of menus from Southern restaurants. It is housed at the Huey Long Library at the University of New Orleans. For more information about the Menu Project, please click here.

Photograph by Johnny Donnels, New Orleans Photographer, Donated to SoFAB

August 11, 2009

by Chris Smith

Joan Donnels has donated a photograph taken by her late husband, Johnny Donnels, a well-known photographer in New Orleans. Donnels’ studio was located on Saint Peter Street in the French Quarter.

The 12” x 16” photograph features two pans of crabs in preparation to be cooked. All the crabs are laying on their sides or backs except one which has its back fully exposed to the viewer. The picture is titled The Outsider.

Johnny Donnels died earlier this year.

Library Director from Texas Donates Cookbooks to SoFAB

August 11, 2009

by Chris Smith

SoFAB has received a box of 24 cookbooks from Belton, Texas.

The books are a combination of gifts from the library director, Kim Kroll, who shops for cookbooks at antique stores, and de-accessioned books from the Lena Armstrong Public Library, City of Belton, Texas.

The cookbooks are from Louisiana, Texas, Georgia, Florida, New Mexico, and Kansas. Among the books are:

  • Prize Winning Recipes of the State Fair of Texas
  • The Art of Cooking in Cameron Texas
  • Farm Journal’s Freezing and Canning Cookbook
  • Home Cookin’ compiled by the Junior League of Wichita Falls
  • Best of the Best of New Mexico
  • Feastin’ with the Federation, the City Federation of Women’s Clubs, Temple Texas, (1955)
  • Bell County’s Kitchen Secrets (from the early 1950s and has an Aunt Jemima type character on the cover)

Mr. Bluebird’s On Our Shoulder, So to Speak

August 11, 2009

by Chris Smith, Collections Director at SoFAB

An old, hurricane-addled sign from the recently closed Bluebird Café on Prytania Street in New Orleans has found a new place to roost in the Southern Food and Beverage Museum.

“I am just totally honored for it to be in the museum,” says Sally Roberts, the person who created and operated the café for 21 years. “I never dreamed something from the restaurant would be included in a museum.”

In two decades, Roberts managed to create an iconic restaurant beloved by locals and tourists.

“I’m not originally from here; I am from Kansas,” she says. “I came here and loved it. I loved all the little neighborhood places, the little po’ boy shops tucked into the neighborhoods and the little hole-in-the-walls. I was so pleased to become part of that, the New Orleans experience. Operating the Bluebird Café was a dream come true. And now to have my sign immortalized in a museum, it’s more than I ever expected to get. I could not be more thrilled.”

Roberts donated the sign to the museum when it closed in May 2009. The sign is an oval, roughly 4 feet by four feet. It is white with a one-inch blue trim around the edge. In the center is a bluebird perched on a branch with a body of water in the background. Lake Pontchartrain? The Gulf of Mexico? That is left to the viewer’s imagination. The words “Bluebird Café appear in red lettering with red trim.

“It’s not the original sign from 1988,” says Roberts. “This sign is about 12 years old. It was made by a commercial sign fabricator here in New Orleans. I found a similar design for a flour company and we used that as a model. I had a friend who was an artist and who did the lettering.”

Roberts says there are bluebird cafes in cities across the country. “Bluebirds represent all that is good,” she says. And she adds “It felt like we had been there forever.”

The sign was blown around quite a bit during Katrina, but it was Gustav that blew it off and wedged it into the fence. They did not get a chance to put it up again.

The sign is emblematic of the café. “We went from 20 employees to eight after Katrina. The facility was unscathed but the employees were blown all over. That was difficult, managing something from a distance, depending on other people.”

Though the Bluebird Café is gone, Roberts is working with friends to plan something else in the food industry though she doesn’t want to make commitments now. “Food service is what I know, though I am trying to take a break. Right now, I’m working on relaxing and traveling and visiting with old friends.”

One of those old friends is perched on a branch on a sign inside the Southern Food and Beverage Museum.


Another Bluebird?