Archive for the ‘Objects’ 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,


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,