Culinary Research in the Big Easy

January 11, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

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Midnight on Julia StreetA wonderful new “Author’s Cut” edition of my novel, Midnight on Julia Street, was recently released by Sourcebooks, and prompted so many memories from the days when I was researching life in modern day and 1840 New Orleans.   This “time-slip” story deals with burnt out television reporter who arrives in the Big Easy with high hopes that at last, she can tell the truth as a journalist without getting fired.  (No such luck, I’m afraid…)

Julia Street–once the heart of the cotton warehouse region of the city in the 19th century–is host these days to trendy galleries and fabulous eateries like Emeril’s.
This part of town became the focus of many a foray I made into the wonderful world of Louisiana cuisine that, at times, figured in the story of a young professional getting to learn about a city famous for a certain flavor of magic and mystery.  Scents, especially, became the “way back” for the heroine inexplicably to slip between the city’s storied past when “Cotton was King” and the modern day of cell phones, digital news-gathering, and a city that never stops celebrating.

Part of that celebrating that I had the good fortune to witness generally involved that most hallowed of all culinary traditions in NOLA:  making a good Gumbo!  Everyone, it seemed, had his or her own special recipe or way of making a roux–the “building block” of any respectable gumbo.  There are seafood gumbos, chicken and sausage gumbos, even vegetarian gumbos, but the one I developed over the last fifteen years was made either with quail, Rock Cornish Game Hens, or–if pressed for time–organic chicken thighs…or even a rotisserie chicken from the supermarket!

So, if you want to add to the sensory experience of reading my historical novel Midnight on Julia Street, get into the spirit of the Mardi Gras season that started with Twelfth Night (January 6, 2012) and will run until Fat Tuesday (February 21) by trying out my version of New Orleans Gumbo as posted in my blog…and if you like your gumbo spicier, just add pepper flakes and more cayenne!

 

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