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Cooking With Cajun Women: Recipes & Remembrances From South Louisiana Kitchens

by Nicole Denée

 

Fontenot Hippocrene Books, October, 2002

ISBN 978-0781809320

Hard cover, 330 pages. $24.95

 cooking-with-cajun-women

Cooking with Cajun Women is a wonderful book. I am extremely proud of my Cajun background; our food is becoming recognized around the country in a very positive light, as it should be. This cookbook gives a short history of our plight and background which is so necessary to the reader’s understanding of the evolution of our kitchen.

I am also a graduate of the University of Southwestern Louisiana, now University of Louisiana at Lafayette (ULL). The author of this cookbook is one of many people associated with ULL who is working hard to promote and preserve our heritage. Food is always the window to a group of people, in this case hot and spicy food!

The Cajun people are descendents of French immigrants originally from the northwestern part of France. They left their home country due to political and religious pressures. They are European in all senses of the word and French as much as French can be. The recipes that are in this cookbook accurately show this French/European thinking. You will find that certain dishes are given different interpretations. For example, recipes for etouffe or gumbo are similar, but different for each individual who prepares them. This to me is one of the exciting and interesting things about our Cajun kitchen.

I especially enjoy the quotes that accompany the recipes. They give an insight to the person and show the color of our way of life. The tight knit family unit is still alive and well in South Louisiana. I will never forget our family’s mandatory Sunday dinner at grandma’s house on the farm. I was not especially receptive to this mandatory family get together, but I can tell you now that I would give anything to sit at that wonderful oak table and enjoy the magnificent meal that this old and wonderful woman could put together. Grandpa was no slouch in the kitchen, either. In fact, he could prepare Cajun food as well as his wife and he was very responsible for teaching me to cook.

Cooking with Cajun Women tends to let the reader feel that the women were more responsible for the meals than the men. Well, this not entirely correct. The Cajun men that I grew up with certainly could cook and did quite well. Cajun men are more into cooking today than ever before and certainly share the duties in the kitchen and are proud of their fixins!

The depiction of the Cajun has often suffered in accuracy, but this cookbook does a great job of helping folks understand and appreciate what we have in South Louisiana. You will enjoy this book. These words were common to hear while around our Cajun tables, “manger, manger, manger”(eat, eat, eat).

 

--Reviewer Lanny Kilchrist has resided in Sacramento, California, since he was assigned to teaching duties at Mather AFB at the conclusion of an Air Force career which included 210 combat missions in a B-52. After completing a master’s degree in glass art at California State University Sacramento, he founded L K Enterprises, a company which manufactures computerized temperature controllers for glass.

Lanny recommends readers visit the Cajun land of Louisiana to experience the wonderful food and hospitality firsthand, but cautions that a trip in the spring or fall will avoid also experiencing the summer’s very hot, sticky, and humid climate.

Friday, 20 April 2012 12:01

Julia Child A Life

Julia Child A Life

by Laura Shapiro

 

2007 Penguin Lives

ISBN 978-=14-311644-8

185 pages $14

Julia Child a Life 2nd vesion Picmonkey 

Many remember Julia Child from her PBS television shows. Others may know her as an older woman given great deference when appearing as a guest on more recent television programs. Still, the woman has been dead since August of 2004, so many food buffs and home cooks may not have heard about her at all, but for the recent Julia and Julie movie.

For readers in all these categories, Laura Shapiro's fond, but not fawning, biography, Julia Child A Life, is a treat. It traces the food maven's early life of privilege (reared in a prosperous family in Pasadena, California, Julia McWilliams attended the Katherine Branson School in Marin County, then went east to Smith College), her wartime travels and marriage to Paul Child and subsequent evolution to the French Chef persona recognized by American foodies.

Times were very different in the mid-1930's, even for educated young women. She found employment—at first in New York City and later in Southern California—but her pay was modest and the work apparently unsatisfying. With a world war pending, she applied for military services only to be turned down as her six feet two inch stature was deemed too tall by all branches. She was accepted by the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the precursor to today's CIA. Apparently her duties were essentially clerical, but the assignments in exotic locales were a good deal more interesting than life as a department store advertising copywriter. In 1944 she was posted to Ceylon where she met a specialist in the office's visual presentation unit. Paul Child was sophisticated, experienced and soon smitten with Julia. Shapiro gives an intimate and sensitive recounting of the unfolding of their budding romance and subsequent married life.

After living for a time in post-war Washington, Paul and Julia Child moved to France in 1948 when he was transferred to Paris. Her interest in cooking blossomed and she learned—at first just by living in France and later with a somewhat contentious culinary education begun at the Cordon Bleu school. On her return to the United States, she realized how different was the life of the typical American homemaker in the 1950s. Her early attempts to write for these housewives were awkward and not immediately accepted by editors and publishers. She pushed on in an unusual combination of dedication to perfection and somewhat casual good nature. Eventually her perseverance led to a show on WGBH, Boston's public television station. Perhaps because her early shows were unpolished, her appearances were an immediate hit with viewers. She was real and her attitude seemed to say to them, “Come on. If I can do this, so can you.”

Did she ever drop a chicken on the television studio floor, retrieve it and continue prepping it for her audience? Apparently not, though some will swear they saw the show on which it happened. It's like that with larger-than-life personalities. I was fortunate to meet Julia after she had given a cooking demonstration at a winery. Even late in the afternoon of a long day it was obvious this older woman had a great zest for life. I wished I had known her years earlier. Laura Shapiro's biography fills in some of the blanks for such a fan.

 

--Reviewed by Dan Clarke Name Your Link

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