In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina (called The Storm by natives) washed away homes, lives and livelihoods. It washed away closely-knit communities with 150+ year histories and their photos and memories. It washed away something else that we might not think of when we try to imagine the horror — it washed away recipes. New Orleanians are of very resilient stock. Everywhere, people sprang into action. Leaders emerged and groups formed (so many of them women-led) to salvage and repair the levees, the schools, the tax assessment system and more. Another group did what they knew how to do best. They became not only a clearing house for requests…not only a recipe lost-and-found but culinary private investigators as well. So many of the recipes that storm-ravaged citizens yearned for had been published at some point in the Times-Picayune’s excellent food section. Some came from the city’s most loved restaurants but most were from excellent home cooks and the paper’s own food editors.
A couple hundred of the recipes are collected in a book called Cooking Up A Storm, edited by Judy Walker and Marcelle Bienvenu (columnist, author of several cookbooks, and cookbook collaborator with Emeril Lagasse). I received a copy of the book as a Christmas gift from my mother and have already paged through it more than any other cookbook that I’ve owned for years. So, just hours to go until we ring in the New Year with friends, there is a pot of chicken and sausage gumbo simmering on the stove. The salad greens will be tossed with Bon Ton Café dressing and crabmeat. Scott has made a decadent, but simple chocolate tiramisu from his Christmas cookbook, a gift from his older children. Pirrie and her friends will be served a linguini alfredo dish taken from her Christmas cookbook, compiled by the makers of the movie Ratatouille (including a recipe from Thomas Keller). It was a gift from her grandmother. Three new cookbooks. Three new recipes to ring in 2009! I’ll leave the details of the wines to Scott, but I know it will begin with exquisite bubbles, including our last bottle of the 1999 Marc Chauvet Special Club.
As for New Year’s Day, a pot of the cutest little black-eyed peas (the penguins of the bean world) are soaking until tomorrow. I picked up some meaty ham hocks from Viande (NW 21st Ave.) and was able to congratulate Ben Dyer on his big news. He and the Simpatica gang are opening a restaurant/butcher shop on the east side and moving out of the City Market location. I’d be crushed by the news, but worry not. They have sold their shop to Paula and Eric, who’ve been working at Viande for years and will rename their butchery business Chop.