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Book Nook

January/February 2017 Issue

Ca c'est bon!

New Louisiana cookbook captures the best
of Creole and Cajun cultures.

George Graham without shame declares that he lives to eat, and after pouring over his new cookbook, Acadiana Table: Cajun and Creole Home Cooking from the Heart of Louisiana, I believe he has the right idea.

In his book’s introduction, Graham describes how he grew up in Louisiana immersed in a food culture. He started cooking as a boy in his dad’s diner. Over the years, Graham, who lives in Lafayette with his wife and daughter, has owned a restaurant, written about Cajun and Creole cuisine for a number of publications, and was a finalist on “Food Network Challenge.” His beautiful blog, Acadiana Table, was launched in 2013 and has won national recognition. I suppose a cookbook was only a matter of time for him.

But in reality, this is more than a cookbook. While there are wonderful recipes (125 of them) and instructions in this lovely hardcover book — as well as artistic food photography, all from Graham — it’s the collection of stories he shares about the south Louisiana culture, which is so inextricably connected to its cuisine, that hook the reader. This is the first cookbook I’ve ever wanted to read.

And in doing so, this reader got a genuine feel for the passion Graham holds for his home, its food, history, and culture. Places unique to south Louisiana, such as Pecan Island for duck hunters and the Cajun/Creole Coast for seafood, are covered in the book. He’s simply a good writer and storyteller.

For example “The Long, Hot Simmer” is an essay about making chicken stock that illustrates not only his passion for good food and ingredients, but also touches on the Cajun practice of not wasting anything in the kitchen. I could almost smell the pot of stock simmering on his stove.

So let’s talk recipes. These are the real deal, people. We’ve got whole fried trout and whole roasted duck in here, quail, rabbit, picked pigs feet, hog’s head cheese, cracklin (his story about this delicacy made me laugh), pork belly, and boudin. Shrimp, oysters, and redfish are taken to new levels in Graham’s kitchen. In-season vegetables and fruits, pickles, desserts, and drinks are also present. Like a good gumbo, there’s a little of this, a little of that. And in the back of the book, a page of Louisiana-made food products and how to order them for your kitchen is a nice touch, especially for readers living outside the region.

Each dish is presented in a gorgeous spread with outstanding photography, an interesting backstory related to the recipe, instructions and ingredients, and something called Table Tip. These tips can be anything from a simple recommendation to use bulk sausage to suitable substitutions for smoked duck in a cassoulet. All recipes stress high-quality ingredients and time-honored traditions peppered with new twists, and it all works beautifully.

Of course, the book starts with how to make a roux good enough to make you cry. That particular story also is the perfect set up to give the reader an indication of how serious south Louisianans are about food.

Good food shared with good people — isn’t that what it’s all about? Graham’s cookbook will become a friend to any cook who understands that truth.

Deborah Reinhardt is managing editor of AAA Southern Traveler.

Acadiana Table: Cajun and Creole Home Cooking from the Heart of Louisiana
George Graham
Harvard Common Press (https://www.quartoknows.com)
ISBN: 978-1-55832-863-1
320 pages/cover price $30

book

 


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