Thursday, October 15, 2009

One Book One New Orleans: Dinner at Leah's

Alright. Finally an event to report on. For the month of October, the Youth Leadership Council has been organizing the 5th annual One Book One New Orleans, a sort of month-long literacy festival. Each year the council chooses a single book from a list of books nominated by the community, generally with a local theme or by a local author. The festival consists of about ten separate events, dinners and writer's workshops, during which the book is discussed in various ways.

This year's book is Gumbo Tales: Finding My Place at the New Orleans Table by Sara Roahen, which I'm ashamed to say I can't tell you all that much about because I haven't read it yet. I know I know... I'm ashamed to call myself a bookworm, but in my defense the author of my favourite historical/adventure series published a new 800 page epic and between 50 hours of work a week and that monster of a hard-cover, I haven't even had time to shop for the festival book.

Still, last night's event, entitled: Chapter 3: Dinner at Leah's had me dying to get my hand on a copy of this culinary-themed homage to New Orleans. Dinner at Leah's was literally dinner at Leah's, referring to the aptly titled "Queen of Creole" cuisine, Leah Chase, owner of Dooky Chase
Restaurant and a veritable culinary institution in this city. I was such a thrill to get to be in the same room as her and finally get a chance to sit in her wonderful restaurant. The main dining
room is also home to Leah's famous collection of paintings by local artists, framed against the vivid red of the restaurant's walls. The food was tasty and definitely fed a crowd. To give you an idea of just how celebrated Leah Chase is in the city, President Obama's secret service staff picked up a to-go order from Dooky Chase just before his town hall meeting today at the University of New Orleans (See following post). She famously gave Obama a stern lecture on his last visit to the city, on putting hot sauce in true Louisiana Gumbo and for being too skinny. She quite a character at 85 years of age and it was so neat to be able to hear her speak about New Orleans and about her food.

There were three other guest authors at the event who spoke about their own cooking and about Sara's book: Elsa Hahne, author of You Are Where You Eat:Stories and Recipes From the Neighborhoods of New Orleans; Poppy Tooker, author of The Crescent City Farmers Market Cookbook (which I absolutely have to buy); and Times-Picayune food editor Judy Walker, co-author of Cooking Up a Storm: Recipes Lost and Found From the Times-Picayune of New Orleans (which I have on hold at work).

What an amazing event for anyone who likes to cook, and for anyone who likes to eat! To that end, there was also plenty of eating done as well. We had a Creole Gumbo to, start of course, then Jambalya, Creole Green Beans, and a wonderful Bread Pudding for dessert. The whole thing was just lovely and I'm so happy that I got to attend. I certainly won't be missing One Book One New Orleans next year!

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