Food & Travel: New Orleans gets its bite back
This probably isn't something I should admit to my boss (and by posting it on the BT website, I'm doing just that), but I just spent a full hour of my workday reading a cookbook. Not just any cookbook, mind you. It's the gorgeous My New Orleans: The Cookbook, by award-winning chef and restaurateur John Besh—produced and edited by Dorothy Kalins, the founding editor of Saveur and the consulting editor of Budget Travel.
I know, I know. Who needs another New Orleans cookbook? A quick search on Amazon turns up a whopping 743 titles in the category. Clearly, the world isn't wanting for another gumbo recipe.
But My New Orleans is different. Yes, there's gumbo—an entire chapter devoted to it, in fact—but there's so much more.
Besh was born and raised just outside of New Orleans, so he understands that the city and its food are inextricably entwined. To write a proper cookbook without also digging into the city's fascinating history and culture would be impossible.
This is a cookbook with 200 recipes, yes, but it's also part memoir, part history lesson, part love letter to his hometown. Besh has woven into his book beautifully written stories: his first shrimping trip on Lake Pontchatrain, drinking Big Shot soda and eating red beans and rice at Mardi Gras, and preparing meals for the rescue workers after Hurricane Katrina. You learn as much about New Orleans as you do about the food. In fact, I was so engrossed in the stories that I'm pretty sure I would've read every word even if Besh hadn't included a single recipe.
But do not skip the food—you'd be doing yourself a huge disservice. Besh has launched six restaurants, but, as he explains in the intro, the dishes in this book are not restaurant recipes; there are no impossible-to-find ingredients and no pretentiously fussy preparations (my favorite Besh quote in the book: "Deconstruct a gumbo? That's not cooking. That's not love. I'm not about to trivialize a recipe that has been here longer than most cities in our country.") Instead, the book delivers real food that real people can prepare, plus sidebars that are chock full of information about key ingredients like blue crab, Chanterelles, and Ponchatoula strawberries.
Too many cookbooks intimidate would-be chefs; this one inspires them. I already have a growing list of the dishes I want to try, starting with Momma Rochelle's Stuffed Quail Gumbo, a recipe that began with Besh's mentor's Cajun mother-in-law and has evolved over the years. From there I might move on to the Trout Amandine or the Louisiana Shrimp and Andouille over Grits. And our associate photo editor, who grew up in New Orleans, tells me I have to try the Crab Boil (his exact words, after reading through the recipe: "This is a good cookbook.")
Those other 743 titles? I'm sure they're just fine, but Amazon can have them. I'm sticking with My New Orleans.
More from writer Beth Collins
Here's an essay that would have been published in the next Gourmet (had it not closed down) about Why We Cook
Mexico to debut the largest underwater museum in the world
Imagine doing this: Don snorkel gear and swim down to discover mysterious sculptures sunk into the ocean floor. Among colorful tropical fish, gaze at Jason de Caires Taylor's spooky grouping of concrete figures. See a circle of stone children, for instance, hidden beneath the waves. This dream is about to become a reality. In November, Mexico debuts off the shores of Cancun the first stage of largest underwater museum in the world. The Subaquatic Sculpture Museum will be submerged at the West Coast National Park/Parque Nacional Costa Occidental, near Mujeres Island, Punta Cancun, and Punta Nizuc. The concrete figures will encourage the growth of algae and invertebrates, becoming eerier over time. The first four sculptures will be submerged next month. Eventually there will be 400 figures in human shapes by artist Jason de Caires Taylor.
An old-school weekend in Maine
At Budget Travel, we're obsessed with being on the cutting edge of what's happening in the world of travel. Whether it's a cool new boutique hotel in London or a new dessert-truck trend in the U.S., we want to be the first to know so we can tell you all about it. Sometimes, though, something is cool precisely because it's not new. I was reminded of that a couple of weekends ago when I went to a friend's wedding on Chebeague Island, in Maine. Everything about Chebeague is old-school, from the boat that takes you across Casco Bay to get there—a navy, white, and red passenger ferry that looks like it's right out of a children's book about New England—to the tiny Doughty's general store, the only place to stock up on basic provisions (I bought an absurd number of whoopie pies, the celebrated Maine dessert made of two rounds of Devil's Food cake with a sweet cream filling). The wedding festivities were spread between two places, and I can't decide which one I like best. For the rehearsal dinner, we all gathered for a lobster bake at Chebeague Orchard Inn, one of the coolest B&Bs; I've seen in a long time. The white-clapboard house is adorable, and the apple-tree-dotted grounds are beautiful, but it's the young owners, J Holt and Jenny Goff, that give the place its character. My favorite detail: a little corner room that they've transformed into a kind of mini-vintage shop. The closet and chests are full of sweaters, dresses, and costume jewelry, and the shelves are stocked with fabrics. I didn't see a single item marked over $5. The wedding itself—and our homebase for the weekend—was the 1920s golden-yellow Chebeague Island Inn. When we weren't playing board games by the huge stone fireplace in the great room, we were sipping cocktails on the porch, which runs along the entire front of the inn and looks out onto the lobster boats bobbing in the water. The morning of the wedding, we took out the inn's free L.L. Bean bikes and tooled around the island, exploring a few beaches along the way and stopping at Calder's Clam Shack http://www.caldersclamshack.com/ for lunch. Is Chebeague Island new and exciting? Not even close. And that's exactly what makes it so cool. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL America's 10 Coolest Small Towns 2009 In New England, it's a peak year for foliage Planning to visit Maine? Read these tips from a top guidebook author
Readers' best Hawaii photos
Nearly 600 Hawaii photos have been uploaded by readers to myBudgetTravel—which made the selection process for this slide show the toughest yet! We picked out 18 stunning images of the islands, including a dramatic waterfall on Kauai, a sunrise over Haleakala on Maui, surfers on Oahu's famed North Shore, and carved weather-beaten statues on the Big Island. REAL DEALS Hawaii From $125 RECENT READER SLIDE SHOWS England and Scotland | Sunsets | France | National Parks IN SEARCH OF... We're still collecting your photos of rainbows and foliage. Upload any images you have through myBudgetTravel, tag them, and check back in the coming weeks for slide shows of the best submissions.
Nevermore, nevermore…well, maybe once more
Even though multiple cities have been duking it out for years over who lays more claim to Edgar Allan Poe—the great American writer lived in six states up and down the East Coast—Baltimore holds the distinction of housing his earthly remains. This week, two hundred years after his birth, Poe will be given a proper funeral that was denied him so many years ago, in the city that holds their famous resident so dear that they've even named their NFL team—the Baltimore Ravens—after one of his famous poems. To kick things off today (Oct. 7), there is an "open-casket viewing" at Poe's former home at 203 N. Amity St. from noon until 11 p.m. It is believed that Poe wrote over a dozen poems and prose while living in this home with his paternal grandmother, his aunt Maria Clemm, and his cousin Virginia—whom would later become his wife. ($5) Continuing the tribute on Thursday, Oct. 8th, an all-night candlelight vigil will be held from midnight until 7 a.m. at Poe's monument at the entrance of Westminster Hall and Burying Ground. This will be an opportunity for the public to honor the writer with personal toasts, poems, and music, along with scheduled theatrical performances in an attempt to bring Poe's tales to life. (Free) There are many more themed exhibits and activities planned for the funeral and throughout the year, including some spooky walking tours. The grand finale of the largest Poe bicentennial event in the country will be held on Sunday, October 11th. Starting at 11:30 a.m., a fife and drum marching band and police escort will lead an antique horse-drawn hearse carrying Poe's casket from his Amity Street home to his final resting place at Westminster Hall for burial. The Addams Family actor and fellow Baltimorean John Astin will officiate over the two services at 12:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., including speakers in the likeness of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (who penned the Sherlock Holmes series), and the filmmaker and producer Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock. (Procession free, funeral $35 in advance, $40 at the door) In grim Poe-like fashion, there's still debate over what caused his death at age 40. Initially believed to be drunk, the writer was held at Church Hospital where he emitted morbid outbursts leading up to his death on October 7th, 1849. Upon later examination, it was determined that he had more likely been robbed and beaten instead. Nevermore 2009
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