Book Review: Louisiana Eats

13328918-mmmainFull disclosure: Poppy is my pal. She is someone who calls me up and then shows up, with a gift, thoughtful questions and always hilarious stories.
What made me a fan of hers early on was her razor-sharp take on people and situations, sometimes devastatingly so. Yet she is enormously kind and open to those people who ring true. No one that receives her wrath  is ever underserving. If they get it, they usually have made one of two unforgivable sins: either they underestimated HER or they underestimated her city, her state or her people.

Another disclosure: I believe Poppy deserves as much credit as anyone in my region for rebuilding the New Orleans food system after the federal levee breaks in 2005. Too many stories to tell here, but come on over and if you care, I’ll tell you some of them over a drink. Or two. There are a lot of them to tell. Some of them are funny, some are sweet, some even a bit crazy.

These two points are linked since her life’s work is to actively promote entrepreneurs and real ideas that will build (or rebuild when necessary) the culture of her place, Louisiana. In doing that work, she extended her range to all authentic food systems across the globe through her Slow Food International connection that  meant that New Orleans gained the Slow Food vibe from the mid 1990s on.
Let me also say that most of the SFUSA folks understand her range, giving her much early credit for shaping the U.S. work that she built with others-that is, until she had to unleash her wrath on previous Slow Food leadership over the (mis) direction of a crucial program that she had helped shepherd. Luckily, she and SF made up.
Remember, I warned you that she is a fierce opponent when she feels it’s necessary.

When she started the Louisiana Eats show, she had already done a great deal of writing and television. Her talents really came to light when she began this show; her intense enjoyment and knowledge of the people and history of food and culture through one-on-one conversations on our local NPR station and now in this book. I remember a glorious Saturday morning on Louisiana Eats when she and Rien Fertel talked about praline sellers and another when she talked with Miss Linda Green, The Yakamein lady, and another when she talked with French bread baker John Gendusa among many others. Each time, I would stop what I was doing and literally stand there and listen intently to her intricate questions and always learn something. And her interaction with the dean of New Orleans Creole food, Leah Chase which is always touching and amazing since you get to hear two chefs with great respect for each other just banter and share stories.  And when she has on young activists or farmers (like Nick Usner who is in the book), you can hear the hope in her voice for the new energy coming along…
So this book is a reminder of many lovely Saturdays  and is indicative of the tone that I myself have adopted for much of my food activism: wild enthusiasm, critical assessment and a deep appreciation of the stories and background of those unique people that tell of our culture and food. Because of her, I know to seek them out, and maybe I’ll find some new folks from those Poppy has brought to us on her show and in this book. The book itself (lovely photos and recipes) is informative and a great companion to her show and I know that it will stand the test of time as a true record of some of the people that we have in our world. And of my pal who contributes so much to our place.

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Slow news today

SO glad that 2013 is finally bringing some good news to the national food movement.

VERY happy to see my New Orleans colleague (and old boss) Richard McCarthy hired as the new E.D. of Slow Food USA. His background is ideal for the job: born in Germany, raised in New Orleans, he spent his university time in the U.K. with his British grandparents. Since founding Crescent City Farmers Market in 1995, his extensive travel  (I wish I could find the picture of us at Terra Madre 2008 with our overall-wearing Mississippi farmer in tow) and his deep interest in world movements have continued to benefit the US farmers market movement. Honestly, there is no one that fits the SF job better in 2013; they now have a coalition builder, an outstanding visionary and a good guy.

Can’t wait to see what he can do up there.

Link to NYT story

RMC and New Orleans Slow Food Founder Poppy Tooker celebrating the combined Crescent City Farmers Market's 10th birthday (and iconic restaurant Commander's Palace's 105?)

RMC and New Orleans Slow Food Founder Poppy Tooker celebrating (well something else, not this news in this 2006 picture.)

 

The founder of SF USA, me and RMC at the Edible Schoolyard New Orleans first fundraiser.

The founder of SF USA, me and RMC at the Edible Schoolyard New Orleans’ first fundraiser.