John's Reviews > Gumbo Tales: Finding My Place at the New Orleans Table

Gumbo Tales by Sara Roahen
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Mar 16, 08

bookshelves: library_books, bio-and-memoir, food-and-drink
Recommended for: those who read well-written non-fiction
Read in March, 2008

I had resisted reading this library book for quite a while; it'd been an impulse grab from the new books shelf. What more could the author really have to say about an "over-hyped cuisine"? Well ... lots ... and nary a mention of any "blackened fish" to boot! Roahen has selected topics (gumbo, red beans and rice, etc.), explaining the variety of experience within each from native (and some not-so-native) points of view.
It'd be missing the point, however, to classify the book solely as a food guide - the people and places covered are as important to the story (there is a well-developed narrative thread here) as the discussion of roux thickness and red bean selection. Matter of fact, if you aren't that interested in "foodie books" call it "memoir","regional interest" or even "humor". Just read it and have fun!
I've given it five stars, though I suppose I could nick a small piece off one of them for Roahen's mentioning a "pupusa hunt" in passing, but not including a chapter on the Latin scene (as she did the Vietnamese).
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Mathieu deSchutter Hey John,
thanks for your great review & enthusiasm.
(I swear I am not my wife's publicist, she has one through her publisher, and she does her own emailing through her website).
Yeah, a couple of potential chapters never made it into the book due to deadline and lack of a narrative role:
1) Banana Pudding. The most popular local dessert. Other related topics would have been other dessert/pastries... Bananas Foster at Commander's, that icebox lime pie thing at Clancy's, maybe a little more about Angelo Brocato's and the Roman Candy guy.
2) Hot Tamales, the NO version. Tough to find pre-storm, even tougher now. Gotta wait 'till Jazzfest.
3)The deep, long-running Honduran connection to NO established by the fruit trade of centuries past. The pupuserias are its legacy.
Good catch!


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