Side Dish: The Gravy

When one thinks about New Orleans, wonders what makes it what it is, the answer has to include the importance of food and music to the city’s culture.

Like in the rest of south Louisiana, people in New Orleans always talk about food, how they cook a particular dish or who makes the best gumbo or which restaurant to try — or avoid. They also have the good fortune of being able to hear live music every night.

It’s that connection between food and music that led to the creation of the book “The Gravy: In the Kitchen with New Orleans Musicians” by Elsa Hahne. The book is an offshoot of a monthly cooking column in OffBeat, the New Orleans music magazine, and its format is similar to Hahne’s first book, “You Are Where You Eat — Stories and Recipes from the Neighborhoods of New Orleans.” In her new book, 43 musicians offer their culinary stories in their own voice and share favorite recipes. It is illustrated with full-color photographs.

About those recipes. Some are traditional Louisiana favorites, such as crawfish stew, fried frog legs, oyster pie, smothered okra and corn bread. But there are also recipes for Yankee Gumbo (made with teriyaki sauce!), a gumbo that includes reindeer sausage from Alaska, maple cream, Korean egg rolls and Brint Anderson’s yummy-sounding curry glazed chicken. The eclectic recipe selection is the result of the equally eclectic mix of musicians. They all “perform in and around New Orleans on a regular basis,” Hahne says, but many of them aren’t natives.

In the book’s introduction, Dr. John rambles on about learning to cook, cirrhosis of the liver, liking to chew on squirrel’s brains, muffulettas and getting shot. His introduction and a few other musicians’ food suggestions probably explain the author’s note about not recommending or guaranteeing “all the different ingredients and cooking methods in this book. Each musician gives his or her own opinion. Please leave roadkill by the roadside. And be careful where you get your raccoons.”

I don’t consider this so much a cookbook with recipes that must be tried as I do just a good, fun book to read. That’s especially so for fans of the New Orleans music scene.

Cheramie Sonnier is The Advocate’s Food editor. Her email address is csonnier@theadvocate.com.