Side Dish: Cookbook is stuffed with food stories

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“Louisiana Eats! The People, the Food, and Their Stories” by Poppy Tooker.

Pelican Publishing Co.

136-page hardcover, $24.95.

New Orleans native Poppy Tooker’s latest book, “Louisiana Eats! The People, the Food, and Their Stories,” is difficult to describe. It’s not really a cookbook, but it does include some delicious recipes. It’s mainly a collection of essays based on the transcripts of interviews she’s done for her weekly radio show, Louisiana Eats.”

In the book, she tells 15 stories of some of Louisiana’s iconic foods and some of the people behind them — from the farmers who grow fresh red beans from Camellia brand’s dried ones and Leah Chase of Dooky Chase’s Restaurant to Mildred Covert, who keeps a Creole kosher kitchen, and sausage maker Vance Vaucresson.

One of my favorite stories is titled, “The Ghost Whisperer and the Voodoo Priestess,” in which Tooker delightfully describes her interview of Miriam Chamani, who presides over North Rampart Street’s Voodoo Spiritual Temple in New Orleans. That essay also delves into the story of Marie Laveau’s gumbo.

Another interesting tale comes from English drummer Barry Martyn who reminisced about his friendship with legendary cook Buster Holmes, who had a restaurant on Orleans and Burgundy.

Each essay opens with a black-and-white photograph by David G. Spielman. All are accompanied by a few recipes, some of which are from Tooker. Among the recipes are Ruth’s Chris Creole French Salad Dressing, Dolores Lombard’s Cream of Oyster Soup, Cajun Shrimp Stew, Roast Beef Poor Boy and Crawfish Étouffeé.

Cookbook signing

Cookbook author Zella Palmer Cuadra will demonstrate a recipe from her new book, “New Orleans con Sabor Latino,” at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum’s Farmers Market stage in the New Orleans French Market between Ursulines and Gov. Nicholls Streets. Her documentary cookbook draws on New Orleans’ Latino culture and history by focusing on 13 residents from diverse backgrounds.

The program is free and open to the public. Visit or for more information.

Cheramie Sonnier is The Advocate’s Food editor. Her email address is