Literary Louisiana: Roux Roots
A culinary tour of Louisiana’s favorite comfort food and its history
“Gumbo Life: Tales from the Roux Bayou” by Ken Wells
W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 288 p., $26.95
Cajun. Z’herbes. Duck and sausage. Shrimp and crabmeat. No matter how you like your gumbo, most Louisianians can agree that the warm mélange of roux and spices is our state’s proudest dish. It’s the go-to dish, passed down through generations, that brings family together.
Served with rice, potato salad or sweet potatoes, gumbo means more than just a hearty stew, and it’s that point that author Ken Wells explores in his new book, “Gumbo Life: Tales from the Roux Bayou.”
A native of Houma, Wells grew up along Bayou Black, with the gumbo his momma cooked as a traditional family staple. “Gumbo Life” is Wells’ own search for the history of the dish, from its West African influences, Native American spices, and French culinary techniques. He also explores the ingredients that have become associated with the mix: Andouille sausage, okra, filé powder, the dark roux and more.
With a conversational, folksy, poetic style, Wells’ “Gumbo Life” may be one man’s search for the perfect gumbo recipe, but is also a tale about all of Louisiana and the many cultures that make up the state and its food traditions.
A bonus recipe section details selections from famed New Orleans chef Leah Chase, Senator Allen Ellender, food educator and chef John Folse, as well as the author’s mother’s recipe and more.
“Awakening Your Ikigai: How the Japanese Wake Up to Joy and Purpose Everyday” by Ken Mogi
The Experiment, 224 p., $16.95The five traits of Ikigai are explained with examples from all walks of life. It’s part-philosophy and part-cultural introduction into the Japanese way of life. The Ikigai traits are easily recognizable to the Western sense of purpose in one’s own life. It struck a chord with me so I’m re-reading the book now.” - Cynthia Watanabe (Librarian)
SPRING GIFTS FOR KIDS
“The Mermaids of New Orleans” written by Sally Asher, illustrations by Melissa Vandiver explores the colorful life of the undersea mer-village right outside New Orleans and deep under the Mississippi River. That watery version of the city may seem familiar, from their narrow trident houses, parades, brass bands, and summery roe-balls that look suspiciously similar to our own snow ball treats. But what happens when the mermaids are allowed to leave the deep sea one day a year? Dive into this exuberant mer-tale and find out…. UL Press, 36 p., $20
While “Alligator, Bayou, Crawfish” by Ali Solino is, by name, a “NOLA Kid’s Alphabet,” this colorfully- illustrated book has ABC’s that will appeal to little Louisianians from across the state, as well as fans of the city of New Orleans. Published in New Orleans by the start-up Tubby & Coo’s Publishing, this little book features charming illustrations for each letter of the alphabet, from alligator to voodoo, that capture our home state’s culture. Tubby & Coo’s Publishing, 36 p., $19.99
ASK A LIBRARIAN
Librarians from East Baton Rouge Parish Library tell us what they’re reading right now:
“Skyjack: The Hunt For D. B. Cooper” By Geoffrey Gray
“Nonfiction book about a journalist who gets pulled into an investigation about a suspect in the D. B. Cooper case, only to find out that there are still many suspects and conspiracy theories that need to be investigated.” Brandi Burton (Librarian, Head of Teen Department)
“Mycroft and Sherlock” by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse
“Who knew that NBA star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was such a Sherlock fan? He’s written a book featuring Sherlock’s early years in the stews of London—Sherlock and older brother Mycroft cross paths as they run parallel and competing investigations into the opium trade.” Mary Stein (Assistant Library Director)
“Fermat’s Enigma: The Epic Quest to Solve the World’s Greatest Mathematical Problem” by Simon Singh
“Loving it because: Math becomes astonishingly entertaining in the pursuit of its holy grail and the lives devoted to, sacrificed for, and saved by it.“ Brandy Luther (Adult Reference Librarian)