In Louisiana, our food is part of our culture. There is seldom an event or gathering that happens within families or communities that doesn’t involve some sort of food.
But, and my sweet mother can attest to this, though food brings people together, not everyone knows how to cook. This is where the Southern Food and Beverage Museum steps in.
SoFab is part of the National Food and Beverage Foundation and a self-titled “nonprofit living history organization dedicated to the discovery, understanding and celebration of the food, drink and the related culture of the South.”
SoFab is determined to promote all southern food and culture to those visiting the museum. And they use their state-of-the-art Rouses Culinary Innovation Center by Jenn-Air to host individuals and groups from the south and beyond, giving them a glimpse, and a taste, into what makes our food great.
The Renaissance Publishing editors accepted SoFab’s offer to teach our culture through our stomachs by visiting the museum and participating in their Taste of Louisiana class.
One sunny day, we headed down to the museum to experience a Louisiana’s Cajun Cuisine demonstration – one of three cooking classes the museum offers. The courses were offered by Liz Williams, SoFAB founder and president, and Jyl Benson’s, SoFAB’s director of Culinary Programming.
Upon arrival, we were met by a front row seat to the impressive kitchen located in the back of the museum, and an amazing aroma of familiar spices in the air.
Benson and Williams have a wealth of culinary knowledge. Our class consisted of plate after plate of macques choux with tasso, Cajun gumbo and Gateau de Sirop. I had never had maques choux before, but any dish corn-based with cream never sounds bad to me and Benson’s historical and cultural explanation of the dish completed the first round.
However, my absolute favorite part was the Cajun gumbo. No one tell my grandmother this, but Benson’s gumbo was the best I’ve ever tasted. Benson took the time to make a very dark, chocolate-colored roux, which imparted deep nutty tones. Along with chicken and Andouille from a nearby farm, this gumbo was good to the last spoonful. We were also given fresh ground filé to sprinkle on top, which added a unique herby flavor. We took this class when the weather was still scorching hot, but I could have gone back for seconds, thirds and eighths.
We finished the meal with a dessert that had just the right amount of sugary taste. The Gateau de Sirop was rich, and the cake was just right. The entire dish is made with and soaked in Steen’s cane syrup, which tastes amazing.
Besides the meal and cooking demonstration, each ticketed guest also receives a jar of SoFab’s spice mix or a cocktail recipe book. The best part about the class is that you get to take the recipes home with you. Recipe sheets are provided at the beginning of the class and Benson gives you all the tips you need to recreate the tasty dishes.
SoFab offers three cooking classes to individuals or groups: Louisiana’s Cajun Cuisine, Creole New Orleans Cuisine, and Creole Italian Cuisine. Group options are also available upon request to the museum. Any museum or class information can be found at natfab.org/southern-food-and-beverage/.