Tales From A PantryAuthor: Marjorie Sweeney Beck Edition: Paperback, 65 pages Publisher: Unknown ASIN: Unknown Category Food

While strolling through the French Market in New Orleans on a gorgeous afternoon, I happened to stop into Aunt Sally’s Creole Pralines. Although clearly geared for the tourist, Aunt Sally’s stocked a very nice selection of true Louisiana fare. Things that you might find in just about any home in Louisiana. Although my wife and I were back in Louisiana to visit family, we had been a bit homesick recently, so seeing items that we grew up with really made us feel all warm and fuzzy. I had just taken up a keen interest in cooking, so I was wondering around looking at all the cookbooks.

They stocked the classics, such as “River Road Recipes” and even some avant garde fare such as “White Trash Cooking“, but there were several cookbooks that I had never seen before. One that particularly caught my eye was called “Tales From A Pantry: Reminisces of Growing Up in New Orleans in the Thirties and Forties, and Just a Few Recipes”. The small book appeared to be self published with a plastic comb style binding. As I glanced through the pages, I saw more stories than I did recipes, which piqued my interest, but when I saw that there was a recipe for Grillades, it instantly became a must have cookbook. 😛

Things were so hectic while we were in Louisiana, I didn’t get to dive into the book until we returned home to Nashville. As I waded thigh-high into Ms. Beck’s stories of growing up in New Orleans I found that I relished each and every page. I’m certainly not an expert on cookbooks, but so many of them pile on the recipes, but don’t really go into the how’s and why’s of the culture behind the food you’re preparing. With “Tales From A Pantry”, Ms. Beck weaves story after story of what it was like growing up in the 30’s and 40’s in New Orleans. Hearing about what it was like to cook prior to refrigeration is amazing, but there are so many other tidbits of lore and traditions that make it such a wonderful read.

Even though I’m born and bread from Louisiana, I found a lot of interesting facts that I never knew. For example, having Red Beans and rice on Monday is very common, but before reading this book, I never could have told you why that is.

It had traditionally been considered to be a Monday dish because that was washday. This was a dish that required no watching while the was was being done in the backyard on a washboard. Put the pot on the fire and only an occasional stirring was all that was necessary. To this day most New Orleans restaurants still serve Red Beans and Rice on Monday.

It’s little treasures like this, among the many others, that make this book such a joy to read.

Ms. Beck walks you from Breakfast to Dessert as she paints picture after picture of like in New Orleans when she was growing up. You feel as if you’re sitting on the front porch sipping on ice tea as your grandmother tells you what it was like in her day. You can vividly see what it was like before “Cajun Cuisine” became all the rage that it’s been in recent years. As I flipped from page to page, the though occurred to me that this cookbook read more like a weblog than a traditional cookbook and I wish that it were. Because with only 65 pages, I was still ready for a second helping.

If you’re just as interested in the “whys” of cooking as you are the “hows”, then this book is for you. You’ll revel in journey as you discover the history behind some of the Louisiana’s true classic recipes – down home cooking at its best. Even if you’re a “foodie” and not a cook per se, I would still have to recommend the book as a must read before you take a trip to New Orleans. Hearing the history behind such landmarks as Morning Call and Cafe du Monde could really open your trip to the Crescent City. Not only that, you’ll be armed with local information on where you can still find classic New Orleans cooking at the local restaurants.

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars (5 out of 5 stars)

Where To Buy: Normally at the end of a book review such as this, I provide links to Amazon, or other locations where you can buy the book. Unfortunately I can’t do that because I’ve been unable to find this book online. 🙁 It would appear that Beck has self published this book and hasn’t distributed it much further than the New Orleans area. So, if you don’t live there, you may have a bit of a journey. If you’re interested in buying this book, then there appears to be three options:

  1. Call Aunt Sally’s Creole Pralines at 1-800-642-7257 and see if they can ship it to you. It’s not on their web site, so you may have to get a local store to mail order it to you, but I know that the French Quarter location had them, since that’s where I bought my copy. The price I paid was $15.99

  2. E-mail Marjorie Beck from her web site. [UPDATE] It appears that Marjorie lost her domain name and some scumbag took it over and put porn on it. For that reason, I’ve removed all links to her old web site.

  3. There’s an order form at the back of the book explaining how to order the book direct. So, you can mail a check for $14.50 per book to:

4000 Davey Street, Suite 207
New Orleans, LA 70122