28 February 2015

High on the Hog: the food of New Orleans

At Easter I’ll be in New Orleans. It’s a city that feels like a banquet of all the great things that life has to offer: music, rhythm, sex, culture, food. I’m expressing my excitement the same way that I express most other strong emotions - through cooking. You’ll notice the theme of this month’s late night shopping evening. My kitchen has been filled with cornbread, sweet potato butter, black and spicy shrimp, bread and butter pudding; with the flavours of okra and bell peppers and thyme. (And bourbon. Let's not forget the bourbon.)

I’ve also been doing a lot of reading. The foodways which underpin New Orleans cuisine are some of the richest in the American South, with roots in West Africa, France, Spain and Portugal. It's a fusion born of displacement: taste memories brought over on slave ships, recipes adapted to the plants of the swamps. I’m currently devouring High on the Hog by the mighty Jessica B. Harris, culinary historian and author of 11 cookbooks. Reading her books* it becomes clear that food is history. Not the kind built into the walls and mounted on plaques, but a living history that comes to life every time a dish is made.

You can come have a taste on 4 March, when I’ll be making cornbread and blackened shrimp for our late night shopping evening. But the fun really starts when I get back, fully inspired: I’m willing to bet there’ll be gumbo on the Cake Shop menu…

*Or better still, listening: she reads the audiobook of High on the Hog herself, and her voice is truly wonderful.

Our late night shopping evening is on 4 March. Book your free ticket here.