The food world lost a titan yesterday, Chef Paul Prudhomme, who introduced Louisiana cooking to a mass US audience in the 1980s. This book came into my life considerably later, the dust cover already tattered. I don't remember what made me pick it up: maybe I was starting my long and on-hand education of Southern cooking, as a love letter to both my husband's (and turns out, my own!) palate.
Encouraged by Prudhomme's pure joy on the cover, I began to flip through the book. The first few pages introduce the reader to terms I'd never heard, but are standard in Louisiana cooking: etoufée, gumbo filé, lagniappe. He includes pictures of different colored roux and tells the reader the appropriate time to use them. In a time when other cookbooks were trying to catch up to the fast-pace, fast food, convenience-based way of 1980s life, Prudhomme was telling us to slow down, take hours if you need, to make the right black roux for gumbo. In this book he doesn't take shortcuts. Though that may have changed later, with his popular line of spice mixes, this book teaches the reader techniques that have been used in Bayou Country for hundreds of years.
While I may not have grown up with Louisiana flavors, they have since become an essential part of my home. Those who have eaten at my table may not know how influential this book has been to my cooking, but they've certainly reaped the benefits! RIP Paul Prudhomme - thank you for your contribution to my humble kitchen. You've helped me understand the rich cultural meleé that is Louisiana and how culture can be expressed through food.
What cultural traditions have you adopted into your home? What event, person, or place brought them into your life?
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