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Tricentennial Reading List (Cookbooks): Some of the classics, from chefs and food experts

Susan Larson sits down with Judy Walker to discuss cookbooks, part two of four.

Some of the classics come from chefs and food experts:

  • The New Orleans Cookbook, by Rima and Richard Collin
  • My New Orleans: The Cookbook, by John Besh
  • The Dooky Chase Cookbook, of course, accompanied by Leah Chase’s autobiography, And Still I Cook
  • Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Cooking, by Paul Prudhomme
  • Emeril’s New Orleans Cooking, by Emeril Lagasse
  • Crescent City Cooking, by Susan Spicer
  • Tujague’s Cookbook: Creole Recipes and Lore in the New Orleans Grand Tradition, by Poppy Tooker


Susan Larson: The first cookbook I really, really loved was The New Orleans Cookbook by Rima and Richard Collin.

Judy Walker: Oh, my God.

Susan Larson: Such characters, both of them, they really were-

Judy Walker: He was a UNO professor.

Susan Larson: Exactly, whose interest was in Theodore Roosevelt.

Judy Walker: Yes, and wrote a seminal cookbook that is still in print.

Susan Larson: And was the Underground Gourmet.

Judy Walker: He was the Underground Gourmet. He was a really seminal figure in New Orleans, as was his wife. That cookbook, talk about one that people cook out of every day. While there are a very few to attempt the French bread recipe, I think it worksfor home use.

Judy Walker: That really is, but they got it all in there.

Susan Larson: Yes.

Judy Walker: That's a great cookbook.

Susan Larson: Then, of course, there's Leah Chase's The Dooky Chase Cookbook and her autobiography and still like cook.

Judy Walker: Another cookbook that you could just cook out of every day, and love it. Everybody should have every Leah Chase cookbook. Every Leah Chase book. She still sits in the back of Dooky Chase. I tell people all the time, if you haven't been to Dooky Chase ever, you must go, and you must go now.

Susan Larson: Absolutely.

Judy Walker: And I always tell them to go on Fridays when they have the fried catfish on the bone.

Judy Walker: On the buffet.

Susan Larson: The official Judy Judy Walker tip.

Judy Walker: You can't beat it. You can't get fried catfish on the bone everywhere.

Susan Larson: Then, of course, Emeril, Emeril's New Orleans Cooking. Susan Spicer's Crescent City Cooking. One of the books, the book that really changed everything, a lot of people think, of course, is Chef Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Cooking.

Judy Walker: Oh, yes. That's the one that Philipe (LaMancusa), at Kitchen Witch Bookstore, the cookbook store-

Susan Larson: The cookbook expert.

Judy Walker: I do agree with him, that's the one cookbook that everybody should own. If you're going to buy one New Orleans cookbook when you come to New Orleans, get that one because what I find with all the chef cookbooks is, many people that have a signature dish, they developed it using a recipe from one of the chef cookbooks, like Paul Prudhomme. They've made this for years, they credit the chef that they've got it from, and that is one of the ones I hear people say, all the time, "I make my gumbo out of that book,", or whatever, whatever their dish is. The other interesting thing about that book is, that is before he developed his line of--

Susan Larson: Products.

Judy Walker: - commercially packaged spice mixes. In the recipes, he delineates every spice mix. Those are his spice mixes, right there, written down in that cookbook. That's another thing-

Susan Larson: If you're not too lazy to make your own.

Judy Walker: - if you're not too lazy to make your own spice mixes. He has great recipes for them.

Susan Larson: What is your favorite cookbook to use?

Judy Walker: In New Orleans?

Susan Larson: Yes.

Judy Walker: Oh my God. Well, I cook out of Cooking Up A Storm, a lot of recipes out of that. Just various things. It depends on what I'm working on at the time, Susan.

Susan Larson: It's hard to pick, isn't it?

Judy Walker: It's hard to pick. Sometimes I look at the cookbooks for inspiration. you mentioned Susan Spicer's cookbook. She's got all those beautiful ethnic twists. That's her vibe, her thing. My husband's gumbo is out of the Emeril cookbook. That's the one he makes when he makes sausage and chicken gumbo. He started making that, he's developed his little twist along the way.

Susan Larson: That's what we all do.

Judy Walker: That's what we all do. It just depends on what I feel like making. You know who else, who was a Times-Picayune's columnist, is the La Bouche Creole Book, La Bouche Creole books. Leon Soniat. Those are great books, with great stories. The first one is better than the second one. Those are very handy, and I know people that cook out of that book all the time.

Susan Larson: I know. The stained cookbooks are always the best.

Judy Walker: They are.

Burton Harter Foundation, and the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities


Check out wwno.org every week as the Tricentennial Reading List grows.

What are some of your favorite cookbooks? Add them in the comments section.

The Reading Life in 2010, Susan Larson was the book editor for The New Orleans Times-Picayune from 1988-2009. She has served on the boards of the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival and the New Orleans Public Library. She is the founder of the New Orleans chapter of the Women's National Book Association, which presents the annual Diana Pinckley Prizes for Crime Fiction.. In 2007, she received the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities lifetime achievement award for her contributions to the literary community. She is also the author of The Booklover's Guide to New Orleans. If you run into her in a local bookstore or library, she'll be happy to suggest something you should read. She thinks New Orleans is the best literary town in the world, and she reads about a book a day.

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