Lost Restaurants of New Orleans
Peggy Scott Laborde and Tom Fitzmorris
Pelican Publishing (2011)
Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson for Reader Views (11/2011)
Although my personal history, shared with New Orleans, only covers a dozen years, I can assure you that much of the life there revolves around food. What have we eaten, what will we eat next, what is in season, which chef is on the way up or down, what are the new hot spots in town…? All of those questions are very much a way of life here, and joining them quite often is the one asked with a great deal of nostalgia, “Do you remember such-and-such restaurant [which does not exist any longer]?” The number of those is ever increasing, and even a relative newcomer shall find some of his or her favorites in the beautiful “Lost Restaurants of New Orleans” by Peggy Scott Laborde and Tom Fitzmorris.
I found the book utterly enchanting from every perspective. The narrative is peppered with great personal stories, memories and observations, yet it also provides a great deal of history and tons of facts. I laughed often, and sighed a lot, remembering places I can no longer visit, and regretting not having arrived in New Orleans earlier in life to be able to experience some others that I have heard so much about. I’ve learned a lot of new things, including such fascinating tidbits as who invented one of my favorites, the oyster-artichoke soup. I’ve added a good few more fantastic recipes to my “things to try” file. Time and again I got seriously hungry just by reading the descriptions of dishes from those long gone places. Some of them were fancy, some of them very down to earth, but all of them left a definite void. I’ve felt really nostalgic upon seeing some of the prices on the menus (how about $1.85 for soft shell crab with fries, or $2.25 if that crab was stuffed with crabmeat dressing?) and even more so when perusing the absolutely fascinating photographic material, ranging from great photos of the restaurant exteriors to portraits of owners and photographs of memorabilia (matchbook covers, menus, swizzlesticks, ads and more…). And then I’ve shared the book with my husband, who was born and raised in New Orleans. The smile on his face was priceless.
“Lost Restaurants of New Orleans” by Peggy Scott Laborde and Tom Fitzmorris would make an outstanding gift for any food lover, particularly those familiar with New Orleans. It offers the reader an unforgettable journey into the past and, with the included recipes, provides lots of material for present and future food adventures.