In my family, books flow back and forth as gifts for various occasions, and we usually read the books before giving them away. That means you have to be careful and keep the book in its clean, brand-new condition (or you’ll get called out on it). This Christmas I received Dinner with Tennessee Williams, a delightful mix of recipes, stories and photos inspired by this imminent Southern playwright. I’m a little reluctant to put it in the paperback category because the book is printed on heavy stock and is beautifully illustrated.
I may never make any of the recipes but that hardly matters. This is a fun book to read in a pick- up-and-put-down way as the mood dictates. The Mississippi influence on Williams played a huge role in his writing and thus with this collection of recipes and anecdotes. For instance, in the section for A Streetcar Named Desire, there are recipes for ‘Red Hots’ Tamales and Mississippi Boiled Custard or Crème Anglaise. There are gussied up recipes for such Mississippi traditional foods as biscuits and greens. For a long time Williams’ favorite dining spot was Marti’s, situated across from his last New Orleans home on Dumaine Street. Since Williams was such a regular, the chef often prepared dishes especially for him. One of those was country-style mustard and turnip greens and butter beans smothered with onions and bacon fat — foods of Williams’ youth. He is said to have remarked to the staff at Marti’s, “Pile some more of those turnip greens on the plate, please.”
Of course there are references to various mixed drinks and the ubiquitous Coke (Coca-Cola) as when Blanche DuBois asks Stella to run down to the drug store and get her a Coke with lots of shaved ice.
In A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur, set in St. Louis, Bodey is preparing for a picnic when her apartment mate Dorothea, who aspires to move up in the world, asks, “Which came first, fried chicken or deviled eggs?” We all know there can be no cookbook even remotely connected to the South without recipes for fried chicken and deviled eggs.
Picolo is the chef of the Bistro at Maison DeVille in New Orleans just across the street from where Williams lived on the third floor of a boarding house on Toulouse Street. Gilbert is also a New Orleans resident and the co-author of New Orleans Kitchens.
— Lynn Lofton, email@example.com
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