From Cooking up a Storm, ©2008 Marcelle Bienvenu and Judy Walker. Used with permission of Chronicle Books, San Francisco
Residents of New Orleans lost their homes, their neighborhoods and schools, their jobs and businesses, and the lives of family members because of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The effect on the community was devastating as has been documented in books and movies, e.g., Katrina’s Children and When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts. To this day major areas, such as the Ninth Ward, are still struggling to recover.
Of all the losses, losing keepsakes and family treasures was especially hard. One category had an especially acute impact on a city famous for its food: Residents lost their family recipe files. These included the family recipes handed down by generations, as well as those clipped from newspapers, such as the The Times-Picayune. Without these recipes the task of rebuilding families and communities was made much harder.
As residents started to rebuild their lives, The Times-Picayune of New Orleans became a post-hurricane swapping place for old recipes that were washed away in the storm. The newspaper has compiled 250 of these delicious, authentic recipes along with the stories about how they came to be and who created them. Cooking Up a Storm [Recipes Lost and Found from The Times-Picayune of New Orleans] includes the very best of classic and contemporary New Orleans cuisine, from seafood and meat to desserts and cocktails. But it also tells the story, recipe by recipe, of one of the great food cities in the world, and the determination of its citizens to preserve and safeguard their culinary legacy.
The collective effort to reconstruct family recipe collections is positive counterpoint to all of the negative stories that came out of the Katrina disaster. It’s a wonderful example of community informatics—people coming together to address a common need, making use of newspapers, fax, email, digital archives, and other communication tools.
The book is edited by Marcelle Bienvenue and Judy Walker. You can learn more about it in NPR’s story: ‘Cooking Up A Storm’: Recipes From The Big Easy.