December 4, 2008

A Christmas Gift Idea

A Christmas Gift Idea
Photo by Juliana Malta / Unsplash
The Catholic Foodie & Family with Alton Brown

Yes, we are in Advent, preparing for Christ’s coming, but we are also preparing for family celebrations at Christmas. These celebrations often entail gift-giving.

I don’t know about you, but I am often at a loss about what to give certain people. When I find myself at a loss, I usually just get them something that I would enjoy. And that usually works out well.

If you are wondering what to get the foodies in your life… why not get them a cookbook?

I have a particular one in mind that I can recommend to you – Alton Brown’s Feasting on Asphalt: The River Run.

I purchased this cookbook a number of months back when Alton came to New Orleans for a book signing. On a Wednesday evening the whole family made the 45 minute trip across Lake Pontchartrain to Octavia Books on Octavia Street in uptown New Orleans.

My kids had been begging to go to the signing. They love Alton Brown and his Food Networkshow Good Eats. As a matter of fact, they usually prefer to watch Food Network than to watch cartoons.

I know, I have strange kids. But just look at their father!

Anyway, we made the trip across the lake and stood in line for about an hour-and-a-half. It was not easy to wait that long with three young children, but it really was worth it.

It was cool to meet Alton Brown. We spoke with him for a few moments, took a picture with him, and he signed our copy of Feasting on Asphalt: The River Run. He addressed it to the kids. And they were so excited to have met him.

We ended the evening at a little hole-in-the-wall right down the street from the bookstore, Franky & Johnny’s. It’s known as a “New Orleans neighborhood restaurant” and it’s a staple of New Orleans culture. It’s been around forever and from the outside it looks like a shack. It’s actually more like a shotgun house.

Walking in the front door gets you into the bar. You see lots of wood panelling. And it’s dark. The lighting is subdued in the bar area. To the left is the bar with several beers on tap and the liquor sitting on shelves right in front of a wall-sized mirror. To the right you see an antique juke box. It plays only 45’s. There is even a little space for dancing. There are two more rooms in the “house.” You have to walk through each one to reach the back of the restaurant. The tables are covered with red & white checkerboard cloths.

Franky & Johnny’s specializes in seafood, but they also serve po-boys and muffulettas. But, they are famous for their seafood-stuffed artichokes.

It was an awesome night.

So why do I recommend this particular cookbook? Well, this cookbook does more than just catalog recipes. It tells a story. It chronicles Alton’s journey along the Mississippi River (from New Orleans to Missouri), a journey he made on his motorcycle.

Along his route, he stops to eat in small family-owned restaurants. In one town he even ate at a church fair. He has a love for the down-home cuisine one finds in family-owned restaurants, a love he learned from his parents when growning up.

The presentation of the book is really neat. The cover is a heavy-duty cardboard. It’s colorful. And the inside looks more like a notebook or scrapbook. Lots of pictures of the food and people he met along the way. The publishers also reproduce some of the hand-written notes that Alton made on the trip. Really cool. I learned a lot reading this cookbook. A lot about culture… and food. Look it up. Here is a link to the book on Amazon.