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A tasty treat.

Affectionate portrait of that favorite Cajun comfort food and the tradition from which it came.

Down on the bayou, it’s all about the gumbo, the overstuffed soup that babies eat “as soon as they go off the breast or the bottle.” Now, bayou has a specific meaning, and former Wall Street Journal writer Wells (The Good Pirates of the Forgotten Bayous: Fighting to Save a Way of Life in the Wake of Hurricane Katrina, 2008, etc.) opens with a glossary of key terms, including that one, which describes a riparian ecosystem that “provided habitable high ground in a place where high ground was rare” for the Cajun, or Acadian, French-descended refugees who arrived there after being expelled from British Canada nearly 250 years ago. Gumbo itself derives from an African word for okra, a key ingredient, along with sausage, shrimp, bell peppers, and always rice. Beyond that, there are spices of various sorts, making the gumbo peppery or mild, simple or savory. One is filé, a powder made of ground sassafras leaves, whose “application in gumbo was subject to a rather robust debate even in the deepest part of the Gumbo Belt,” namely whether it goes in while the gumbo is cooking or as it is cooling off. As the author notes, gumbo is not, strictly speaking, a Cajun invention, since it owes so much to West African antecedents, but nowhere has it become quite so elevated than Louisiana. From there, Cajun cooking has spread around the world. For instance, Paul Prudhomme’s concoction of spices for blackened redfish has found a welcome home in Greece. Gumbo allows for experimentation, which “requires confidence and willing guinea pigs,” though traditionalists will argue about that, too. In one cook-off, Wells, who grew up in the bayou, encountered gumbos made with tried-and-true hog lard, duck, and shrimp, with the most exotic thing being rabbit (“My mother would put rabbit in her sauce piquant but would never think of putting it in her gumbo”). The author closes his gently spun tale with a few recipes that foodies will want to test immediately.

A tasty treat.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-393-25483-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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