by Ian McNulty
Local writer Liz Scott Monaghan riffs a bit on the fact that there are indeed still some liberals and Democrats on the Northshore, which she describes as the place “where people from New Orleans live when they want higher ground and lots of Republicans around them.”
More importantly however, and also contrary to the area’s well-heeled image, she points out that there are also people going hungry on the Northshore.
Raising awareness of the problem and raising money to help address it are the goals behind "Cookbook for the Hungry," which Monaghan co-edited along with Slidell resident Ann Porter.
The book was produced by the Northshore Democratic Women’s Club, and its extended subtitle spells out the theme: “A wickedly delicious collection of recipes and cooking tips, spiced liberally with political wit, served up by Louisiana Democrats.”
The idea for the book came together after a community forum on hunger in St. Tammany held early in 2011, which revealed that local food banks were being overwhelmed by demand week in and week out. In response, the Democratic Women’s Club decided to solicit support by tempting people’s appetites. The club assembled recipes from its members and others and set about writing a cookbook, pledging all profits from the finished product to help fund hunger relief efforts around St. Tammany Parish.
They tapped a pretty sharp wit for the task. Monaghan is author of the long-running Modine Gunch humor column in New Orleans Magazine and the author of several books under the Gunch pen name. For the latest of these, "Never Clean Your House During Hurricane Season,” she’s pledged proceeds from book sales to the St. Bernard Project, which helps people recovery from Katrina and the BP oil disaster.
“Cookbook for the Hungry” came out this fall. Aside from some humorous names for dishes (“undocumented cheese and chili dip”) and the occasional side commentary (“’Potluck’ is a subtle way to spread the idea that if everybody brings something to the party, there is more than enough for everyone — a classic liberal premise”), the content of the book isn’t really all that political. Rather, it’s good, straightforward home cooking from the reliable font of Louisiana kitchens (gumbo z’herbes, shrimp etouffee, pudding cake. . .well, alright, it's the “Super Rich Get Richer Hot Fudge Pudding Cake”). Along the way there are also helpful local tips, like how to make shrimp stock or fillet the whole fish your fisherman neighbor might give you.
There are even a few recipes from Sister Helen Prejean, the well-known advocate for ending the death penalty (Monaghan edited Prejean’s 2004 book “The Death of Innocents”). Just beware that Prejean herself claims that her macaroni and cheese recipe has the power to make anyone who eats it “immediately become a liberal.”
“Cookbook for the Hungry” is available at local stores including the Garden District Book Shop and Maple Street Book Shop, as well as Amazon.com. You can also pick up a copy of the book and meet its editors and contributors at these upcoming events:
Dec. 9, 11 a.m.
Loyola University Bookstore
Danna Student Center
6363 St. Charles Ave., New Orleans
Dec. 10, 6 p.m.
Mt. Olive Feeding Ministry
2457 Second St., Slidell
This event will feature samples of 15 recipes from the book.
Dec. 15, 7 p.m.
Molly’s at the Market
1107 Decatur St., New Orleans
Monaghan and Porter will be guest bartenders for Molly’s Media Night, an ongoing event begun by Monaghan’s late husband (and Molly’s founder) Jim Monaghan.
“We’re hoping to attract the drinking liberally crowd,” Liz Scott Monaghan quips about that appearance.