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Divine Decadence

Everyone remembers Sally Bowles referring to her green finger polish as “divine decadence” in the musical Cabaret. It could define a number of other things, mostly illegal I suspect, but none more accurately than the cuisine of New Orleans. As an ex-pat of that fabled city, I often get nostalgic for its spell, and the easiest way to shed my Big Easy blues is food. I often cook Creole dishes, especially for dinner parties. Granted, my guests are sometimes taken aback by the richness of the meals, but, like Paula Deen says, you’ll be fine as long as you don’t eat like this every day. Friends who are watching their weight have learned to either check their diets at the door or let me know when they’re ready to splurge and fall way off the wagon. In my culinary...

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Gumbo Weather

When readers ask about the prominence of food in my books about New Orleans, I always say I can’t imagine not writing about it. Food is as much a part of the city’s fabric as jazz, Mardi Gras and humidity, and I know from living there eleven years that when people aren’t eating they’re usually talking about it. The city has been a gustatory destination for well over two centuries, so when I began Creole Son about French painter Edgar Degas’s 1872-3 visit, I knew I had to include the local cuisine.   The Creoles famously loved to eat, and because Degas’s mother Celestine belonged to that particular ethnic group, it’s reasonable to assume he did too. As a well-educated Parisian of some means, he no doubt had a...

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Twelfth Night at the Eleventh Hour

Like film actors wanting retakes, writers sometimes want to change a published work. Perhaps they’re unhappy with certain phraseology or maybe it’s something serious like a dropped plot thread, character development, or lack thereof. Turning a raw manuscript into a published book is a tedious process involving not just the author but editors, publishers, agents, and the occasional friend whose opinion is valued. You’d think writers would have every opportunity to get things just right, but other factors can be at work. Case in point, my historical novel Twelfth Night (1997). The contract required a “darkly erotic” story, but not until that first submission did I fully realize what was expected. My editor sent me back to the drawing...

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