If you’re like most, holiday shopping for those hard-to-buy-for folks on your list is both challenging and frustrating. Well, with the bounty of fabulous books and something for everyone just one click away, you’ll have all your shopping wrapped up in no time. Then you’ll have a moment to enjoy this most spirited season—and perhaps a much-deserved hot toddy, as well!
LOCAL FLAVOR: My current favorite is Lords of Misrule: Mardi Gras and the Politics of Race in New Orleans, by James Gill. It is a thoroughly entertaining and detailed history revolving around the inception of the krewes in New Orleans and continuing through legislation in the early 1990s that changed some of those krewes forever. The work is out of print and is able to be ordered, but Garden District Bookstore had one last time I was in. Song for My Fathers: A New Orleans Story in Black and White, by Tom Sancton, was one of my first reads in getting to know New Orleans, recommended to me one Sunday night at Nickle-a-Dance in the Marigny, by the visiting mayor from a town in Southern Louisiana. I was instantly hooked. It’s a great book for jazz buffs and includes some very uplifting moments. Also try City of Refuge, by Tom Piazza, for a fictional and poignant account of two disparate families’ struggles caused by Hurricane Katrina. It is an epic account; an educational gift for out-of-towners.
COOKBOOKS: Cookbooks are always wonderful gifts. Check with your favorite restaurant or chef to see if they have published any collections. A cookbook from a restaurant where you had a first date or a huge party is meaningful and really shows you were thinking specifically about the person who shared that experience with you.
Some of these listed below contain the quintessential collection of New Orleans recipes, great gifts for all foodies.
Ralph Brennan’s New Orleans Seafood Cookbook by Ralph Brennan Over a decade in the making, famed restaurateur Ralph Brennan presents the definitive guide to the much-loved, ever-imitated seafood of New Orleans. With sections that cover breads, desserts, wine and a seafood cook’s guide, the book is sure to please novice and professional chefs at home and abroad.
The Encyclopedia of Cajun & Creole Cuisine by John Folse Cajun and Creole history never tasted so good! Historical photos, Cajun and Creole influences and more than 700 terrific recipes are dynamically presented in this must-have cookbook.
Galatoire’s Cookbook: Recipes and Family History From the Time-Honored New Orleans Restaurant by Melvin Rodrigue Iconic recipes such as Godchaux Salad and Shrimp Remoulade, in addition to many equally tasty but lesser-known dishes, are artfully presented in this tribute to one of our city’s most beloved legendary restaurants.
Crescent City Cooking: Unforgettable Recipes From Susan Spicer’s New Orleans by Susan Spicer and Paula Disbrowe In her debut book, chef Susan Spicer offers a personal glimpse into her life as a renowned chef, in addition to more than 170 intriguing recipes, including many of her signature dishes. She also includes her must-have pantry list and helpful descriptions of unusual ingredients and cooking techniques.
Tom Fitzmorris’s New Orleans Food: More Than 225 of the City’s Best Recipes to Cook at Home by Tom Fitzmorris From Bananas Foster to Redfish Herbsaint, local food critic, radio show host and columnist Tom Fitzmorris presents this nostalgic taste of New Orleans. Designed for the home cook, recipes range from casual to elegant, from classic to contemporary.
New Orleans Home Cookin by Dale Curry. In this newly released book, former Times- Picayune food editor Dale Curry shows us how to re-create 125 quintessential New Orleans dishes, including barbecued shrimp, gumbo and jambalaya. Beautiful photos by local photographer Eugenia Uhl will have you licking your chops!
SELF HELP: For those with a focus on the spiritual side, I will include a few choices from the self-help aisle:
Captivating, Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul and Wild at Heart both by John and Stasi Eldredge are good picks. These are strictly biblical interpretations of what relationships could be at their finest; what women and men want for themselves and in their roles as part of a couple. Captivating (what women are) is written for the female perspective and Wild at Heart (need I explain?) is written for the men. I think with a little imagination these premises can be applied to any relationship that has two people in distinct roles, the feminine and masculine. However, my gay friends will have to take some references with a grain of salt, as the authors are pointedly speaking to heteros. Read them both.
If you need a gift for someone who is not a big reader, I would suggest Dr. Wayne W. Dyer’s Being in Balance. You can purchase this work printed and bound in a festive, colorful manner, suggesting its contents may be more of a greeting card than anything else. What you will find in its decorated pages are nine simple principles for creating habits that promote your personal achievement of wellbeing.
FICTION: As far as fiction picks for the season, many current authors have new releases out now or due soon. Learn which authors your friends like to read and go to amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com to find out if the author is about to publish a new novel. Anyone who has a favorite author will love the effort you made to get the latest. The following is a list of several:
The Widows of Eastwick by John Updike
The Gate House by Nelson DeMille Divine Justice by David Baldacci
Salvation in Death (In Death Series #27) by J. D. Robb
The Brass Verdict (Harry Bosch Series #14 and Mickey Haller Series #2) by Michael Connelly
Just After Sunset by Stephen King
Heat Lightning (Virgil Flowers Series #2) by John Sandford
Scarpetta (Kay Scarpetta Series #16) by Patricia Cornwell
One Fifth Avenue by Candace Bushnell
Your Heart Belongs to Me by Dean Koontz
CLASSICS: Finally, classic holiday stories are good picks as well. Try O. Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi” or Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol or Philip Van Doren Stern’s “The Greatest Gift” or its movie version, It’s a Wonderful Life. All are great traditional pieces that can and should resurface every year. A beautifully bound edition to set out during the season or a framed copy of the short story makes a wonderful gift. And don’t forget to read these uplifting stories for yourself! Happy holidays!