It took a full three weeks but now we know why Marcelle Bienvenu left the Times Picayune. This morning Ann Maloney announced that she’s the new Times Pic food writer.

We’re withholding judgement on this one. While we cried like children when Bienvenu announced she was leaving the newspaper we felt confident she’d land on her feet and have a blog/website up and running in no time flat.

It remains to be seen if she will.

One of the South’s most important voices has been silenced and we are worse for this loss.

The contractions at the Times Picayunes have been well documented.

Ann Maloney has some big shoes to fill. Is she up to the task?

Farewell Marcelle Bienvenu

Back in the 80s, before I became a resident of New Orleans, I had to content myself with occasional visits to Louisiana to eat myself into a stupor, take in the sights and sounds of the greatest city in USA, and of course start each day with a mug of coffee and the Times Pic. It was then that I became familiar with the work of the Queen Of Cajun Cooking: Marcelle Bienvenu. Louisiana residents don’t need any introduction to this woman as she’s the preeminent lady of food letters in our great state, but since this site enjoys substantial international traffic I figured it was time to give the devil her due and turn some outsiders on to this culinary legend.

Mayonnaise was the tipping point.

Earlier this month Bienvenue penned an article for the Times Pic that provided a master class on producing handmade mayo. We’ve got it good in New Orleans for this condiment as Blue Plate has been in production locally since 1929.

And it is delicious but pales in comparison to scratch, the kind that Bienvenu instructs her readers on here http://www.nola.com/food/index.ssf/2014/07/the_marvelous_world_of_mayonna.html It had me drooling like a hound dog.

No teetotaler Marcelle, last year she wrote a recipe for a watermelon margarita that is now the gold standard in the Scrumptious house http://www.nola.com/food/index.ssf/2013/07/blender_watermelon_margarita_r.html a half dozen of these and you’ll be ready to take on the world.

When the good cook’s not penning columns for the local paper, she’s going long form and writing cookbooks. The James Beard nominated “Cooking Up A Storm” is a good starting point but “Who’s Your Mama, Are You Catholic and Can You Make a Roux” is actually my favorite. If you want to explore the world of Cajun cooking this book will the cornerstone of your collection.

A veteran of both Commander’s Palace and K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen, Bienvenu is also on the staff at the John Folse Culinary Institute in Thibodaux, Louisiana. This is where she guides young culinary students as they make their way toward a career where veteran cooks often earn upwards of 20k!

Here’s a link to Marcelle Bienvenu’s website http://www.marcellebienvenu.com/ she also regularly appears in the Times Pic so next time you’re at Cafe Rose Nicaud browse your way through the paper to the food section and you may get lucky and read some of her work. She’s a Louisiana treasure and one of my favorite food writers.

Part one of this series featured Clementine Paddleford http://www.scrumptiouschef.com/food/2011/1/18/Food-Writers-I-Admire-Part-1-Clementine-Paddleford-18981967

Generally, when an outside-of-Texas writer questions the tradition of Texas barbecue I go into rabid hound dog mode-ATTACK! ATTACK! But I’ve learned over the years to occasionally take heed of the author’s words, set a spell, take my shoes off, and listen.

Josh Ozersky has earned my approbation.

Speaking on the landscape of modern barbecue in the Wall Street Journal Ozersky says: “originality is as frightening as a hand reaching up out of a freshly dug grave.” That’s tight y’all.

And he’s right.

I’m a strict constructionist when it comes to smoked meat, and could not care less about “originality” when it comes to barbecue-but I don’t have to. I live in the buckle of the biggest barbecue belt on earth, and can gorge on traditionalist meat all day-every day.

Ozersky lives in the frozen barbecue tundra of the Northeast where barbecue tradition is scant. He’s to be forgiven for praising originality in an area where folks are grateful for whatever smoked meat they can get in their gullet. Quality and tradition be damned. Put barbecue on a plate and you can find a New Yorker, staggering down a windy, crime-ridden boulevard who’ll be happy to have it.

Ozersky is not perfect. In a separate article in Esquire he goes off to la la land saying “Austin has one great barbecue and one very good one (Franklin’s/Stiles Switch) and Lockhart has one great one and one good one (Kreuz/Smitty’s)”

That’s demonstrable horseshit but he’s an outsider who only gets to occasionally venture to the Great State to eat. If he spent a couple weeks down in these parts he’d realize Kreuz and Smitty’s are running on fumes in Lockhart where Black’s is king, and Austin has a handful of remarkable smoke shacks not named Franklin or Stiles Switch.

I live here.

Yesterday, in a brilliant piece in The New York Observer. Titled “Blog-Tied: How a Hunger for Clicks Drives New York’s Brutally Fickle Food Scene” Ozersky explores the never ending thirst for viewership in the blogoverse.

It’s an incredible romp through the modern world of food writing where “The blogs give their blessings freely but withdraw them soon after: they’re like children who shower a puppy with adoration and then quickly regret its existence”

Guilty.

The next big thing is always on our radar. Our birth notice series consistently skyrockets readership when we opine on a brand new restaurant or bar that’s about to take flight. Our internal governors have to kick in on a daily basis when it comes eating time.

When was the last time you ate at La Traviata? It’s the best Italian restaurant in Austin but gets approximately zero coverage in the dozens of blogs we scan on a weekly basis. Zero hype, just mind-blowing food coming out of Chef Gilchrist’s kitchen every single night.

Continuing with his editorial Ozersky says: “Older print food writers, resentful and aghast at their sudden obsolescence, invariably mourn the absence of thoughtful, knowledgeable expert criticism.”

It’s got to be tough. Imagine starting your food journalism career in the paleo-era of the 80s or (gasp) the 70s. You’d be looking at these whippersnapper bloggers of today with shrinking horror.

Graying alt-weeklies and dailies across the country are trying to maintain relevance in the face of meganaut national blogging platforms like Serious Eats, Eater and the rusting hulk of Chowhound.

It’s a tough way to earn a buck.

Ozersky speaks, hilariously, on Mission Chinese “The gale of hype fills the sails of the place, and the print writers rev their noisy old outboard motors to keep up. Then comes the post: Mission Chinese is the Times’ Best New Restaurant of 2012. OMFG! The sky’s the limit for Mission Chinese.”

Brilliant.

You’d be forgiven if you thought Larry McGuire, Sonya Cote and Paul Qui constituted the whole of the Austin food scene. Any one of the 3 could urinate in a back alley and Eater Austin would be all over it with breathless coverage.

Got to keep those click-heavy names in constant rotation. Ozersky “ALL THESE SITES HAVE to post many times a day, because they do a volume business, and even tens of thousands of visits a day can barely cover the cost of doing business.”

Back in our heyday we’d author 120 articles per month on this site til we were all huddled up in a corner begging for it to stop. This is a high burnout field and we slowly realized we needed to back it down or we’d have to close up shop.

Nowadays we pen roughly 60 articles per month. Respectable. Sustainable.

Ozersky is all over the place. He writes for numerous magazines and online platforms. The best way to keep up with this maniac is via https://twitter.com/OzerskyTV where he puts links up to his latest work.

and read that New York Observer article http://observer.com/2013/05/blog-tied-how-a-hunger-for-clicks-drives-new-yorks-brutally-fickle-food-scene/

 

When I’m not busy planning a trip to Louisiana, cooking Louisiana food or just sitting around looking at photo albums of my trips to Louisiana, I really enjoy reading about Louisiana cooking.

Fat Johnny cooks like I do. Long stints in the kitchen followed by hyper-delicious bouts of eating the fruit of the cookery.

If you can read a full page of this blog without hitting the kitchen with a fresh inspiration then you may need to call a medic.

http://chez-frontporch.blogspot.com/

https://twitter.com/RLReevesJr

I’ve had the pleasure of living in the great state of Alabama, and it is one of the five greatest food states in our nation.

Dixie dining does a good job covering the foodways of the bread basket of the southeast with particular attention paid to the southern part of Alabama.

I love the author’s emphasis on barbecue, meat and 3 and fried fish which are staples of any good Southerners diet.

He also writes extensively about music which may or may not be to your liking. If it’s not just scroll down and you can pick up his food writings again fairly quickly.

http://dixiedining.wordpress.com/

https://twitter.com/RLReevesJr

 

Back when I used to regularly read and post on Chowhound, there was a Houston area poster named Brucesw who had a hound dog’s nose for really good sausage. He pointed me to Eureste’s down in Waelder Texas and it became one of my all time favorite Central Texas barbecue joints.

When it was still open, I used to love to take my friends down there on a sunny Fall afternoon to sit in the tiny dining room off the pit and imagine hearing Confederate cavalry men thundering down the nearby dirt roads.

It was about as old school a joint as you could ever imagine.

Brucesw has his own blog and it’s a good one. Hit the link  to take a trip through the culinary backroads of Houston Texas

http://chilibobshoustoneats.blogspot.com/

https://twitter.com/RLReevesJr