ONE OF THE FIRST cookbooks that my mom acquired was River Road Recipes published by the Junior League of Baton Rouge in 1959. Over 1.3 million copies of this recipe collection have been sold. I cannot imagine a Louisiana kitchen without a copy of this textbook of Creole cuisine. I recall that there was a small, yet not insignificant, section in the book called “How Men Cook.”
The image of the restaurant chef in the culinary world at that time was typically a man. I had never thought of how men may cook or even what they may cook at home. My mom owned her kitchen. My dad steered clear of her territory except when he was beckoned to the table to eat. Each of my grandfathers, however, had a couple of specialties that they prepared that I fondly remember.
My Popee Toca spent many hours at our summer home in Clermont Harbor, boiling freshly caught crabs and making Creole cream cheese ice cream in his hand-cranked freezer.
My Grandpa Walker was a country boy who grew his own veggies in a small sunny plot at his home in Metairie. Field peas and sweet cornbread baked to perfection in cast iron corn shaped pans are what come to mind when I think of Grandpa.
“How Men Cook” opened up a whole new world for me. Recipes with wild and exotic ingredients such as quail, venison roast, smoked wild duck or turkey, turtle stew, and sauce piquant.
Enter the modern enterprising man or men: The Ancient Order of Southern Gourmets. Founded five years ago by Cajun gourmand and raconteur, Chris Dautreuil, this group of 40-plus men share a love of camaraderie, good food, cooking and a taste for fine wine. The “Ancient Gourmets” as I fondly refer to them, meet once a month on the Northshore for an evening of home cooked creative cuisine. Members rotate responsibilities in the kitchen and create a monthly menu with appetizers, entrees, salad and desserts. Most importantly, the Acquistapace’s, Eric, Steve and Adam, supply the wine pairings.
At a recent event hosted by chef de cuisine Leonard White and sous chefs Gayden Robert and Cal Zenor, the menu featured Donald Links’ smoky oyster stew for a first course, Len’s stuffed chicken legs and thighs with Israeli couscous for the entree, and Cal’s chocolate mousse with a fresh raspberry Cointreau sauce for dessert. As I said, the Ancient Gourmets take their cooking and their eating seriously. This meal is not for the faint hearted, weight watchers, quiche eaters or those on a Paleo diet.
Thanks to the Ancient Order of Southern Gourmets for sharing their recipes and protecting the celebration and joys of cooking at home with friends and family.
For more recipes from the Ancient Order of Southern Gourmets, please go to sophisticatedwoman.com, Foodies and Friends blog.