New Orleans. Just hearing these two words creates visions of food. Yummy food. Food that haunts your taste buds long after the first bite. It is definitely one of my favorite food cities in the country as well as in the world.
Adding to its delicious narrative christened by Lena Richards, Leah Chase and Kevin Belton is Chef Toya Boudy (pronounced BO DEE), who is sharing her personal celebration of the Big Easy in her sophomore cookbook, “Cooking for the Culture.”
“Both of my parents are amazing cooks, both knew how to grill well, both could fix just about anything with their hands and could even tell you what was wrong with your car if you drove up or started it up in front of them,” she writes in the first chapter. This admission set the foundation for the little girl who grew up to smell coffee and food sizzling in the pan before 8 am.
Boudy started cooking at the age of eight and hasn’t stopped since. She is unapologetic about her love for preparing southern fare and its connection to her native city, her family and Black culture.
Cooking for the Culture
With a harmonious blend of intimate stories of her life and recipes that channel the spirit of her ancestors and parents, Boudy did not come to play in her second cookbook, which features more than 80 recipes and follows her 2017 cookbook debut, “Cook Like a New Orleanian.”
You’ll want to allow some time to go through the book with sticky notes—a lot of them— because the recipes and the food styling alone will bring on the hunger pains.
If you are looking for the traditional Creole classics, you got them. Got a taste for a little Cajun? Check. Need some comfort? This book is all about it. Ready for tons of amazing flavor? “Cooking for the Culture,” has that next-level flavor that only New Orleans chefs can bring.
As I flipped through the pages, I was pleasantly overwhelmed by the simple decision of what to prepare first. Naturally, it was the smothered chicken with a generous amount of Cajun seasoning, savory gravy and the trinity (onion, bell pepper and celery) served over rice.
When I am ready to be ambitious, I need to try her fried chicken & watermelon jam sandwich. Yes, you read that correctly; a watermelon jam drizzle on top and all around buttermilk chicken.
Other recipes to head straight to include the crab cakes with lemon caper cream, red beans, coconut shrimp with mango chili sauce, baked mac & cheese, seafood gumbo, pepperoni lasagna and buttermilk turkey wings. Want to truly feel like a New Orleans local? Then the first dish on your list to try will have to be the yakamein. Boudy’s rendition captures the essence of this dish created by Chinese immigrants who lived in the city’s Chinatown.
The cornbread with a selection of compound butters is great for starters and dipping in the pot liquor of the collard greens. Add a side of praline bacon and its flavor overload.
For dessert, Boudy had me at the lemon squares. However, the lavender tea cakes just may tempt me beyond my baking comfort.
What’s New Orleans without a good cocktail? A hurricane to be exact. The “Cooking For the Culture,” author creates this grown-folk classic with seven ingredients that include white and dark rum that is sure to still pack that punch. But it is not the only one you can experiment with at home, so be sure to dig into others included in the book as well.
Finally, Boudy’s storytelling is more than sharing details of her life. It is a way of connecting to so many who like her faced challenges that she had to overcome to find her artistic voice, not only through food but through other aspects of her being. You truly don’t know what someone goes through to get to the point in their journey that they are at, but when you have those like Boudy who are transparent, it is not only inspiring but gives you power for the course in your journey that you are currently on.
“Cooking For the Culture” is available at our online at our partner bookstore, The Food Temptress Cookbook Store and you can follow Boudy on Instagram for more book updates, New Orleans happening and more.
The Food Temptress Cookbook Store is an online culinary bookstore featuring more than 80 cookbooks by Black authors. Cuisine Noir does not receive a commission from sales.