Southern authors offer advice on New Orleans bars, life musings and more

French Quarter Drinking Companion
French Quarter Drinking Companion

Author Francis Schaeffer once posed the literary question, “How Should We Then Live,” and many of his Southern comrades-in-ink have responded with many good suggestions, not unlike the ones who produced the subjects of this week’s book roundup.

‘My Gabe’

The first two take soul-searching paths. In “My Gabe,” Gulfport author Sue Monkress takes the path less-traveled, that of emotional, physical and spiritual love.

Her protagonist, Callie McDermott, saved from a collision with a speeding motorcycle, reexamines her life, and seeks her one true love.

After some of her earlier failed attempts, she finds herself “getting’ a very romantic picture” with a gentlemen named Gabe. “I must be dreaming,” she tells herself, then, based on previous experiences, reminds herself that,” I’ll wake up soon. I know. This can’t be real.”

But it is real, and very much more. The couple begins their romantic journey on the Coast, but it quickly becomes a shared spiritual journey of the heart, replete with life’s usual twists and turns, assuaged only by the leaps of faith they both courageously take. What makes this story different is the everydayness of their struggles; not a Hollywood tale, but the failures and small victories that could and do happen to people every day. Monkress succeeds in making the path less traveled seem one worth attempting.

‘We Throw Things At You’

In “We Throw Things At You: Dealing with Life’s Zingers,” Bogalusa native Ardie Cesario asks questions such as, should we marry for love or money? How should we deal with injustice to ourselves and others? And should we live local or seek out new horizons? To these and other questions the author offers “answers” in the form of brief true life stories, themselves sufficiently hard-hitting to warrant the designation of “zingers.”

With chapter titles such as “Rags to Roaches” and “A Rabbi and a Priest Go Into A Bar,” Cesario pulls no punches; a drug dealer is arrested and suffers rape in prison, while a woman marries for love, enjoys an ideal marriage, but faces poverty after her husband’s demise.

And those witty clergymen spin fantastic tales of their adventures before deciding to enter the ministry.

If this sounds like a throwback to something out of Sartre, Marcel or De Beauvoir, it should. Our choices define us, and Cesario has a way of bringing that point home with a well-drawn exclamation point.

‘Dinner Déjà vu: Southern Tonight, French Tomorrow’

Noted Parisian-trained Southern chef Jennifer Hill Booker shares her love for cooking traditional Southern food “blended with classical French cooking techniques,” in her lovely cookbook, “Dinner Déjà vu: Southern Tonight, French Tomorrow.”

From braised pig feet stew to herb and Dijon crusted rack of lamb to bananas foster, this brilliant chef offers the precise recipe and ingredients necessary to enliven your dinner party and enhance any romantic evening at home.

She maps the gateway to preparing every manner of delicious viandes and jeu sauvage, volaille, legumes and patisseries, offering color photos of each dish certain to whet the appetite of even the most abstemious diner.

Booker’s passion for cooking knows no bounds; she even offers sections detailing what you should have in your pantry, which equipment to purchase, and the combined grocery lists for every element — meat, desserts, soups and so on. Most priceless is her step-by-step and photo-by-photo recipe for preparing poisson au papillote (fish in a bag) and her advice on how to eat blue crab. If living well means cooking well, Chef Booker offers the road to paradise with her exceptional approach to that art.

‘The French Quarter Drinking Companion’

Finally, W.C. Fields once said, “I cook with wine, and sometimes add it to the food.” He would have greatly appreciated “The French Quarter Drinking Companion” by Allison Alsup, Elizabeth Pierce and Richard Read.

The three investigated all kinds of New Orleans bars — iconic, highbrow, dive, neighborhood, LBGT and hipster — and came away with everything you need to know about where to imbibe in the Crescent City.

From the renowned Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop to the little known (and difficult to locate) Cane and Table, they offer histories, witty comments and the 411 on the cost, specialty drinks, what to wear, what kind of patrons you’ll encounter, the best times to visit, and the best features (or greatest weaknesses) of bars in joints, hotels and restaurants in the city. Despite leaving out some of the most interesting taverns in town, the authors have crafted a sparking jewel that will light the traveler’s path through America’s most intriguing neo-European city.