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June Book Review: Death By Gumbo by Phil Edwards (Kindle Edition)

I’ve never been to New Orleans, but something about the distinct, fiery cuisine of this city has always excited me. There is romance and comfort and an equal measure of the exotic. I hope to visit New Orleans one day, and discover the foods that make it so famous. Gumbo, Jambalaya, Beignet, Crayfish Pie…Oh yes!

When I was really young, in the late ’80s, my parents and their friends had karaoke at their houses and at the restaurants they owned. Karaoke doubled as entertainment and as a babysitter at gatherings back then. It kept the kids out of the adult’s hair while they caught up with each other and the adults could join in after dinner when it was appropriate. One favourite song of mine was Jambalaya (On The Bayou). I didn’t know the meaning of the words as a child, but the words sounded funny and they felt good coming off my tongue. Released in the early 1950’s, it was an unlikely song for an early ’80s, Hong Kong born, Kiwi-raised girl to love, but it happened. I still remember the cheesy Chinese lady who would walk around a pretty town somewhere in the world while the camera followed her and we sang along to her skipping about.

Death By Gumbo by Phil Edwards, 2011.

The title of this book really appealed to me. I spent many years reading mystery and crime novels and to me, they are pure escapism. Cheap and plentiful, easy to read without having to pay too much attention. Mystery novels to me are like comfort food for the mind. So when I saw that this was a mystery novel with a big foodie slant, set in New Orleans I was all in.

A culinary mystery novel. It’s all fiction, though the story is set in New Orleans. That’s Nu OR-lins, not New or-LEEENS. Apparently, only tourists say New or-LEEENS. The story sheds light on a competitive and xenophobic restaurant community in New Orleans. Jake Russo, an ex-New York, dieting, ex-obese reporter has been assigned the role of a food critic in New Orleans against his wishes. His only ally is Gary, who is a food photographer, a successful food blogger and has a perfect palate. Jake’s lack of knowledge about food is amusing, frustrating, but understandable. He is not a foodie. I loved reading about the different restaurants in this novel. They were all very different with rich characters behind each one. From Beauchene’s fine dining affair catering to the rich and famous, to Miss Louisa’s 40-year strong, deep fried little kitchen.

Read this if…

  1. You have ever fantasised about being a professional food critic, a professional food blogger or a food photographer.
  2. You have a slight obsession for New Orleans.

Some of my favourite morsels from Death By Gumbo

I’m a food critic who’s on a diet and has terrible taste.

They entered a majestic formal dining room. Each chair was like a throne. It was only lunch, but they ate off fine china. “Plastic dishware,” Beauchene said, “is a culinary crime.

This city is resistant to change. It loves seafood. I hate it. It loves a guess and I prefer a formula. But I have a few tricks up my sleeve.

So yeah…

Not educational, but an entertaining read.

Kindle Update June 2012

The new June 2012 update of the Kindle app on iPad has updates that improve the reading experience. The Google and Wiki search function that disappeared in the March 2012 update, has reappeared. It’s a pleasure to be able to look up maps, recipes and photos when reading a food based story set in another country. Sure, you could read this book without looking up every dish or location, but when you’re reading about real places and real dishes, it’s nice to know, rather than guess what the writer is referring to.

It’s always satisfying when updates include useful improvements. I was kind of worried that the Google and Wiki searches were gone forever.

Book reviews:

For those that have just joined, as part of my year’s resolutions (read more books) I hoping to read and review a food related book every month during 2012.

January Book Review: A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg

February Book Review: Don’t Try This At Home: Culinary Catastrophes from the world’s greatest cooks and chefs Edited by Kimberly Witherspoon and Andrew Friedman

March Book Review: East of Eden by John Steinbeck

April Book Review: Toast: A Story of a Boy’s Hunger by Nigel Slater

May Book Review: Food Rules by Michael Pollan

3 Comments

  1. I would call it Naw’lins!

    The book looks like a fun read. I never thought of some kinds of books as comfort food for the mind, but it’s true that crime novels and detective stories are like that. For me, I also like reading Jane Austen novels to decompress.

    Or I did until that Feminist Novel course at University and now I can only think of her heroines as oppressed by a paternalistic social machine that values women only when they are married to men. Damn higher education!

    • lol. Damn that Feminist Novel course and over reading into heroines!

      I bet they wouldn’t like that I’m married and I actually like to cook?

  2. I think, as long as you grow your armpit and leg hair long enough to braid, they might be willing to overlook the outdated social convention and gender stereotypes 😉

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