Three cities, four days

Since Monday, I’ve been to three cities on tour for the paperback edition of The Sharper Your Knife. First, I went to Chicago, home of friends Marietta and her French husband, Emmanuel. He made me a great dinner, with a pan-seared leg of duck confit with a chanterelle mushroom sauce as the star attraction. The next night, in Louisville, home to my big brother Doug, I used his meal as inspiration and put together a pan-seared chicken with a crimini mushroom sauce. (No duck nor chaterelles at the Kroger near their house.) As a side, I put together lemon asparagus risotto, which my college-age nephew referred to as “that aspagarus stuff.”

It’s been a great week in terms of events. After the enthusiastic crowd at Carmichael’s in Louisville, the owner whisked me over to her book club, a group of people who meet regularly at Artemisia restaurant. The chef at the restaurant creates menu around each of the food-based titles they read. I was touched to see a gourmet version of my mother’s minestrone on the menu, plus braised mustard rabbit, invoking the moment at Le Cordon Bleu where I had to behead a whole rabbit. (You can find the recipe here.)

I got up at 5:45 to fly to New Orleans. It was odd to be flying to the site of Katrina on the anniversary of the Sept. 11th attacks. I listened to stories on NPR about memorials and memories from survivors as I drove to the airport. It reminded me of that day, seven years ago, when I watched the attack live on TV in the newsroom of MSN in London. I worked until 4 a.m. the next morning, as our team kept our news site updated. I never felt more American, nor as conflicted about being an expat as I did in the 24 hours after that attack. I was abroad again, living in Paris, when Katrina struck. I felt the same.

Even though Ike didn’t hit the besieged New Orleans directly last week, the entire town felt as if it were holding its breath, waiting for the worst. Gust of winds had everyone doing Marcel Marceau’s “walking against the wind” routine. It poured buckets just before my event at the Garden District Bookstore, which may have tempered the crowd a bit. But the twenty-plus crowd was terrific, and I got to meet three of my fellow IACP members as an added bonus.

Afterward, I wandered the French Quarter and ended up at NOLA, one of thew few places still serving food at 8:45 p.m. Perched at the chef’s bar for dinner, I chatted with the affable young African-American guy with a smooth Southern accent as he roasted my garlic crusted Texas redfish in the wood-burning oven. He smiled widely when I complimented him, revealing that his front four teeth were made of gold. “Thanks, ma’am, I just love to feed people,” he said, charming me beyond belief. How I love America. Next stop: Winston-Salem.

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