I’ve found my long lost culinary twin.
Blogger Genêt Hogan, who has the vibrant and heartwarming New Orleans-centric blog, Raised on a Roux, and I spoke recently on the phone after discovering each other online. Genêt left her native Crescent City for Atlanta about 20 years ago, where she’s been ever since. At about the same time, this Georgia native moved to Louisiana, where I’ve been ever since. Genêt has been keeping the traditions of the Bayou State alive in her home kitchen and she’s actively documenting them on her blog. It’s so versed in what’s going on New Orleans, you hardly know she’s been in Atlanta all these years. We had a great time exchanging notes about the power of food in defining who you are and how you live.
Here’s another in my series of interviews with Louisiana expatriates.
I totally get where Genêt is coming from about maintaining Louisiana’s culinary traditions. This state has a powerful and compelling tug on native born like Genêt – or anyone who has lived here long enough to drink the Kool-Aid (like me.) It’s a topic I explore in some detail in Hungry for Louisiana, An Omnivore’s Journey. Genêt told me there’s something about growing up in New Orleans that simply can’t be replicated – and intangible quality that envelopes her each time she and her family return.
“I miss the family dynamic and the community dynamic,” she says, about the tendency of families to remain in close proximity to one another. “It’s unspoken. It’s the way it is and you just feel it. Having family around all the time, it’s amazing to have that – especially today.”
So while raising her kids (ages 15, 13 and 12) in greater Atlanta, Genêt has kept the spirit of Louisiana present by cooking and communicating the deep food traditions of the state. “It began with making etouffee, and then we started boiling crawfish for parties,” she says.
Her finger foods (the blog features a regular Finger Food Friday feature), are often derivative of New Orleans classics. She’s got one for chicken Rochambeau, for example.
With a son named Brennan (for the restaurant), a dog named Beignet and an unmistakable New Orleans lilt, Genêt hasn’t lost any of her Louisiana ties. Each of her children learned to eat boiled crawfish at age three. “We taught them early, because once they developed a taste, they needed to learn how to peel them on their own,” she says. “We were too busy peeling them for ourselves. It’s sink or swim around the table.”
Trips back home for Genêt and her family are spent visiting casual neighborhood haunts in the Crescent City beyond the pale of tourists. Every year, she and her husband make a pilgrimage to Jazz Fest. (Yes, she thought was too crowded this year, too. It’s painful to wait that long for crawfish bread.)
And most trips to New Orleans include time to gather shrimp, crab and oysters to take back to Atlanta.
“I really miss fresh seafood,” she says. “You just can’t get that kind of fresh seafood from the Gulf here – we’re landlocked.”