The Dog Doesn’t Die

Book reviews & random thoughts

Does the Dog Die? A Brief Review of Gumbo Tales, by Sara Roahen

I have never been to Louisiana (as well as Oklahoma, Minnesota, the two Dakotas, Alaska, and Hawaii). But I love food writing, I love spicy food, and some of my more interesting ancestors lived in Louisiana back in the 1700’s and 1800’s. So, after Gumbo Tales received rave reviews, I put it on my list to read once it was a paperback.

Having read it now, my feelings are mixed. Roahen, formerly a reporter for a New Orleans weekly newspaper, sometimes writes with a strong sense of place. Her chapters focus on particular dishes, their origins and evolution, the different ways they’re served and, ultimately, her favorite restaurants. The timeframe for the book includes the year just after New Orleans was devastated by Hurricane Katrina. As she notes the changes in the community and expresses concern and relief about various neighbhors, Roahen frets over whether her favorite eateries will return and rejoices when she sees signs of life inside their walls.

However … sometimes she rubbed me the wrong way. This didn’t happen often, but I will confess that when she was preparing her first crawfish boil, I was rooting for the crawfish. She also violated my rule of allowing food animals that escape to stay free. Still, her focus on particular food and drink, from sno-balls to po-boys, from pho to red beans and rice, gave the book a nice structure and is a model I’d like to see more food writers adopt. This framework gave Roahen an opportunity to weave in stories about the communities that make up New Orleans, including long-established Italian families and relatively recent Vietnamese enclaves. If you enjoy food writing, read this book.

This blog exists primarily to review books for readers with animals, and with that in mind, I will call the book SAFE despite the fact that Roahen retrieved the escaped crawfish.  She tells of parrots in trees, there’s a brief mention of chickens and turkeys prepared for slaughter, a half sentence about a hermit crab that died in her childhood, and those crawfish, but nothing extensive.


May 16, 2009 - Posted by | Book Reviews, food | , ,


  1. haha! cute!

    Comment by Cris | May 16, 2009 | Reply

  2. […] George Will. Bloomberg’s Political Capital with Al Hunt: Federal Deposit Insurance Does the Dog Die? A Brief Review of Gumbo Tales, by Sara Roahen – 05/16/2009 I have never been to Louisiana (as well as Oklahoma, Minnesota, […]

    Pingback by Posts about katrina as of May 17, 2009 | Shirasmane | May 17, 2009 | Reply

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