Lolis Eric Elie, a writer for the popular HBO television series Treme, has a new book out inspired by both his New Orleans neighborhood, Treme, and the series. The book, just released by Chronical Books of San Francisco, is Treme: Stories and Recipes from the Heart of New Orleans. A native New Orleanian and son of well known Civil Rights attorney Lolis Elie, Lolis today divides his time between New Orleans, where he has a restored Creole cottage in Treme, and Los Angeles, where he is pursuing a career screenwriting, a career launched by his work as a writer for the series and for the official blog of the series.
Prior to his association with Treme, Lolis was a popular columnist for the Times-Picayune, a documentary maker, noted especially for his documentary on Treme,Faubourg Treme: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans, which was completed and aired well before the HBO series was launched; and dedicated foodie, who helped found the Southern Foodways Alliance, an organization dedicated to the preservation of the southern food heritage. His previous book, an immediate sell-out, was Smokestack Lightning: Adventures in the Heart of Barbecue Country.
About The Book:
David Simon, who originated the hit series The Wire and Treme, has written the forward for the book and
Anthony Bourdain, a writer for the show in addition to his other writing and TV hosting jobs,has contributed the forward.
When interviewed by NOLA.com last year about the book, Lolis said, “the concept of a cookbook originated with Nina Noble, one of Treme’s executive producers because Treme features a character who’s who’s a chef, and we also have a whole lot of scenes that take place at dinner tables and in restaurants,” Elie said. “That was a conscious direction, not as just a way for people to meet and talk, but also as a way to talk about the food of New Orleans in the series. After all, this city is like Napoleon’s Army, it moves on its
stomach. While characters may need to have a conversation to move the plot forward, they also talk about what they’re eating and, as a result, they put it in the context of its starring role in Creole culture during important episodes of the show. We had a lot of raw material for a really good book about New Orleans as filtered through our characters.”
The book’s execution, Elie said, was to write it as if the show’s chef character, Janette Desautel (played by Kim Dickens), is the author. So Elie wrote a culinary biography for the character, examining “the kinds of places she was apt to have gone and the people she was apt to meet” when she first moved to New Orleans from her native Alabama. Accordingly, recipes from Brigtsen’s, Emeril’s and Gabrielle are included. And, “obviously, the Susan Spicer connection has been well established, Elie added. (Spicer was an early consultant on the show, is the character “muse” for Desautel and has also appeared on the show, playing herself.)
In addition, each major character in the series has a chapter dedicated to their own recipes, recipes from their families or favorite restaurant meals (all gathered or created by Elie), so in addition to restaurant dishes, the book will contain home-cook recipes for red beans, white beans, collard greens, etc.
“Part of my ambition for the book was that it be a candidate for the one New Orleans cookbook you’d want to have on your shelf,” he said. “There’s a lot about the history of New Orleans food in this book, many things even people who know about New Orleans food may not have known. In that sense, the ambition was to create a book that was better than it had to be, and more than just a TV show tie-in.”
Chronicle Books of San Francisco is the publisher. In cooperation with HBO, Chronicle also has published a “True Blood” cookbook, featuring recipes provided by Times-Picayune “Cooking Creole” columnist Marcelle Bienvenu.
The Treme cookbook combines recipes and food history that Elie has been studying for years.
“I wanted the book to feel as if you spent about a week in New Orleans wining and dining with all the people, and at all the places, Treme would take you,” he said. “Much of the book is devoted to telling you things about the characters you would not have imagined, showing sides to these complex personalities not featured within the context of the show. The book is very much an extension of the show.”
To read a great interview by Sue Strachan with Lolis about his new book, visit: http://www.myneworleans.com/New-Orleans-Magazine