It seems like the spirit of famed writer Lafcadio Hearn is truly getting its due these days. After a food and cooking-centric parade named in his honor — the Krewe of Lafcadio — rolled this past Carnival, another local event in tribute to Hearn will be taking place at the Degas House next week.
On Wednesday, March 12th, the historic house will again host its "Dinner with Degas" event, and for the second time the evening will focus on Hearn's famous Creole cookbook. Hearn has been celebrated for his vivid portrayal about life in the Crescent City in the late 19th century, which is evident in his cookbook as well as the seminal collection, "Inventing New Orleans."
"Lafcadio got all of these recipes watching women cook in a boarding house," said Degas House event coordinator Cindy Denney. "It's really the spine of Creole cooking. Everything is indigenous to the region, and that's something that I really love about it. There's been this move away from fusion cuisine back to the basics, and it really doesn't get more basic than this, when it comes to Creole cuisine."
"Also," Denney continued, "The book was originally published in 1885, and Degas was here right at this time. So what he was eating here in this house, at that time, was the same Creole cuisine. It's wonderful and inspiring to really honor that."
In order to do Hearn's book justice (the recipes are often lack direct instruction), visiting chef Jacob Cureton will be charged with interpreting the cuisine rather than truly resurrecting it. For Cureton — who has cooked alongside notable New Orleans chefs such as Scott Boswell, Isaac Toups and Ryan Huges — it's also a way of connecting with the city's past.
"The Dinner With Degas has become a great way for me to get more involved with New Orleans history," said the chef. "It's a creative outlet for talented, ambitious chefs looking for a little bit of a challenge. Each chef has a chance to showcase his or hers own unique background. I am from Southern Alabama and it is reflected subtly in my in cooking. This dinner is a great way to experience history and community in an interactive environment."
Next week's dinner, which will also feature piano accompaniment as it would have in Degas' time, is a multi-course affair with modern twists on Hearn's recipes. Dishes include “Queen Victoria’s Favorite Green Pea Soup” made with peas, charred celery, mint, and spiced citrus-cured bacon, as well as “Mutton That Will Taste Like Venison," which will feature a braised leg of lamb with a potato cream puff, huckleberry-mushroom jus and pureed mustard greens.
"Dinner with Degas" will take place next Wednesday, March 12th at the Degas House Grand Parlor (2306 Esplanade Ave), beginning at 6:30 p.m. The cost of the dinner is $78 per person, which includes an absinthe cocktail to begin the meal. Guests may bring their own wine, however there is no corkage fee. Tickets may be purchased by phone at (504) 821-5009.