Good Summer Reading

Dan Baum's wonderful new book 9 Lives profiles 9 people whom he met while in New Orleans covering Katrina for the New Yorker.

 I loved the book so much that I invited Dan to come to my apartment on Sunday and talk about it with some friends.  And he showed up!

 Actually it wasn't my idea, it was his. I just took him up on the offer. 

Dan Baum spent a couple of years living in New Orleans writing the book. Looks like New Orleans southern eccentricity rubbed off. Love it.

Here's Dan talking to us about his book, via video chat on my computer. He joined us from his pleasant backyard in Boulder, Colorado. The iChat was fun, although I had a little trouble getting it to work at first. But he was gracious, and gave us extra time. I had a lot of questions after reading the book, especially on how he got so much vivid detail.  

After you read the book, invite him to talk about it at your house with some friends like I did.

All you need to get started is a computer with video chat capabilities, such as my MacBook. Mint juleps are optional, but they make everything so much fun. 

The recipe is at the end of this post. Yesterday was 102 degrees outside. We needed mint juleps.

Our book club included Myrl Talkington, a designer who's working on a Southern gothic novel herself.

...and Carol Riddle, a lawyer with offices in New Orleans and Dallas. Carol told some wild stories about trying to retrieve things from her offices and her gorgeous apartment in the French Quarter after Katrina. 

I got the recipe for mint juleps from this book, Southern Cocktails. It was written by Dallas resident Denise Gee and photographed beautifully by her husband, Robert Peacock. Denise is originally from Natchez, Mississippi, and so speaks with authority on such matters.

Click on the image to view the recipe. It's so simple you'll wonder why you hadn't made them before. 

I used Knob Creek bourbon because I'd read that it was good to use in cocktails. You don't want a fine sipping bourbon, but you want something that mixes well. It must have been the right bourbon because I didn't have a hangover this morning.

Thought you might want to see part of my table, set with snacks. These puffed chips with peanut butter inside were so good. I got them at Whole Foods where the chips are sold. Those stunning deep purple calla lilies were less than $10 and are from All Occasion Florist  around the corner on Oak Lawn. The florist gave me a tip for making them last for weeks -- only fill the water about an inch to keep the stalks from getting soggy, which makes them die prematurely. The glass bottle is an inexpensive knock off of a Murano glass version at Bottega Veneta.

These hors d'oeuvres were easy to make -- asparagus (uncooked) wrapped in cream cheese and smoked salmon. To do it, place a strip of salmon in your palm and spread the cream cheese onto it. Then wrap around a stalk of asparagus. Finish with a light dusting of sea salt.