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The Journey of the Coffee Table Book – Part II

“Wrapping It Up”

(The Journey of the Coffee Table Book — Part II)


The Meanwhile, Back At Cafe Du Monde… Life Stories About Food coffee table book contract with Pelican Publishing was signed the first week of October and I had 90 days to deliver it! As we moved into the 2011 holiday season, the storytellers were extremely busy and although excited about being included in the book, this was not their priority like mine as I had a deadline to meet. Back home in Los Angeles, I would receive the book materials via emails (monologues, pictures, and recipes from 67 contributors) and I would call/email for missing information.  I felt like the biggest pest! I decided to fly back to Baton Rouge and work on finalizing everything there as pictures were still needed of the recipes and some of the storytellers in their restaurants. I wanted to make it happen with our great photographer, Troy Kleinpeter.  On December 2nd, I headed “home” to Baton Rouge!  Five weeks in Louisiana over the Christmas holidays. Oh, dear! I knew my diet was going to go down the drain, but packed my workout clothes with good intentions to power walk in my parents beautiful neighborhood.
Those December weeks in Louisiana were pretty crazy. Not only was I trying to put the pieces of the book together, but I was also celebrating the holidays with my friends and family.   My husband, Jimmy, flew in from Los Angeles for Christmas week and, of course, he wanted to eat at all our favorite restaurants – Emeril’s for his famous BBQ Shrimp, gumbo and Banana Crème Pie; Commander’s Palace for Turtle Soup, Bread Pudding Souffle and Jimmy’s favorite – their creme brulee; Oyster PoBoys at The Past Time in Baton Rouge; seafood feast at Harbor Seafood in Kenner and trips to Cafe Du Monde in The French Quarter for beignets and Cafe Au Lait, of course!  I had tried to hold it together by taking walks and hitting the floor for sit-ups but by the time Christmas week rolled around that went out the window!  Yikes!
Emeril’s BBQ Shrimp with Rosemary Biscuit

Commander’s Palace Creme Brulee
Jimmy & Peggy at Cafe Du Monde
Karen and Burt Benrud, owners of Cafe Du Monde invited us to their lovely Christmas party at their apartment in the famous Pontalba building overlooking Jackson Square. Jimmy and I dream of one day having an apartment there! Standing on their balcony overlooking Jackson Square watching over 5,000 people sing Christmas carols by candlelight was the ultimate holiday moment!  Karen put out an amazing spread of Louisiana favorites from mini muffaletta sandwiches to delicious red beans and rice.  I loved seeing the “Meanwhile, Back At Cafe Du Monde…” signed framed poster we had presented to them at the first New Orleans show on their kitchen wall right next to the framed/signed picture of when they were on the Ellen show making beignets for Mardi Gras!

Karen Benrud & Peggy at the Party!
Christmas Carrolling in Jackson Square
The Sweeney family Christmas begins with Christmas Eve at my Mom and Dad’s home with Honey Baked Ham, my Mom’s famous Mac and Cheese (for the “kids” — however, the adult “kids” usually go back for seconds), Cheese Grits, Maque Choux (stewed corn and the recipe appears in the book), Spinach Madeline (a Louisiana holiday staple), my sister, Shannan’s amazing Grandfather’s Salad, and tons of desserts made by my sister, Kelly, and my nieces. This year the nieces made chocolate covered pretzel sticks with lots of different toppings and they were a huge hit! After the amazing dinner, we have a family tradition where my younger nieces and nephews perform a Christmas play which concludes with everyone singing Silent Night while they recreate the nativity scene (the girls have to rotate the role of “Mary”).  It is the most adorable thing you will ever see! On Christmas afternoon we all meet at Erin and Scott’s house, for Erin’s Chicken and Sausage Gumbo, hot French Bread, potato salad and lots of sweets.
My Nieces, Nephew and Friends

 
The Sweeney Family Christmas

When Jimmy left the day after Christmas to head back home to Los Angeles, it was total crunch time.  I recruited my nephew, Myles Rieger, who is a sophomore at LSU to work on editing with me for a few days and the last four days I recruited my Mom.  I would literally roll out of bed and start working in my P.J.’s, at my parents’ big dining room table.  Mom sat right next to me from early morning to late at night reading all the edits, organizing pictures and serving breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee and backrubs.  She kept me sane!  The last night was rough as we were up until the 3:00am and now had my Dad on board too.  I had come down with a sinus infection and felt horrible so around 2:00am in true drama queen fashion, I burst into tears in a total emotional meltdown. I was totally exhausted and didn’t know how I was going to finish the materials and drive to New Orleans the next day to deliver the book.

Peggy & Missy Crews

On Our Way to Pelican to deliver the Book “Baby”
Well, deliver it I did! I woke up at 6:30am, and with a last adrenalin rush of excitement, finished the final touches, took a shower, put make-up on and dressed up!  My BFF from my LSU college days, Missy Crews, was coming over at 9:00am and going to drive with me for the big delivery at Pelican and then go to a nice lunch in New Orleans to celebrate.  Pelican said I could ship the materials to them, but this was such a rite of passage that I wanted to personally deliver it. When Missy arrived she wanted to do a blessing of the “baby”. My Mom had placed all the paperwork in a big box and we put a copy of the mocked up “book cover” on the top of the box. My Mom, Dad, Missy and me stood in a circle all touching the box while Missy led a beautiful blessing praying the creative project would take wings and fly and continue to touch people with the joy and inspiration!   With coffee to go, we were out the door with my Mom in her robe taking pictures as we drove down the driveway in her “Mommee” Van! Despite the lack of sleep, I was excited, happy, thrilled and felt like I was on Cloud 9.  I felt so proud!  
Pelican Editor-in-Chief, Nina Kooij & Peggy
We arrived at Pelican at 11:30am, met with the team and took a picture of me handing the book to the Editor-in-Chief, Nina Kooij.  They seemed very happy and Antoinette de Alteriis, Promotion Director, told me there was lots of advance interest in the book.  Not being familiar with the publishing world, I looked at her and said, “From book stores?” and she answered, “No, from press and media!”  WOW! Pinch me!

Soon we were on our way to celebrate with a fabulous lunch with my cousin, Jeanne Vidrine, at a fun local delicious restaurant, Katie’s, where we sat at the bar and ate Shrimp Remoulade and stuffed seafood peppers!  Yummy – Life was too good! Later that night, my Mom, Dad and my 3 sisters all went out for a celebratory dinner at a local Italian restaurant.  No brother-in-laws, no nieces and nephews, just us — a rare occasion! They were so proud of me and I felt truly blessed!
When I arrived back to Los Angeles two days later, I found out Dr. Calhoun, the owner/publisher of Pelican Publishing had passed away on January 7th, the day after I had turned in the book.  He was responsible for seeing the value of the book to Pelican and it was because of him, I was now going to have a published book based on the show that I created!  I was sad for his family and for the Pelican team, however, I know that he is an angel in heaven watching over them, me and the “Meanwhile, Back At Cafe Du Monde…” coffee table book!  I hope I make him proud!

Mommee’s Mac N Cheese (from my Mother, Sherry Sweeney)

16 ounce package elbow macaroni
2 eggs
½ tbsp. sugar, salt & pepper to taste
1 regular size can evaporated milk
1 cup whole milk-add to evaporated milk
2 large bags mild or sharp grated cheese
1 stick real butter, melted
Cook macaroni in salted boiling water until tender. Drain well
colander. Beat eggs and sugar together in small bowl, and add milk
mixture. Mix together macaroni, butter, and 1 package of cheese.
Add egg/milk mixture and put in buttered baking pan. Cover with
more cheese and bake at 350 for 45 minutes with loose aluminum foil
cover. Double recipe if more is needed.

This Mac N Cheese is a staple at the Sweeney house for any family dinner as the “kids” love it!  It makes a delicious side with ham, turkey, roast, or as a main dish with the salad below!  Great for leftovers too!  Do not be on a diet when this is served!


Grandfather’s Salad (from my sister, Shannan Rieger)

1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup salad oil
2 1/2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice – use fresh lemons if you can

1 1/2 tbsp. vinegar 
2 pods of fresh garlic, pressed
3/4 tsp. salt
1 cup freshly grated romano or parmesan cheese, grated fine

1/4 cup bleu cheese crumbles
1 head iceburg lettuce, clean, dried and torn
1 head green leaf lettuce, clean, dried, and torn

1 head red leaf lettuce, clean, dried and torn
Parsley, 1 bunch, cleaned and chopped fine
Grated black pepper and salt to taste


Put first six ingredients in jar, cover and shake until well mixed. Refrigerate overnight. Right before you are ready to serve, mix lettuce with parsley. Shake dressing in jar and pour enough dressing to coat lettuce and parsley and toss. Sprinkle cheeses over salad and toss again. Add grated black pepper and additional salt to taste.

This recipe came from Shannan’s late Father-in-law, Lewis Rieger. It goes great with everything. We always serve it on Christmas Eve with honey baked ham and cheese grits. It is also great with barbecue and pasta dishes. Make plenty as everyone will come back for seconds! 

Meanwhile, Back at Cafe’ Du Monde…
The festive and unique monlogue event about the
2nd Universal Language – FOOD and how our lives
revolve around the satisfaction of it!