In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Tradition, Treme, and the New Orleans Renaissance:Lolis Eric Elie
  • Sara B. Franklin (bio)

Click for larger view
View full resolution

New Orleans native Lolis Eric Elie (here) has worked as a journalist for decades and is now a story editor on the HBO series Treme. Food is not only a passion of the palate for him, but a lens through which the writer approaches cultural analysis and place-based storytelling. Food, he says, is synonymous with identity. Photographs courtesy of Kevin Sadler.

[End Page 32]

New Orleans native Lolis Eric Elie has worked as a journalist for decades. A former columnist for the Times-Picayune, writer and co-producer of the PBS documentary Faubourg Tremé: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans (2008), and author of Smokestack Lightning: Adventures in the Heart of Barbecue Country (2005), Elie is now a story editor on the HBO series Treme. His work has appeared in, among others, the New York Times, Washington Post, Gourmet, and the Oxford American.

A conversation with Elie makes it abundantly clear that his favorite subject, food, is not only a passion of the palate, but a lens through which the writer approaches cultural analysis and place-based storytelling. Food, he says, is synonymous with identity. This is particularly true in a city with such love of the table as New Orleans. Elie has been largely responsible for the strong role food plays in Treme, drawing upon his longtime involvement with the Southern Foodways Alliance and previous journalistic work. In our interview, Elie spoke candidly about the importance of food after Katrina, New Orleans versus the South, oral history as vital to reclaiming "vernacular" food traditions, and claimed that his gumbo could go head to head with that of his hometown's best chefs.

Lolis Eric Elie, June 2011, New Orleans

Can you tell me about your early food memories? What's resonant for you when you think about food as a kid?

I made the best instant grits with margarine!

How old were you when you started doing that?

I don't know, eight maybe? The deal is that I've always gotten up early. So at a certain point, my mother wasn't going to jump out of bed to fix breakfast for me on Saturday morning. So I remember doing the usual sort of instant type, but always being interested in trying to figure out how to perfect this dish. I was always curious about how to make stuff better. A lot of it was doing variations on box cakes. And I gradually got more interested in stuff from scratch, and I learned recipes. You know, I come from a family of good cooks. Both of my grandmothers were great. So, the more I got interested in it, the more they taught me, and the more I learned.

Are both your grandmothers from New Orleans as well?

Neither, but both are from Louisiana. My father's mother is from New Roads, which is outside of Baton Rouge. My mother's mother was from Maringouin, which is basically next door to New Roads. But the families had no real connection until my mother and father met [at Dillard University]. [End Page 33]


Click for larger view
View full resolution

Lolis Eric Elie: "You know, I come from a family of good cooks. Both of my grandmothers were great. So, the more I got interested in it, the more they taught me, and the more I learned."

And so you grew up in a family where food was vibrant and, would you say, central?

Very much so, but so central as to be beneath discussion. It's like, these days, folks are very conscious of food. You have to be, because bad food abounds, and it's easy and popular. But in those days, it's like they didn't know how to cook but one way—from scratch and good. Now, I grew up in that transitional phase—cans and frozen stuff were becoming more popular. My point is, they didn't sit around debating what kind of truffle we're going to use for Christmas dinner. Same menu every year.

So when would you say...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 32-44
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-29
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.