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Meanwhile, Back at Café du Monde ...
When it comes to food and storytelling, Louisiana is in a class by itself, especially when the two are intertwined.
Most folks have a little sugar and seasoning stirred into most cherished memories. Around here, though, we also get to know our loved ones in food-related ways: by how they teach us to make a roux or marinate a duck. We might spend an hour at the market talking about tomatoes.
The traveling monologue show “Meanwhile, Back at Café du Monde,” produced by Peggy Sweeney-McDonald, brought these truths to life onstage.
This fall, Pelican Publishing will release a book version of the phenomenon, which got its start in the fall of 2009.
That Thanksgiving, Baton Rouge native Sweeney-McDonald was home for the holiday and feeling a little blue about the economy, which had caused a lull in her business.
A Los Angeles-based event producer, Sweeney-McDonald says, “I wasn't grateful for much this particular Thanksgiving and was in the 'depths of despair,' as I like to say, as I am a bit of a Southern belle drama queen. Maybe more than a bit.”
During that trip, Sweeney-McDonald's friend Lisa Annitti came to visit from Shreveport and told what's now known as her “Coconut Pie and a Bottle of Red Wine” story.
“I laughed,” Sweeney-McDonald says. “And then throughout the weekend, I asked her to tell my Mom, family and friends her story. They all laughed hysterically.”
Sweeney-McDonald had an aha moment then: Why not produce a monologue show centered on food?
“Meanwhile, Back at Café du Monde” burst into life as a restaurant-based theatrical event featuring local personalities telling their food stories.
The show debuted at The Myrtles Plantation in 2010, then made rounds to such local venues as Juban's and Boutin's restaurant. More shows around Louisiana, Mississippi and California followed, always with food at the core of the narratives. The real Café du Monde's vice president, Burt Benrud, enthusiastically endorsed using the name of his restaurant for the show.
Now a version of the show will be available to all in coffee-table book format featuring 67 Louisiana personalities. Photographs by Troy Kleinpeter are featured in the book. Sweeney-McDonald will be traveling around the state signing books, telling stories and, of course, enjoying local culinary fare. Go get you some.
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