What inspired you to write your book?
I’m an event producer who was struggling with the economy and pretty depressed about where my life was at the moment. In 2009, I was visiting my family in Baton Rouge, Louisiana for Thanksgiving and my girlfriend told me her “Coconut Pie and a Bottle of Wine”, I told her this was a Monologue show, like the Vagina Monologues, but life stories about food. The idea snowballed and I produced 32 shows in restaurant venues in a year an a half in Louisiana, Mississippi and California with over 230 people sharing their food stories. The coffee table book published by Pelican Publishing has 67 of those stories with recipes and pictures.
About your Book:
MEANWHILE, BACK AT CAFÉ DU MONDE…, the popular, unique, and festive food monologue show presented by Louisiana foodie personalities is now a coffee table book published by Pelican Publishing in the September 2012.
Humorous and heartfelt, the personal food stories all have the common thread of food – our culture and relationships, personal life stories, restaurant experiences, past love affairs, and more. “We’ve all experienced the highs and lows of life, which mostly revolve around our food experiences,” says creator/producer Peggy Sweeney-McDonald. Everyone has their own “Café Du Monde” experience—the place where they know what they are ordering, they know it is delicious, and they know they are with good friends and family and for that hour, life is really wonderful!
Based on the MEANWHILE, BACK AT CAFÉ DU MONDE… live shows, these foodie monologues invoke your own special comfort foods, recalling tasty memories of life, love, family, and friends to warm your heart, feed your soul, and make you pause to savor the sweetness of life. Accompanied by recipes and candid photographs of the many people involved, from speakers to audience members, this book will be a treasure trove of delightful and delicious memories for all. Karen Benrud, a member of the Café Du Monde family of New Orleans, provides the foreword that celebrates the 150th anniversary of the landmark café and its history
Cuisine Style or Food Genre
Southern Food Essays and Recipes
Sample Recipe or Food Advice
My title monologue
MEANWHILE, BACK AT CAFÉ DU MONDE….
TAKING LIFE ONE BEIGNET AT A TIME
By Peggy Sweeney-McDonald
In May of 1992, I moved back to Louisiana with my New Yorker fiancé, Jimmy McDonald, who came to Louisiana kicking and screaming. He had told me 6 months before that I was “out of my mind if I thought he would move to fricken Louisiana” (that’s the PC version). Six months later, after lots of fights, tears and threats, Jimmy went out to Rockaway to talk to his Mother. She told him that if he couldn’t imagine his life without me, then that was his answer. As we left New York, we made a final important stop at the world famous Carnegie Deli to pick up one more mile high pastrami sandwich, sour dill pickles, coleslaw, spicy brown mustard and extra rye bread. As we drove through the Lincoln Tunnel, I took the giant sandwich apart, divided that hunk of steaming pastrami into two smaller sandwiches – easier to “inhale them” and headed south. This Southern Belle was coming home!
The first week in New Orleans, we found a great apartment in the warehouse district, got jobs, traded in the old Monte Carlo for a brand new Honda, and set a date for our wedding at St. Louis Cathedral with the reception at the Bourbon Orleans.
Six months later, with trumpets playing from the loft above, the big doors of the Cathedral opened up and on the arms of my Daddy, I sashayed down the aisle as only true southern belles can do, slowly stopping for pics when I saw my friends pointing a camera (No “rushing by” profile pics of me, please!!!). At that same moment, Jimmy, became overcome with emotion and had tears flowing down his face. His Dad got up from his pew and went up to hug his son. Everyone who witnessed this, couldn’t keep the tears back. After the wedding, we climbed into a white horse drawn carriage and headed to the reception. Lots of good creole food was served, Joe Simon’s jazz trio kept everyone on their feet second lining and dancing and the New Yorkers loved it!
Later that evening, we met all our friends at Pat O’Briens and around midnight, we all ended up at Café Du Monde stuffing our faces again, laughing at memories of the day and wiping powdered sugar off our faces, hands and clothes. As we were leaving we ran into Mike, a friend from New York. He and his wife, Lori, had decided this 3 day wedding was a 9 meal trip! No sightseeing for them, just the best restaurants in town. They had been to dinner at Brennans that night he was picking up beignets “to go”. They had started their day with beignets for breakfast before the wedding and had decided the day would not be complete if they didn’t finish it off with more beignets!
With all this great food around, I knew I needed to find a walking buddy and I did. Alden Lovelace, from Gulf Port, Mississippi, another true southern belle, dripping from the magnolias. We would walk briskly over to the Aquarium, down the River Walk, around Jackson Square and back. The smell of beignets would hit us as we passed Café Du Monde. The first time she said, “Smell the Beignets… I could eat a dozen of them”. I responded, “Yes, it’s heavenly….. I think of them as little “pillows of decadence” and one of these days we should bring some money, stop and order some to go.” Although we craved that indulgence, we realized that would kind of defeat the purpose of the early morning walks. Instead, we’d walk discussing our favorite New Orleans restaurants and recipes. In Louisiana, it makes so much sense to power walk and talk about food. I remember one recipe she shared with me an “Easy Delicious Crawfish Pasta” made with pasta, a bag of crawfish tales, a can of rotel and a block of Velveeta cheese. She told me her guests flipped out over it and all but licked the pot clean. They begged her for her recipe but she claimed it was a secret Lovelace family recipe. She laughed as she told me that the most important thing to remember about making this recipe is to make sure hide the Velveeta packaging and Rotel can deep in the trash can.
Funny thing about Alden and this recipe is that years later, she married world famous New Orleans chef, Emeril Lagasse (we went to their wedding reception, but that’s another great food monologue). To this day I have wondered if she ever shared her secret crawfish pasta recipe with Emeril!
Anytime we went out in the quarter, we would always end our adventure at Café Du Monde. We never discussed it. It was calling our name…. Even if we had just finished a big dinner at NOLA, sandwiches from Masperos, jambalaya from The Napoleon House, or gumbo from The Gumbo Shop, we were headed to our place. Even full, we could always find room to throw down a few beignets and that yummy delicious coffee au lait.
At one point, Café Du Monde started making Iced Au Laits! If you haven’t dipped a hot, sugary beignet in an iced cool Au Lait on a hot sticky day, you haven’t lived the whole Café Du Monde experience. It takes those little “pillows of decadence” to a whole new level. File it away for your next trip down to da Quarter!
Six years later, my wander lust kicked in and I decided it was time to move to Los Angeles. Jimmy’s response – “Your fricken kidding me, right?” He had fallen in love with Louisiana and the great food. However, being a very manipulative and persuasive southern belle, he finally gave in. Before moving away to Los Angeles, we ended up back at Café Du Monde and I lifted my coffee cup toasting my friends and said, “Meanwhile, Back at Café Du Monde….” and we all started laughing. The next time we were there, I said the same thing and Jimmy and friends joined in by the time I got to “Café Du Monde” and I think we clinked cups on the Dot, Dot, Dot. And then I said, “One Day that will be the name of a book, movie or play” . So here we are 13 years later, back home in Louisiana, creating a festive event by celebrating all of our food experiences.
No matter what happens in my life, no matter where I live, I always end up at Café Du Monde, you know what to expect, you know what we are ordering – those little pillows of decadence, we know how it will taste – delish, we know we can afford it – cheapest food in New Orleans, we know it’s open and we know we are having a great time with good friends or family, life is wonderful and for a brief hour, we are totally in the moment… yes, we are living life one beignet at a time. So lift your glass, pretend it’s one of those famous white porcelain mugs and join me in saying…..”Meanwhile, Back
At Café Du Monde….”
What formats are your books in
How do you see writing a food/cookbook as different from writing other genres of books?
This was a learn as you go experience with lots of ups and downs. I had never thought about writing a book before. I had the idea for the coffee table book of the stories from the shows when I was getting ready to go on stage for the first show. I was in the gift shop/kitchen of the Myrtles Plantation and there were coffee table books on a table for sale. I thought to myself, “This would be a great book with the stories, recipes and pictures”, I turned one of the books over and saw Pelican Publishing had published that book. I invited Pelican Publishing to come to a New Orleans show the next month as I knew they would be a good fit. They came to the show, loved it and gave me a book deal. Soon I had a literary agent, entertainment attorney and was learning the ropes of a book contract. Gathering material from 67 people (stories, recipes, pictures and the releases) was a huge task and then editing, marketing and promotion. Now I’m in the midst of book launch parties, book tour and it is very overwhelming but thrilling. I’m trying to stay centered, focused, excited and enjoy the ride. It has been an amazing journey. The book has been hitting #1 on Amazon (Hot New Releases-Louisiana books) for months in pre-sales and now consistently since it came out. We are getting lots of press inquiries from across the country and people are loving it! We have received great reviews and endorsements from famous New Orleans chefs, Emeril and John Besh, as well as Pulitzer Prize winning author, Jeffrey Marx.
What advice would you give to someone that is thinking about or currently working on a food book or cookbook
I would definitely research the book business and talk to other authors first and get a mentor! I learned the hard way! It is a full time job! I’m lucky I have a husband who has been very supportive and my family in Louisiana have all been so helpful. My event producing has basically taken a back-burner position so financially it has been challenging! However, I wouldn’t trade it for anything as it has been so rewarding.
How did you decide how to publish your book and where is it published through:
It’s published through Pelican Publishing.
Peggy Sweeney-McDonald, President of Superstar Events-L.A & Creator/Producer of “Meanwhile, Back At Café Du Monde…”shows and Creator/Editor of the Meanwhile, Back At Café Du Monde…Life Stories About Food coffee table book featuring 67 of the Louisiana food stories, recipes and pictures published by Pelican Publishing. She grew up in Baton Rouge and resides in Los Angeles with her husband, James McDonald. Her high level of creativity produces unique and memorable red carpet, non-profit and corporate events. She is a graduate of Louisiana State University and worked in film, theatre, commercials as an actress for more than 25 years. She is developing southern film projects, including a television pilot of the “Meanwhile,…” show. She recently was the Associate Producer of the acclaimed play addressing human trafficking, Innocent Flesh, at the Zephyr Theatre in Hollywood, California.
Websites: www.meanwhilebackatcafedumonde.com and www.peggysweeneymcdonald.com