I read Debra Shriver’s new book Stealing Magnolias: Tales From A New Orleans Courtyard snuggled in my bed over several unseasonably cold nights here in New Orleans. It proved to be the perfect bedtime story, transformed into a lullaby, to this vibrant city we love so much. At first glance, a potential reader might consider this to be another lovely coffee table book but there’s far more to this book than that — to leave it lying on a coffee table with only the occasional glance at the photography would be a sin against everything New Orleanian. The photographs are indeed glorious and show everything from the Mardi Gras Indians to our tropical and time-worn gardens to luscious confections to historical architecture to second liners leaving The Hi Ho Lounge ( my favorite photo!). As fantastic as the photography is it’s only a part of the delectable contents of this book.
We get glimpses into Debra’s own 1830’s townhouse on Dumaine Street that was put under contract just 3 weeks before the storm and she tells the story of her decision to buy the house despite the catastrophe the city endured and the subsequent journey of renovating, furnishing and making the home her own. I was particularly taken with the art she’s chosen to grace the walls of her townhouse. Many of the photographs and paintings are by Louisiana and New Orleans artists and I was pleased to see an emphasis on women’s portraits. I’d give my eye teeth for that Mahalia portrait!
She has a wonderful chapter on food and recipes with an emphasis on time honored rituals of local dining. The section named “Ode to an Oyster, Serenade to a Shrimp” grabbed my attention immediately! All of the recipes seem to be actually achievable even for the novice cook and I like that. Interspersed throughout the book are quotes by notable New Orleanians and one of my favorite is in this section.
Ask me what my favorite dish is and I’ll tell you flat-out, “Anything cooked in New Orleans”. ~~~ Charmain Neville
Stealing Magnolia’s is a well-rounded view of New Orleans with chapters on music, food, decor, local tradition and history interspersed with personal anecdotes of her experiences here. There is so much to see and read I couldn’t possibly cover it all so my advice is to buy the book. It’s easy to see that the city has cast its spell on this New York transplant and we are all the luckier for having her as another creative resident of our city.
Stealing Magnolia’s can be found in many of our local bookstores or can be ordered online from the publisher, Glitterati, here.
Debra will be reading from her book and signing at Octavia Books on Wednesday, December 22 from 2 to 4 pm.
(Originally published on TravelingMermaid.)