My Rouses Everyday, September & October 2018
In our current era of beautifully plated, flawless food at (seemingly) every turn, photography reigns as the foremost way to show off just how elegant — and delicious — a recipe can be. And sure, photography is great, but in my estimation, there’s nothing better (or more creative) than including illustrations alongside recipes, particularly the kind of drawings that speak to a dish’s personality or heritage.
Few classic works are as committed to the artistry of cookbook illustrations as Talk About Good II.
Published in 1979, Talk About Good II: A Toast to Cajun Food is the follow-up work to the über-popular cookbook Talk About Good!, which quickly became a staple in homes across the Gulf South and around the globe. This second edition — complete with 700 recipes and additional entertaining tips — is revered as a visual standout thanks to Cajun artist George Rodrigue, who was known the world over for his iconic “Blue Dog” paintings.
Born and raised in New Iberia, Rodrigue provided 20 food-themed paintings for use in Talk About Good II, which depicted everything from colorful local characters like Rodney Fontenot — known as the “Ragin’ Cajun” — to portraits of crawfish sellers of yesteryear. (His son Andre even graces the cover of the revised edition wearing a T-shirt that reads, “Kiss Me, I’m Cajun!”) Rodrigue’s paintings throughout the book help to reveal the richness of the region’s culinary culture, allowing those flipping through the work to be transported to the region as they peruse the classic Acadiana recipes.
“Cajun food reflects a way of life,” Rodrigue writes regarding his painting, A Toast to Cajun Food , which was the cookbook’s original cover. “Shown here is a traditional all-day feast which reflects the ‘joie de vivre’ the Cajuns have kept throughout their history. They toast a good life and good food and the land they have come to love in South Louisiana.”
Rodrigue’s paintings speak to the heart of what eating in Cajun country is all about, whether a person is making their own boudin or creating an elaborate spread of side dishes for Sunday supper. The home cooking in Talk About Good II is assuredly delicious, but it’s the people enjoying the meal alongside you — family, friends and neighbors — that make eating it worthwhile.