Review: The Southern Po’boy Cookbook
By: Todd-Michael St. Pierre
2013 – Ulysses Press
First of all, in the interests of full disclosure, I should advise that this book was sent to me free of charge by the publisher for (non-compensatory) review purposes. In the past, I have always rejected such offers, mainly because I don’t want to be in a position of reviewing something that doesn’t interest me, or that I feel I may have to say negative things about. In this case, however, there were two titles that interested me as being books I would probably have bought in any event and this one, fortunately, turned out to be pretty darned decent…
I have been interested in the New Orleans sandwich known as a ‘Po’boy’ ever since I first heard of such a thing. Unfortunately, my efforts to experience this particular delicacy has been stymied (chiefly because they are not commonly made in my part of the world), and my first attempt at making a Clam Po’boy was a good deal less successful than I hoped.
For ages, I thought the Po’boy was merely a submarine sandwich filled with deep-fried seafood (and most commonly oysters, as far as I knew). As it happens though, there are all sorts of different kinds and, as I was surprised to learn from this book, it is the special, un-tapered loaf that is the basic distinguishing characteristic. This was especially interesting to me as, on one unsuccessful attempt to sample one at a Cajun Restaurant (Fat Tuesday’s in Ottawa), I was told that the selection was now unavailable as their bread supplier was out of business. I thought it odd, at the time, that they couldn’t have simply found buns elsewhere but now it appears that this was something important.
Anyway, this particular book provides a nice little treatise on the subject for those who are interested. It covers the subject in a pleasantly informal and chatty sort of way and details the history not only of the Po’boy in general, but many of the individual sandwiches as well. There are 53 recipes in all (plus one for the bread) and the author divides them into the following Sandwich categories:
- Original Nola (or, standard New Orleans offerings);
- International Affairs;
- Elegant and Fancy Boys;
- Unusual Boys; and,
- Boy Oh Boy: If it swims, cook it…
The section entitled ‘Unusual Boys’ certainly caught my attention, and it certainly has some interesting entries with titles like ‘the Buffaleaux’ and ‘The Snug Harbor’, but, really, most of the recipes in the rest of the book are equally as curious and exotic and, no matter one’s taste, there is probably a little something of interest for everyone.
To be sure, the appeal of this little book will mostly limited to those with in an interest in the regional cuisine in general, or sandwiches as a culinary form, but it is a delightful look at a unique delicacy and will likely find some interest with dedicated foodies of all stripes. Fortunately, I love sandwiches (treating them as an art-form in themselves), and my wife loves the cuisine of the Deep South, so the book is a happy addition to our culinary library.