Last Friday I came into possession of a wonderful book by Edith and John Watts entitled Jesse’s Book of Creole and Deep South Recipes. The recipes look outstanding but equally intriguing are the glimpses that it offers of privileged life along the central gulf coast during the early to mid 20th century. Originally published in 1954, the book recounts many dishes served by Jesse, the family cook for nearly three decades, and makes note of a good number of famous people, like H.L. Mencken and Henry Luce, who had the opportunity and the privilege to enjoy them.

This book is a real gem and after reading through it for the last several days, I have decided to embrace the spirit of the time and prepare some of these recipes as instructed. While no doubt delicious, I am curious to see how they compare to more modern versions of the same dishes. Are the traditional versions as complex? Is the depth of flavor comparable? Or, are the modern versions just a bit too fussy for their own good? Some dishes, like fried shrimp, are pretty basic and do not qualify for comparison but others, particularly stews and gumbos are excellent candidates.

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