The Journey of the Coffee Table Book – Part II



"Wrapping It Up"

(The Journey of the Coffee Table Book – Part II)


The Meanwhile, Back At Cafe Du Monde... Life Stories About Food coffee table book contract with Pelican Publishing was signed the first week of October and I had 90 days to deliver it! As we moved into the 2011 holiday season, the storytellers were extremely busy and although excited about being included in the book, this was not their priority like mine as I had a deadline to meet. Back home in Los Angeles, I would receive the book materials via emails (monologues, pictures, and recipes from 67 contributors) and I would call/email for missing information.  I felt like the biggest pest! I decided to fly back to Baton Rouge and work on finalizing everything there as pictures were still needed of the recipes and some of the storytellers in their restaurants. I wanted to make it happen with our great photographer, Troy Kleinpeter.  On December 2nd, I headed “home” to Baton Rouge!  Five weeks in Louisiana over the Christmas holidays. Oh, dear! I knew my diet was going to go down the drain, but packed my workout clothes with good intentions to power walk in my parents beautiful neighborhood.

Those December weeks in Louisiana were pretty crazy. Not only was I trying to put the pieces of the book together, but I was also celebrating the holidays with my friends and family.   My husband, Jimmy, flew in from Los Angeles for Christmas week and, of course, he wanted to eat at all our favorite restaurants - Emeril’s for his famous BBQ Shrimp, gumbo and Banana Crème Pie; Commander’s Palace for Turtle Soup, Bread Pudding Souffle and Jimmy's favorite - their creme brulee; Oyster PoBoys at The Past Time in Baton Rouge; seafood feast at Harbor Seafood in Kenner and trips to Café Du Monde in The French Quarter for beignets and Café Au Lait, of course!  I had tried to hold it together by taking walks and hitting the floor for sit-ups but by the time Christmas week rolled around that went out the window!  Yikes!

Emeril's BBQ Shrimp with Rosemary Biscuit


Commander's Palace Creme Brulee


Jimmy & Peggy at Cafe Du Monde

Karen and Burt Benrud, owners of Café Du Monde invited us to their lovely Christmas party at their apartment in the famous Pontalba building overlooking Jackson Square. Jimmy and I dream of one day having an apartment there! Standing on their balcony overlooking Jackson Square watching over 5,000 people sing Christmas carols by candlelight was the ultimate holiday moment!  Karen put out an amazing spread of Louisiana favorites from mini muffaletta sandwiches to delicious red beans and rice.  I loved seeing the “Meanwhile, Back At Café Du Monde…” signed framed poster we had presented to them at the first New Orleans show on their kitchen wall right next to the framed/signed picture of when they were on the Ellen show making beignets for Mardi Gras!

Karen Benrud & Peggy at the Party!

Christmas Carrolling in Jackson Square

The Sweeney family Christmas begins with Christmas Eve at my Mom and Dad’s home with Honey Baked Ham, my Mom’s famous Mac and Cheese (for the “kids” – however, the adult “kids” usually go back for seconds), Cheese Grits, Maque Choux (stewed corn and the recipe appears in the book), Spinach Madeline (a Louisiana holiday staple), my sister, Shannan’s amazing Grandfather's Salad, and tons of desserts made by my sister, Kelly, and my nieces. This year the nieces made chocolate covered pretzel sticks with lots of different toppings and they were a huge hit! After the amazing dinner, we have a family tradition where my younger nieces and nephews perform a Christmas play which concludes with everyone singing Silent Night while they recreate the nativity scene (the girls have to rotate the role of "Mary").  It is the most adorable thing you will ever see! On Christmas afternoon we all meet at Erin and Scott’s house, for Erin's Chicken and Sausage Gumbo, hot French Bread, potato salad and lots of sweets.

My Nieces, Nephew and Friends


 
The Sweeney Family Christmas

When Jimmy left the day after Christmas to head back home to Los Angeles, it was total crunch time.  I recruited my nephew, Myles Rieger, who is a sophomore at LSU to work on editing with me for a few days and the last four days I recruited my Mom.  I would literally roll out of bed and start working in my P.J.’s, at my parents’ big dining room table.  Mom sat right next to me from early morning to late at night reading all the edits, organizing pictures and serving breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee and backrubs.  She kept me sane!  The last night was rough as we were up until the 3:00am and now had my Dad on board too.  I had come down with a sinus infection and felt horrible so around 2:00am in true drama queen fashion, I burst into tears in a total emotional meltdown. I was totally exhausted and didn’t know how I was going to finish the materials and drive to New Orleans the next day to deliver the book.

Peggy & Missy Crews


On Our Way to Pelican to deliver the Book "Baby"

Well, deliver it I did! I woke up at 6:30am, and with a last adrenalin rush of excitement, finished the final touches, took a shower, put make-up on and dressed up!  My BFF from my LSU college days, Missy Crews, was coming over at 9:00am and going to drive with me for the big delivery at Pelican and then go to a nice lunch in New Orleans to celebrate.  Pelican said I could ship the materials to them, but this was such a rite of passage that I wanted to personally deliver it. When Missy arrived she wanted to do a blessing of the “baby”. My Mom had placed all the paperwork in a big box and we put a copy of the mocked up “book cover” on the top of the box. My Mom, Dad, Missy and me stood in a circle all touching the box while Missy led a beautiful blessing praying the creative project would take wings and fly and continue to touch people with the joy and inspiration!   With coffee to go, we were out the door with my Mom in her robe taking pictures as we drove down the driveway in her “Mommee” Van! Despite the lack of sleep, I was excited, happy, thrilled and felt like I was on Cloud 9.  I felt so proud!  

Pelican Editor-in-Chief, Nina Kooij & Peggy

We arrived at Pelican at 11:30am, met with the team and took a picture of me handing the book to the Editor-in-Chief, Nina Kooij.  They seemed very happy and Antoinette de Alteriis, Promotion Director, told me there was lots of advance interest in the book.  Not being familiar with the publishing world, I looked at her and said, “From book stores?” and she answered, “No, from press and media!”  WOW! Pinch me!



Soon we were on our way to celebrate with a fabulous lunch with my cousin, Jeanne Vidrine, at a fun local delicious restaurant, Katie’s, where we sat at the bar and ate Shrimp Remoulade and stuffed seafood peppers!  Yummy - Life was too good! Later that night, my Mom, Dad and my 3 sisters all went out for a celebratory dinner at a local Italian restaurant.  No brother-in-laws, no nieces and nephews, just us – a rare occasion! They were so proud of me and I felt truly blessed!



When I arrived back to Los Angeles two days later, I found out Dr. Calhoun, the owner/publisher of Pelican Publishing had passed away on January 7th, the day after I had turned in the book.  He was responsible for seeing the value of the book to Pelican and it was because of him, I was now going to have a published book based on the show that I created!  I was sad for his family and for the Pelican team, however, I know that he is an angel in heaven watching over them, me and the “Meanwhile, Back At Café Du Monde…” coffee table book!  I hope I make him proud!




Mommee's Mac N Cheese (from my Mother, Sherry Sweeney)

16 ounce package elbow macaroni
2 eggs
½ tbsp. sugar, salt & pepper to taste
1 regular size can evaporated milk
1 cup whole milk-add to evaporated milk
2 large bags mild or sharp grated cheese
1 stick real butter, melted

Cook macaroni in salted boiling water until tender. Drain well
colander. Beat eggs and sugar together in small bowl, and add milk
mixture. Mix together macaroni, butter, and 1 package of cheese.
Add egg/milk mixture and put in buttered baking pan. Cover with
more cheese and bake at 350 for 45 minutes with loose aluminum foil
cover. Double recipe if more is needed.

This Mac N Cheese is a staple at the Sweeney house for any family dinner as the "kids" love it!  It makes a delicious side with ham, turkey, roast, or as a main dish with the salad below!  Great for leftovers too!  Do not be on a diet when this is served!

Grandfather's Salad (from my sister, Shannan Rieger)

1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup salad oil
2 1/2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice - use fresh lemons if you can

1 1/2 tbsp. vinegar 
2 pods of fresh garlic, pressed
3/4 tsp. salt
1 cup freshly grated romano or parmesan cheese, grated fine

1/4 cup bleu cheese crumbles
1 head iceburg lettuce, clean, dried and torn
1 head green leaf lettuce, clean, dried, and torn

1 head red leaf lettuce, clean, dried and torn
Parsley, 1 bunch, cleaned and chopped fine
Grated black pepper and salt to taste


Put first six ingredients in jar, cover and shake until well mixed. Refrigerate overnight. Right before you are ready to serve, mix lettuce with parsley. Shake dressing in jar and pour enough dressing to coat lettuce and parsley and toss. Sprinkle cheeses over salad and toss again. Add grated black pepper and additional salt to taste.

This recipe came from Shannan's late Father-in-law, Lewis Rieger. It goes great with everything. We always serve it on Christmas Eve with honey baked ham and cheese grits. It is also great with barbecue and pasta dishes. Make plenty as everyone will come back for seconds! 

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The Journey of the Coffee Table Book – Part I

Watch "Meanwhile,Back At Café Du Monde…” one of the most popular food channels on Livestream.com


The Journey of the Coffee Table Book – Part I




With the countdown on for the book launch September 17, 2012, I thought I'd share my personal journey of the book. Sometimes it is hard to believe that I am now in the publishing world.  How did this happen?  From actress, to event producer, to creating the "Meanwhile, ..." show to book!  Life sometimes takes you on a much different path than you ever imagined and you just have to buckle up and enjoy the ride...

On January 6, 2012, I delivered the "Meanwhile, Back At Cafe Du Monde..." book materials to Pelican Publishing.  After 32 shows in 3 states (Louisiana, Mississippi, California) with over 230 people sharing their life stories around food, there would soon be a beautiful coffee table book of the Louisiana life stories about food with pictures and recipes from 67 of the Louisiana food stories along with the history and vintage pictures of Cafe Du Monde!  


In September 2010, I had invited the Pelican Publishing team to come see the "Meanwhile, Back at Cafe Du Monde..." New Orleans show at Ralph & Kacoo’s Restaurant in the French Quarter. Dr. Calhoun, Owner/Publisher, and his team loved the show and embraced my idea of creating a coffee table book with the stories, recipes and pictures.  After presenting them an outline a few months later, we went through months of discussions with the Pelican team led by Editor-in-Chief, Nina Kooij; my literary agent, Anna Olswanger at the Liza Dawson Agency in New York; and my attorney, Jeff Spellerberg in Los Angeles. It was a new world and scary at times, but very exciting.

I finally signed the contract a little over a year later on October 6, 2011 at the Pelican office in Gretna, Louisiana (across the Mississippi River from New Orleans). I was thrilled as I truly felt it was a milestone in my life and a huge step for the "Meanwhile, Back At Cafe Du Monde..." brand! 

Immediately, nerves set in as I knew I had a huge amount of work to do in three months to meet my deadline of January 6, 2012. Was I nuts? I've never written or produced a book before - could I do it? What was I thinking? I must be crazy! I wanted the book to come out in the Fall of 2012, in time for the holidays and Pelican had told me it would need to delivered by January if I wanted it to be launched in the Fall.

I flew back home to Los Angeles and a week later, I received an email from Pelican that said, “Congratulations you will soon be a Pelican published author. Click here for instructions on how to deliver the book materials” and I clicked to see a very intimidating long list with format needed for text and pictures, indexing, printing hard copy, etc. I remember reading it around 9:00 PM and I literally felt sick. OMG - what have I done - how can I possibly do this? I was totally overwhelmed and almost started to cry. I couldn't believe my reaction, physical, mental and emotionally. I had worked so hard to get this book deal and now I felt like I could not possibly do everything that was required in a few months! I took a deep breath and told myself that I would figure it out a day at a time and ask for help. I went to bed and prayed for guidance and the courage to make this book happen. My husband, Jimmy, reminded me that the joy is in the journey and this definitely was going to be an adventure and I would learn as I went.




Two days later, I went to my mailbox and received the Café Du Monde 2011 Holiday Catalog! The picture on the cover took my breath away!  There on the cover was a vintage picture of Café Du Monde in the New Orleans French Quarter with a banner across the page “Celebrating 150th Anniversary in 2012” and inside was the history of Café Du Monde.  I realized what a gift it was that the book would come out in the Fall of 2012, the year of their anniversary!  I emailed Karen and Burt Benrud who run the business and asked them if I could include the history and some of the vintage pictures and they emailed me back saying I could definitely include the history and they would give me all their vintage pictures for the book. I had previously asked Karen Benrud to write the foreword and she had graciously accepted. Her Grandfather, Hubert N. Fernandez Fernandez, bought the café 70 years ago and running the café, gift shops, catalog and on-line store is truly a family affair. To have their history and vintage pictures in the book would be the icing on the cake or I should say, the powdered sugar on the beignets! I felt so blessed and at that moment I knew everything would work out exactly the way it was supposed to be!


Stay tuned for the next part of the book journey in my next blog.  Thanks for being a part of my journey!

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