Growing up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and living in Houston,Texas after college, barbecues were a way of life.  There is nothing better than planning the menu, drinks, guests, music…so by the time the big day is here, my mouth is watering, drink is in hand and I’m ready to have some BBQ fun!

This southern belle judges a barbecue by the sides served. I believe that more is more! You can’t ever have enough sides, the more the merrier just like the guests. Yes, the main event sizzling on the grill is important, but sides are the kicker – from platters of mac and cheese, baked beans, cole slaw, potato salad, corn on the cob, kicked up casseroles…the list goes on and on. If I’m the guest at a BBQ, you will always find me snooping around the kitchen looking at what sides will be served.  

I’ll never forget when I was living in New York and barbecues came to a screeching halt. There were no backyards to grill in the city, and if there were, I was not friends with those who could afford backyards.  My barbecue cravings were replaced with deli cravings – a giant mouthwatering pastrami sandwich with a side of coleslaw and pickles from Carnegie Deli would do the trick. However, I missed the magic of backyard barbecues with family and friends. 

I started dating a New Yorker, Jimmy McDonald, and one summer weekend we went out to his parent’s home at Rockaway Beach.  As we headed out the door on Sunday morning to the beach, his Mom told us they were going to barbecue ribs and watch the U.S. Open Tennis Matches in the afternoon. What a treat!  I was finally going to have a New York barbecue and my mouth started watering.  A few hours later, we arrived back to their house smelling the delicious ribs on the backyard grill. They gathered around the TV, his Mom brought out the ribs on a platter and passed around plates with napkins. That was it. No baked beans, no potato salad, no corn on the cob, no cole slaw… This southern belle was baffled, how do you have a barbecue without sides?  Clearly they had never been to a real barbecue!  

That afternoon, heading back to the City, I realized our culinary styles were going to clash and could be a huge issue. The McDonald family “eat to live” whereas the Sweeney clan “lived to eat”.  How would we ever resolve this?  A year later, I moved the skinny New Yorker, to New Orleans, married him in St. Louis Cathedral and taught him the ways of the southern palate.  

Our 1992 New Orleans Wedding

After attending LSU tailgate parties, eating his way through New Orleans, attending Louisiana festivals and eating my Mama’s food, Jimmy is now a converted foodie, several pounds heavier and you will find him right by my side grazing on the tasty side buffet!  

At the 2013 Taste Awards in Los Angeles


(Marinated Black Eyed Pea Salad) by Liberty’s Kitchen


3 (15 oz.) cans black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
1 large Vidalia onion or other sweet onion, small dice
2 red bell peppers, small dice
4 ribs celery, small dice
2 Tbsp. cilantro, rough chopped
Toss above ingredients with Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette and chill overnight. 
May be served cold or at room temperature.

Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette

2 oz. lime juice, freshly squeezed
4 oz. canola oil
2 Tbsp. honey
2 fresh jalapeño peppers, seeded and minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup loose packed cilantro
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
Place lime juice, canola oil, honey, jalapeño peppers, garlic, cilantro, salt and pepper in a blender and puree until emulsified.

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Celebrating Three Sweet Years of Meanwhile, Back at Café Du Monde…

In May, I headed back to my hometown of Baton Rouge, Louisiana for a month to celebrate the Three Year Anniversary of Meanwhile, Back at Café Du Monde... live shows where it all began.  I also was able to visit with family/friends and eat my favorite Louisiana food. I planned two anniversary shows at Boutin’s Cajun Restaurant on May 19th and June 9th.  Many of the original storytellers were on board plus others who appeared in the shows over the years and brand new ones! It was a great time to celebrate and look back at how far “Meanwhile” has come over the past three years. From inspiration, to idea, to the live shows, to the book and beyond....it has been an amazing journey.

Celebrating 3 Years of Meanwhile, Back at Cafe Du Monde...
 Myles & Sherry Sweeney, Duncan Clements, Peggy, Shannan Rieger, 
Kelly Clements, Erin and Scott Uffman

I arrived to Baton Rouge the week before the first show. I had four radio shows scheduled to promote the shows:  Jay Ducote’s Bite & Booze show, Bill & Karen Profita’s Fun Friday show, Karen Profita’s Saturday Style show and with Jim Engster of The Jim Engster show. Jay and Jim are both veterans of the show and are featured in the Meanwhile, Back at Cafe Du Monde... coffeetable/cookbook. Jay was the emcee for the May 19th show and Jim was going to present his great story, “Life at Louie’s” about the famous diner outside the gates of LSU.  Bill and Karen were on board as new storytellers and together would be sharing their food story, “The Top Ten Reasons When You Know Your Christmas Party Is Out of Hand”!  Between all of us we had many things to share on the radio shows about the history of the shows, the Meanwhile, Back at Café Du Monde…Life Stories About Food coffeetable/cookbook that launched last Fall and how food is so important in our lives.  The Advocate, Country Roads Magazine and In Register Magazine also did great feature articles about the 3 Year Anniversary shows!

Peggy with Karen & Bill Profita 
on Fun Friday Radio Show

I also had the pleasure of giving a book presentation at St.George Catholic School for my niece, Isabel Clement’s 4th grade class. I selected stories in the book of childhood food memories.  They loved hearing Jeff Kleinpeter’s (Kleinpeter Farms Dairy) story about growing up on the farm, as well as Todd Grave’s story about creating Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers and seeing the pictures of the dog, Cane.  At the end, I had them all stand and share their answers to “If you were a food what would you be and why?"  It was fun to hear their creative answers. After leaving the school, I received a text from my sister, Kelly, that the 5th grade teachers wanted me to come back to present for my nephew, Duncan’s class.  Clearly, a testament to how the Meanwhile, Back at Café Du Monde… book appeals to all ages!

Book Presentation at St. George's 4th Grade Class

The May 19th show emcee’d by Jay Ducote featured Daron Stiles, Karen & Bill Profita, Smiley Anders, Pam Bordelon, Diana Zollicoffer, Jim Engster and me.  

Jay Ducote, Smiley Anders, Diana Zollicoffer, Bill Profita, Daron Stiles, 
Karen Profita, Pam Bordelon, Peggy Sweeney-McDonald and Jim Engster

The June 9th show was emcee’d by Paul Arrigo and featured Lisa Annitti, Missy Crews, Victoria Green, Gabby Loubiere, Vanda Gray (with her granddaughter, Rachel Zatta), Karen and Bill Profita, John Gray, Myles Sweeney and me.  Veterans of the show also came to be a part of the audience and were there to join in to the group picture. Our official photographer, Troy Kleinpeter who has documented the shows and was the photographer for the book, was there to celebrate with us and take more great pictures!  I can’t begin to tell you how thrilling it was go be back in Baton Rouge where it all began to celebrate with family and friends.

Bill Profita, Missy Crews, Gabby Loubiere, Karen Profita, Rachel Zatta, Vanda Gray, Diana Zollicoffer, Victoria Green, Lisa Annitti, Jay Ducote, Myles Sweeney, Peggy Sweeney-McDonald, Richard Flicker, Jeff Kleinpeter, Daron Stiles and John Gray

I also had the opportunity to present the Meanwhile, Back at Cafe Du Monde... show at the Texas/Louisiana Gulf Coast District Exchange Club's Conference for their Friday night kick-off dinner June 7th at Head's and Tails Seafood Restaurant in Baton Rouge. Storytellers included show veteran's Richard Flicker and Paul Arrigo along with some great new Texas storytellers including Peggy Touchstone Sholley - cookbook author of Down Home Delicious, Clark Walter and Greg Oelfke.

Richard Flicker, Paul Arrigo, Clark Walter, Peggy Sholley & Greg Oelfke

Looking back at the 40 shows produced across the country with over 260 people on board sharing their life stories about food, I am humbled and honored by the love and support I have received every step of the way.  Now with the “Meanwhile, Back at Café DuMonde…Life Stories About Food coffeetable/cookbook by Pelican Publishing, the food stories are being shared all over the world.  I have received letters from fans as far as Canada, Hong Kong and Sweden. I know that “Meanwhile” continues to touch hearts even if they haven’t experienced being at a live show.

The Audience at the June 9th Show at Boutin's

I was blessed to have my greatest fan, my Father, Myles Sweeney in the June show. My Mom and Dad have been such an important part of the “Meanwhile” journey and to have my Dad share his food story, “Savory Snippets from Sweeney” was truly a gift. To everyone’s surprise, he stole the show! Now they know where I get my “gift of gab” as the Irish storyteller trait is strong in our family.

My Father, Myles Sweeney, sharing his food story!

Lisa Annitti, my muse, who inspired me to create the show with her “Coconut Pie and a Bottle of Wine” story in November of 2009, flew in from Los Angeles to celebrate with us by sharing her now famous story at the June show. Jimmy and I got to meet her new boyfriend, Roy Bogy, over an amazing jazz brunch at our favorite New Orleans restaurant, Commander’s Palace.  If you haven't been, you must go. Delicious!

Roy, Jimmy, Lisa and Peggy at Commander's Palace for Jazz Brunch

It is a tradition to indulge in the delicious Turtle Soup, Tasso Shrimp Heineken, Pecan Crusted Fish, Bread Pudding Souffle and a decadent Praline Parfait.  

Tasso Shrimp Heineken
at Commander's Palace

After a long leisurely lunch, we made our way to the French Quarter to stop by the New Orleans Oyster Festival along the Mississippi River.  This two day celebration of everything oyster is not to be missed. Great food booths serving every type of oyster dish and fabulous music.

Peggy & Jimmy at The New Orleans Oyster Festival

We made our way into the heart of the French Quarter to have drinks on Pat O’Brien's patio and ended up, of course, at Café DuMonde… for those little pillows of decadence - beignets and delicious Café Au Lait. As I say in my food story, the title monologue of “Meanwhile, Back at Café DuMonde…, “No matter, where I live or what is going on in my life, I always end up at Café Du Monde….taking life one beignet at a time.”  Yes, I am savoring the sweetness of life and loving every yummy moment of it!

Peggy & Lisa Annitti at Cafe Du Monde
sharing a plate of beignets and drinking Cafe Au Lait

Meanwhile, Back at Cafe Du Monde... show photos provided by 
Troy Kleinpeter of Kleinpeter Photography.

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