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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

He got GameDay

click to enlarge gameday.jpg
Pableaux Johnson was absolutely giddy. One of New Orleans’ most passionate food and travel writers, Pableaux was giddy with the excitement over the completion of his labor of love, Eating New Orleans: From French Quarter Creole Dining to the Perfect Poboy. The book was an exhaustively researched guide through the food-and-cocktail culture of the city, from the little hideaway neighborhood joints all the way up to the old warhorses of the Quarter. But Johnson’s excitement was short-lived. Eating New Orleans was published June 21, 2005 -- two months before Hurricane Katrina. It is now a very nice literary time capsule for the former James Beard Award nominee.

Over the past two years, Johnson -- who in full disclosure I must confess is a friend of mine with whom I shared more than one evacuation experience out in his native southwest Louisiana -- has busied himself with his steady gigs with the New York Times and Bon Apetit. But now he’s really rebounded with a different culinary tour altogether. Last month, Johnson produced ESPN GameDay Gourmet: More Than 80 All-American Tailgate Recipes. Published by ESPN Books with lots of football-friendly help from network sportscasters Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit and Lee Corso, GameDay Gourmet is a breezy collection of cutely named football-season recipes.

There’s everything from the Benchwarming Hot Chocolate to more regionally exciting barbecue recipes (he drew heavily from the mind and palate of North Carolina food writer Fred Thompson, not to be confused with the Republican nonpresidential candidate of the same name).

It also includes the New Iberia native’s signature South Louisiana Red Beans recipe, for which I can vouch; his Monday night gatherings at his Uptown apartment usually featured about two vats of the stuff, and it was delicious.

Unfortunately, the Georgia references are spare, but for some casual Georgia Tech and University of Georgia nods.

Note: Don’t forget to read his acknowledgments in the back of the book. When he says that “Stuart Wade gave a great crash course in NCAA nuance,” he’s not kidding. Whenever Johnson mentioned football, it was usually about why anybody cared about it.

But it looks like he’s found a new way to play to his passion. Kudos, Pableaux. Good to see you back in the game.

P.S. Georgia Tech tailgating begins in Atlanta Saturday, Sept. 1, against Notre Dame (3:30 p.m. on WXIA-TV/Channel 11), while University of Georgia tailgating begins in Athens Sept. 1 against Oklahoma State (6:45 p.m. on ESPN2).

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