Today we have a special visitor: Suzanne Johnson! I adored ROYAL STREET, the first book in her urban fantasy series, the Sentinel of New Orleans, and so I jumped on the opportunity to be a part of her latest blog tour. She's here today to talk about a holiday gathering with characters from the series, New Orleans style. It's a really fun post that I'm sure you'll enjoy!
Preternatural Noshes, New Orleans Style
(c) Suzanne Johnson
It’s that time of the year—you know, when everyone gets together around a table of people with whom they might not normally fraternize. In New Orleans, we call it Reveillon. In the 19th century, New Orleans families would gather for a big meal after breaking their post-midnight mass holiday fast. Today, Reveillon lasts for most of December, with restaurants offering special holiday menus so theoretically you could have a Reveillon meal at a different restaurant every night of the holiday season.
In the spirit of Reveillon, and with much trepidation, I rented a banquet room in Jax Brewery on the New Orleans riverfront and invited some of the characters of River Road to join me for a holiday meal. It was with even more trepidation that I asked each one to bring a favorite dish.
The undead pirate Jean Lafitte arrived first, looking sexy as hell in a fine indigo-colored suit that was the height of fashion about 250 years ago. He only had to walk a few blocks from the Hotel Monteleone, where he has been ensconced in the swank Eudora Welty Suite ever since the borders between the modern world and the Beyond came down.
I had thought Jean would bring some brandy or some seafood grilled on a plank (you know…walk the plank?), or maybe sea biscuits, but no. He’d been totally lazy and stopped in Criollo, the hotel’s restaurant, and sauntered over trailed by one of his pirate flunkies from Old Orleans. Said flunky was laden down with what has become in recent years a New Orleans dining tradition—a soup trio. Three demitasse cups are filled with soups…well, except since this was take-out, Jean’s flunky arrived toting three fancy cardboard containers with a rich turtle soup swimming in sherry; a seafood gumbo swimming with crab; and an Andouille and sweet potato bisque.
While Jean busied himself pouring brandy and berating his flunky about how to arrange the soup on the banquet table, merman Rene Delachaise arrived with a boxful of dishes he finally admitted had been made by his stepmother Michelle. “She stays up in da parish, babe,” he told me (which in the local vernacular means she lives in St. Bernard Parish, east of New Orleans).
Michelle had made a feast of traditional South Louisiana dishes. We had stuffed merliton (a locally grown, mild winter squash, baked and then stuffed with the squash and shrimp and crab); oyster dressing (made with day-old French bread and seasoned with oysters, onions, celery, parsley); and, finally, a platter of gator bites (cut in meaty chunks, battered, and fried).
Being old buddies, Jean and Rene got rid of the flunky (they didn’t kill him but just sent him back to the Beyond clutching a fistful of gator bites), then huddled at the end of the table to talk business. I heard something about slot machines before I was distracted by Alex and Jake Warin, who arrived toting desserts and making bets on the chances of the New Orleans Saints making the playoffs.
When I asked if they’d actually MADE the desserts, they both gave me blank shifter/loup-garou face. “Yeah, we used the same kitchen as the pirate,” Alex said, nodding at Rene and giving Jean a cool, scornful look. Jean grinned at him, and though I heard some muttering about “le petit chien,” I decided to ignore both of them and help Jake unpack the goods.
As soon as I saw the coconut cake, I knew one of the guys had made a trip to Mississippi. Jake’s mom does a mean coconut cake, and Alex’s mom, Norma, had contributed a rich bread pudding heavy with raisins and bourbon.
Alex and Jean spoke at the same time. “There’s DJ” and “There is my lovely Jolie!”
“Well, crap. I didn’t know they were ALL going to be here or I’d have gone to see Lincoln.” DJ’s voice beat her up the stairs from the Napoleon House courtyard a few seconds before she appeared, carrying her contribution to the dinner. I eyed the giant plastic bag from Popeye’s Fried Chicken in one hand and the box of Aunt Sally’s pralines under the other arm, and remembered why I like this snarky little wizard.
A crash from behind us drew our attention. The pan of oyster dressing lay on the floor, minus most of its contents, which now adorned the front of Alex’s sweater.
“Pardon, Monsieur Chien. My hand slipped.” Jean Lafitte tossed a linen napkin at Alex and was too busy smirking to notice Jake until he upended the bread pudding over the pirate’s head.
“I bet that bread pudding was great,” DJ said, stepping back as Rene launched himself at Jake and sent the platter of gator bites flying.
“Yeah.” I eyed the overturned soup dishes regretfully but shifted my gaze to the bag of spicy fried chicken. “Bet we could eat that in the car on the way to the theater. Where’s Lincoln playing?”
“Elmwood.” DJ handed me the Aunt Sally’s box. “They’ll never miss us. Who’s going to pay for the damages?”
A chair collapsed between the combined weight of Alex and Jean with a crack of splintering wood. One was choking the other, but I couldn’t quite tell which was which.
“Whoever has the most cash or gold on them.” I followed DJ down the stairs. “My money’s on the pirate.”
From the cast of River Road, happy Reveillon! What’s your favorite family holiday dish?
Thanks for visiting us and giving us a peek at your characters over the holidays, Suzanne!
You can also see the rest of her tour by clicking on the tour button below.
More about RIVER ROAD:
Hurricane Katrina is long gone, but the preternatural storm rages on in New Orleans. New species from the Beyond moved into Louisiana after the hurricane destroyed the borders between worlds, and it falls to wizard sentinel Drusilla Jaco and her partner, Alex Warin, to keep the preternaturals peaceful and the humans unaware. But a war is brewing between two clans of Cajun merpeople in Plaquemines Parish, and down in the swamp, DJ learns, there’s more stirring than angry mermen and the threat of a were-gator.
Wizards are dying, and something—or someone—from the Beyond is poisoning the waters of the mighty Mississippi, threatening the humans who live and work along the river. DJ and Alex must figure out what unearthly source is contaminating the water and who—or what—is killing the wizards. Is it a malcontented merman, the naughty nymph, or some other critter altogether? After all, DJ’s undead suitor, the pirate Jean Lafitte, knows his way around a body or two.
It’s anything but smooth sailing on the bayou as the Sentinels of New Orleans series continues.
You can see what I thought of ROYAL STREET by clicking on the cover:
One (1) tour-wide winner will get his or her choice of Kindle Paperwhite or Nook Simple Touch (or $100 gift card for Amazon, B&N, or Book Depository)
and five (5) lucky people will win a $10 gift card for Amazon, B&N or Book Depository
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