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Cookbook Signings :: Day 2

Fri, November 4, 2011

We woke up yesterday morning and hustled out the door of the hotel lugging six suitcases.  Yes!  Six big ones for a four day jaunt.  This is crazy!

From the hotel, we headed out to Mandeville, La crossing the causeway over the center of Lake Ponchartrain to Holiday Hallmark for a book signing. A lovely family owned business, the owners are a fun loving group with parents, Sid and Mary Elizabeth {who started the business and are now semi retired}, two brothers, Sid, Jr. and Hughes, and a sister, Jennifer.   The siblings now run their family business of 7 Holiday Hallmark stores. We were set to sign in two of them, in two different cities - Mandeville and Baton Rouge, LA.

We arrived with yummy vegetarian chili and pumpkin seed cornbread and chipotle pecans greeting us. The customers loved the food which was great news to us! {As Susie says, it is a bit intimidating in this land of fabulous food.}  We were pleased that several cookbooks were signed and sold AFTER they tasted. Our favorite signing message requested in Louisiana was, “If you can read, you can cook!” Ha!

We had such a great time with the staff too, sharing tips for personalizing ornaments, and having a platter signed by all of them for us!

We enjoyed swapping recipes and talking about the way of life in the area.  I am excited to try Phyllis’ homemade chicken soup, which she calls ‘Jewish Penicillin’.  The twist is to place two whole onions to slow cook in the bubbly broth until they are soft enough to spoon out.  Don’t you just love that idea? Yum!

On our way to Baton Rouge we were treated by our delightful “driver”, Sid, Sr.and Mary Elizabeth with mounds of luggage in the back trunk {thank goodness they drive an SUV or we would be traveling rooftop}.   I most enjoyed hearing the story of how they got into the gift business.  {I may have the dates a bit off} but it all started in 1972 when Sid was working in a management training program with a large retailer in jackson, Mississippi.   A fellow employee told him of his wife’s new venture of opening a restaurant in the train station.  EXACTLY what Sid wanted to be doing.

That evening he came home, said to Mary Elizabeth, “Pack your bags, we are moving.  I don’t want to look back twenty years from now regretting I didn’t take a chance.”  So they did…moving to Baton Rouge.   They found a perfect new shopping center under construction, signed a lease and called Hallmark, saying we found a space, now let’s do business! A giant leap of faith!!   But, it appears to have worked out beautifully as they now operate such a successful business and enjoy an entrepreneurial way of life.  Sid Sr. still remembers when his daughter Jennifer made her first sale. She was four years old and a customer was leaving empty handed ‘til she shamed him into making a purchase by asking, “You didn’t buy anything from my daddy?” A true family business!

Our sweet drivers dropped us off at our hotel, smack dab in the middle of LSU campus, with a few hours to “rest” before the next signing. We immediately set out in search of some delicious Louisiana lunch specialties, ending up at the Chimes.   We enjoyed boudin balls, seafood gumbo and blackened alligator po boy. {yes alligator!}  The only other time I’ve been served alligator is at a tailgate when FSU was playing UF many years ago.   Everything was delicious, but my favorite touch was the single blue crab claw set right in the center of the gumbo.

We just HAD to go visit Mike the tiger (in his multiple million dollar habitat) and we found this absolutely huge tiger sound asleep.  {Maybe he needs to rest up for the big weekend….LSU vs. Alabama}  Let me tell you, this weekend’s game is BIG.  And boy do they LOVE LSU football here.  There isn’t anywhere you look that you don’t see a tiger, or purple and gold.   I have never seen anything like it.  They are big time fans and we love it!!  Case in point: One of the customers at the signing came hobbling in with an ankle cast….and yes, it was painted with purple and yellow stripes!

Our next signing was a delight, with  the entire family going all out, cooking up many different dishes from the cookbook.

Tents greeted us where they served up all of the many dishes and Sid Sr. passing out Rum Runners, which were a big hit.  We enjoyed meeting many of the Bowden’s friends and long time customers and signing cookbooks.

After the event we were treated to a delicious meal at a favorite Baton Rouge restaurant, Rubbinos.  I enjoyed the sampling plate with a taste of several seafood specialties, including BBQ shrimp, delicious scallops {award winning come to find out} and crab cheesecake {unexpected, but yummy!}. The best part of the evening, however, was simply enjoying the banter of this tight knit, loving, witty family.  A real treat.

There is so much more I can share about just this one day’s experience.  Thank you to the wonderful hospitality given to us by the Bowden family.  We are so appreciative.  Geaux …..tigers!!!

Now, on our way to Kentucky!  See y’all there!!


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