Thanks to Brian Sands of Ambush Magazine for this wonderful review of our June salon, featuring Mme Begue! For more information on our Third Sunday Salons and other appearances, check out our Upcoming Eventspage.
Ambush Magazine, July 1-14, 2014
Trodding the Boards
Louisiana History Alive Third Sunday Salons at the Shadowbox Theatre Through Nov. 16
If you're a history aficionado, a theater lover, or, especially both, then plan on attending Louisiana History Alive's Third Sunday Salons at the Shadowbox Theatre. You'll likely leave with a smile on your face and a greater knowledge of local history than when you arrived.
Louisiana History Alive presents actors who have intensely researched people who have made significant contributions to New Orleans or Louisiana. You may have seen them strollong along Royal Street, dressed in period clothing, never breaking character- a veritable walking biopic.
The Third Sunday Salons give audiences an opportunity to interact in greater depth with one or two “characters” in a casual hour-long lecture/ Q&A format. I recently caught the presentation of Mme. Begue, a “proud Bavarian woman,” [who] opened a restaurant in the French Quarter in 1863.
Originally named Dutrey's after her husband Louis Dutreuil, after he died she renamed it Begue's upon marrying Hippolyte Begue, a man eight years her junior. She served only one meal a day, a “second breakfast” at 11 am for those who had been up working since before dawn, yet it proved very popular.
Although a rival of nearby Tujague's, after Mme Begue died in 1906 the owners of that restaurant bought Begue's building on Decatur Street, where it has continued serving creole cuisine to this day.
[Mme. Begue] began the evening with a series of parlor games, bringing audience members up on stage, blindfolding them, and then asking them to name the various food combinations after fondling the various ingredients. I would have gotten the Holy Trinity (onion, celery, & bell pepper,) and roux (flour & lard,) but mirepoix (onion, celery, & carrot) was unfamiliar to me; the Sunday Salon was already an educative experience.
As she continued, we learned that Mme. Begue was very shy, that women were not allowed in Begue's until the Cotton Expo of 1884, and that the restaurant was one of the first places in New Orleans to have a telephone which was used for taking reservations.
In this informal setting, Begue's tongue was occasionally in her cheek, as when speaking about her recipes she said, “we've always had kale here,” with a raised eyebrow.
While the focus remained on Mme Begue for the entire evening, she did have some guest appearances from John James Audubon and the droll Baroness de Pontalba to whom, like Mme Begue, the electricity used for a heating-pan was a foreign concept.
On a more present-day level, handsome mixologist Teddy Blumenthal of the Windsor Court Hotel provided cocktail-making tips and demonstrated how to create grog, creating samples for all who cared to sample this rum-based drink.
MmeBegue also offered something special to her audience from her wide range of dishes, a tasty tomato salad; after all, when most vegetables were canned or preserved, to have something fresh was a treat.
Coming up on July 20th, Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson will tell some inside tales on the Battle of New Orleans, and daguerrotype artist Jules Lion will speak on the experience of free people of color. Tentatively scheduled for August 17th is the 19th century coloratura soprano and opera diva Adelina Patti; a recital of selections from her upcoming European tour may be on the program.
While June's salon had the pleasantly free-and-easy atmosphere of a local cable TV show, I suspect each of these evenings is shaped by the featured character and the personality of the presenting actor or actress. If Mme Begue seem[ed] like a slightly more animated, teutonic precursor of Julia Child, it's likely that Andrew jackson or Adelina Patti might occasion a more formal event. The only way to find out is if you go. -Brian Sands