Sunday, December 31, 2006
One of the best things about living in New Orleans is the food. I've been an enthusiastic student of Creole culinary traditions ever since we moved here when I was six years younger and 40 pounds lighter. But there was always an important part of the culture of Big Easy cuisine that was absent from my repertoire like a roux sans flour. This was the 1987-1988 CBS series Frank's Place, something I have long desired to watch but didn't know how because it's not officially released on video and the reruns don't currently air. But then, thanks to rota fortuna spinning upward, I found them.
The premise of the show is that a Boston professor of Italian Renaissance Art, Frank Parish (played by Tim Reid, who previously played Venus Flytrap in WKRP) inherits a Creole restaurant in New Orleans, called Chez Louisiane, from his estranged father. Then because of voodoo, he reluctantly changes careers and runs the restaurant. All of the characters are great, but I think my favorite is Tiger the bartender. He plays a big role in two of my favorite episodes, "Frank Joins the Club" and "Where's Ed?" Every episode begins with Louis Armstrong singing "Do You Know What it Means, to Miss New Orleans?" It's a very well written show. Mark Christensen, a writer for Rolling Stone, commented "rarely has a prime-time show attempted to capture so accurately a particular American subculture--in this case that of blue-collar blacks in Louisiana." The show has aged well, and I highly recommend it, especially to those who are fond of the uniqueness of New Orleans. Chez Louisiane was based on the famous Creole restaurant Chez Helene, at which I never had the privilege to eat. The skipper-cap-wearing chef in the TV show is named Big Arthur, and he is based on the famous New Orleans chef Austin Leslie. Leslie later went on to cook at Jacques-Imo's and finally Pampy's Creole Kitchen. After Katrina he spent two days in his attic before being evacuated to Atlanta where he died a few days later. His recipe for fried chicken with persillade is still one of the favorites at Pampy's, and I highly recommend it. Better yet, get the fried chicken to go, and watch Frank's Place on DVD. You can either borrow them from me, or purchase them as I did, from Professor Video. He sells all of the episodes on 5 DVDs for $50.