This is part of my #SeriousSandwich series celebrating Emeril Lagasse's newest cookbook, "Emeril's Kicked-Up Sandwiches" (Morrow, $24.99). Be sure to read to the end to find out how you can win a copy of this terrific cookbook.
Back in the days when I worked for a small independent bookstore, cookbooks were my passion (well, they still are), and I eagerly awaited the publisher's catalogs to see what new titles would be available each season, especially the fall. Each autumn, my boss, the owner of the bookstore, gave the employees a great perk and that was a ticket to SEBA, the Southeastern Booksellers convention, held in a different city in September or October. These conferences were a book geek’s idea of heaven. A show floor filled with vendor booths and sales reps dispensing advance review copies of new titles, along with the occasional imprinted water bottle or t-shirt.
There were also lunches and dinners with well-known authors, and along with the meal, attendees would receive signed copies of the authors’ books. In Nashville, I got a signed copy of Waylon Jennings’ autobiography, written about a year before he passed. I have signed copies of most of Carl Hiaasen’s crazy Florida mysteries. (Hiaasen, by the way, is just as entertaining as a speaker as he is on the page.) Legendary authors such as Pat Conroy and James Dickey attended these conventions, and kindly met with booksellers and signed books. Conroy, in fact, is one of the nicest authors I’ve ever met. Patiently talking with everyone who lined up to meet him, signing books, taking pictures.
And the very last SEBA I attended, way back in 1997, in Mobile, Alabama, a regional chef who was about to hit it big time, spoke at the Saturday lunch. He was a fellow from New Orleans, but he talked like a Yankee. And his name was Emeril Lagasse. This was at the beginning of his television career, when “Emeril Live” was just hitting the airwaves and Food Network was adding markets.
I remember he showed how to make a quick bread while standing at a podium in his chef whites. Not an ideal set-up for a kitchen demo, but he plowed through, telling us a little about the recipe, his cookbook, restaurant and cooking show. Everyone at the lunch received signed copies of his new book, "Emeril's Creole Christimas," and I brought along my copy of "Louisiana Real and Rustic" for him to sign. When I talked to him after the speech, I mentioned that I left my copy of “New New Orleans Cuisine at Home” and he said, “well bless your heart” a little bit of Southern speak in that Massachusetts growl.
This, of course, was 15 years ago, across the digital divide, before everyone carried a camera in their pocket, so I have no pictures. But I do have something pretty cool, Emeril's signature in "Louisiana Real and Rustic." I think signatures tell a lot about authors. Emeril's signature is just as big and bold as his personality and cuisine.
Morrow Books is giving away a copy of "Emeril's Kicked-Up Sandwiches" to an "A Cook and Her Books" reader. Please go to "A Cook and Her Books," and comment on the post for a chance at winning this awesome cookbook!