Tooker, Poppy with Sam Hanna. “Drag Queen Brunch”, Rainbow Road Press, 2019.
Breakfast with the Girls
Many people do not realize two of New Orleans’ greatest LGBT activities are drag queens and brunch. If you put the two together, you have a wonderful way to start the day. Poppy Tooker certainly understood this and she gives us a fabulous new book, “Drag Queen Brunch” and it is filled with beautiful photographs of food and queens.
When I lived in New Orleans, my favorite book to keep on my coffee table was a small little volume entitled, “Cross Dressing for Success” and I would love to see the looks on people’s faces as they wondered if I did indeed cross dress or not. Now in Boston, I have replaced that with “Drag Queen Brunch”. Those that might question that never know if I do either or both, drag queens or brunch. I am sad to say that in my circle of friends, brunch is seldom an option and I have grown too old to do drag unless as a queen mother.
With a foreword by Vinsantos Defonte, “drag-mister-ass of the New Orleans Drag Community and founder of the New Orleans Drag workshop, we get a bit of an overview of the drag community. In the introduction to the book, we get a bit of history of drag and food and it is fascinating reading especially because two of my favorite New Orleans restaurants, Antoine’s and Tujague’s are named and oh so many memories came forward. You have not lived until you have baked Alaska at Antoine’s and a meal with no menu at Tujague’s. New Orleans is unique in that eating in some of the finest restaurants in the world is n9t just about the food but also a celebration of having the opportunity to eat some of the best food in the world. At the Drag Queen Brunches, performance is key to success as the girls entertain audiences as diverse as the population of the world. It gets even better when you know that what you eat and what you see also benefits CresentCare, the nonprofit organization once known as the NO/AIDS Task Force (where I often volunteered when I lived there). Let me quote Poppy in saying that “This book is intended to curate the beauty and tell the delicious tales of drag queens past and present”.
Writer Poppy Tooker is one of New Orleans’ most celebrated preservationists and historians. Here she combines the history and tradition of New Orleans drag culture with stories and curated recipes from some of the city’s most acclaimed restaurants and chefs, including Commander’s Palace, Brennan’s, Antoine’s, Alon Shaya, Isaac Toups and more. I found myself flipping pages as quickly as I could looking at the wonderful photographs by Sam Hannah and marking the pages that I planned to come back and read in more detail (almost all of them). I mused over how much I am dying for a plate of grillades and grits. I found a place here in Boston that attempts to make them but does not really know how and I had to explain the difference between hominy and grits and to use veal instead of brisket (although this cookbook allows you to use beef). It was a noble attempt but a supreme failure.
We get some 60 recipes and profiles of some of New Orleans’ finest drag queens. I have been gone now almost twenty years and I had completely forgotten about such dishes as Eggs Sardou, Crawfish Strudel and Crepes Fitzgerald and Eggs Hussarde to name a few. I do not know if I will be able to wait until March to get to New Orleans and to taste so many of the dishes here. I so appreciate this book but on the other hand (there is always an other hand, I am experiencing severe homesickness and dire hunger pains and pangs).
You can always tell when a writer is passionate about their work and you certainly feel Poppy’s passion in her words and in Sam Hanna’s photographs. I love when s book is a pleasure to read and one that you go back to over and over again. I know that will be true for me, especially regarding the recipes. A portion of the proceeds will also go to CresentCare.