On Friday, Jan. 31, Chef Hardette Harris debuted her Pure Louisiana Soul™ cooking demo and lunch program, a 90-minute experience that includes education about northern Louisiana cuisine, an interactive cooking demo and an outstanding lunch buffet featuring a variety of dishes selected to exemplify northern Louisiana’s cuisine. Harris will host a second Pure Louisiana Soul™ program at Sainte Terre in Benton, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 6. Tickets are $45 each and are available now through Chef Harris’s website. During the program, Chef Harris leads a conversation about home cooking traditions found in northern Louisiana, then demonstrates a few techniques used in creating the kinds of dishes that are commonly found on local tables. Our small group had a blast, helping Chef Harris fry hot water cornbread and de-rib collard greens. After the demonstration, we sat down to a lunch buffet that included perfect fried catfish, barbecued chicken, collard greens, black eyed peas, smothered squash and peach cobbler.
Though the food was wonderful, my favorite part of the experience was the joy of sitting down to lunch with a group of strangers who shared my love of Southern home cooking. As we ate, we reminisced about dishes that our families served – let me tell you, a lot of grandmothers were being missed at that table. All of us shared some common memories, but we also found that every family has its own unique way of doing things. I learned to eat collard greens with my fingers, using a wedge of cornbread as a spoon. My own grandma would probably slap me if I tried that at her table.
I’m pulling for Chef Harris’s programs to succeed (she’s also planning to launch a guided food tour service celebrating Shreveport-Bossier’s food scene) because she has an incredible knowledge of what makes northern Louisiana cuisine unique and a passion for sharing local food experiences with visitors to our community. She’s talking about providing tours, for example, that take visiting food lovers to area farms, plate lunch houses, barbecue joints and doughnut shops. Those are the kinds of places where you’ll find some of the most authentic and wonderful food experiences in Shreveport-Bossier, and it’s high time someone stepped up to help others explore that world.