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Loyola University New Orleans Professor Releases New Book “Creole Italian”

Loyola press release - August 1, 2018

Aug. 1 book launch followed by Aug. 2 book signing at Octavia Books

Loyola University New Orleans professor and renowned local historian Justin A. Nystrom launches today a new book that explores how generations of Sicilian immigrants flavored local creole cuisine. Nystrom celebrates the launch of Creole Italian: Sicilian Immigrants and the Shaping of New Orleans Food Culture with a presentation and book signing Thursday, Aug. 2 at Octavia Books. The event is free and open to the public.

“This is a story that has needed to be told for a long time,” Nystrom said Wednesday. “And “I think that right now as a city, we are in a historical moment where New Orleans wants to tell a more inclusive version of its past, and this book contributes to that goal.”

In Creole Italian, Nystrom explores the influence Sicilian immigrants have had on New Orleans foodways. His culinary journey follows these immigrants from their first impressions on Louisiana food culture in the mid-1830s and along their path until the 1970s. Each chapter touches on events that involved Sicilian immigrants and the relevance of their lives and impact on New Orleans. Sicilian immigrants cut sugarcane, sold groceries, ran truck farms, operated bars and restaurants, and manufactured pasta. Citing these cultural confluences, Nystrom posits that the significance of Sicilian influence on New Orleans foodways traditionally has been undervalued and instead should be included, along with African, French, and Spanish cuisine, in the broad definition of “creole.”

Creole Italian chronicles how the business of food, broadly conceived, dictated the reasoning, means, and outcomes for a large portion of the nearly 40,000 Sicilian immigrants who entered America through the port of New Orleans in the 19th and early-20th centuries and how their actions and those of their descendants helped shape the food town we know today.

Justin A. Nystrom, Ph.D. is an associate professor of history at Loyola University New Orleans and director of the Center for the Study of New Orleans. He is the author of New Orleans after the Civil War: Race, Politics, and a New Birth of Freedom and the director of the documentary film This Haus of Memories. Earlier this year, he discussed the influence of Italians on the New Orleans restaurant industry in a public talk titled The Spaghetti District: How New Orleans Put Italian Food on the Map,” part of the university’s Cultural Conversations series.

Creole Italian: Sicilian Immigrants and the Shaping of New Orleans Food Culture, edited by John T. Edge and published by University of Georgia Press, is the eleventh volume of the Southern Foodways Alliance Studies in Culture series. Released Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2018, the book is available for purchase in local bookstores, including Octavia Books, and via book vendors across the nation, including Target, Wal-Mart, and Amazon.com. The book has been published in both hardcover and paperback.

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