Revisiting A Cook’s Tour of Shreveport

A Cook’s Tour of Shreveport is one of the most popular community cookbooks ever produced in North Louisiana. Meet the women who made it.

A photo of blog author Chris Jay in his beloved Cafe Bustelo t-shirt

by Chris Jay
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When I tell folks that I collect old community cookbooks from Louisiana, their eyes light up.

“Like those spiral-bound church cookbooks?” they’ll ask, a little light flickering on in a distant window of their mind.

Tell me which parish you grew up in, and I can usually guess the name of the heavily-annotated, sometimes coverless, spiral-bound cookbook that your grandmother kept in the drawer beneath the microwave, bulging with her favorite clipped recipes and yellowing index cards bearing instructions for how to stuff a mirliton or fry a turkey, all written in Mamaw’s flowing hand, a graceful, looping cursive that grew tight and shaky with age.

If you grew up in Natchitoches, that book was probably called Cane River Cuisine. In Baton Rouge, it was River Road Recipes I & II. In Lafayette, Talk About Good! and, in Monroe, The Cotton Country Collection.

Though I love all of these books for their unique recipe collections, cover artwork, folksy illustrations, and local advertisements for long-since-closed businesses, I’m from Shreveport, so I’m particularly interested in community cookbooks from Northwest Louisiana. My dream is to build an online archive of them before they’ve all turned to dust. 

A display ad for Rhino Coffee

There are a few wildly successful Shreveport community cookbooks that deserve to be mentioned, but one in particular easily stands out as the most popular ever produced in Northwest Louisiana. Those “honorable mention” cookbooks include Revel, produced by the Junior League of Shreveport in 1980, and Cookinanny, produced by the B’nai Zion Sisterhood in 1964. But the best-known and most commercially successful community cookbook to come out of Shreveport—with more than 125,000 copies sold as of a 2006 story in The Times, and likely closer to 175,000 copies in circulation today—is A Cook’s Tour of Shreveport.

Watch the one-minute video below to “flip through the pages” of A Cook’s Tour of Shreveport.

First published by The Junior League of Shreveport in 1964, A Cook’s Tour of Shreveport was reprinted twelve times between 1964 and 2011. In 2009 the book was inducted into TABASCO’s Walter S. McIlhenney Cookbook Hall of Fame, a semiannual honor that only considers cookbooks which have sold more than 100,000 copies. 

According to a promotion in the Sept. 10, 1964 edition of the Shreveport Journal, the book features “approximately 1,000 Louisiana recipes submitted by active and sustaining members of the league as well as friends of the league, and local clubs and restaurants.”

Ad for Ralph's Place

The book, which served as a fundraiser for Junior League projects, originally retailed for $3.50. It featured distinctive cover artwork of riverboat-era Shreveport by Janet Aimer Barlow, who also illustrated the chapter dividers portraying sketches of historical Shreveport. The book could be purchased from the Junior League offices directly or at a number of local retailers where well-to-do white ladies shopped.

An image of an order form for copies of A Cook's Tour of Shreveport
A perforated order form/postcard from the eighth printing of A Cook’s Tour of Shreveport, printed in 1976.

The head of the inaugural cookbook committee is named in the Journal (“she has had complete responsibility for two years,” it reads) as Mrs. James M. Turner. Some research turned up her given name: Barbara. However, Turner’s name does not appear on the book’s title or copyright pages. While each recipe is accompanied by the name of its contributor, there is no trace of the identities of the women whose labor produced the most popular cookbook ever published in Northwest Louisiana, beyond a collective credit to “The Cookbook Committee.”

Barbara Turner was listed as head of the Cookbook Committee that produced A Cook’s Tour of Shreveport in 1964.

If you’re reading this because you love your copy of A Cook’s Tour of Shreveport and feel inclined to make a recipe to celebrate the book, Mrs. Turner’s recipe for cherry pie, from page 261, would be an appropriate choice.

Barbara Turner’s cherry pie recipe. Without Turner, there would be no Cook’s Tour.

Other notable recipes are Chef Shorty Lenard’s famous Black Forest Cake recipe from the Shreveport Club (page 287) and Mrs. Sam Fertitta’s Italian Style Stuffed Pork Roast (page 213). Several storied Shreveport restaurants also contributed recipes—including Smith’s Cross Lake Inn, Worm’s Hilltop House, and Columbia Restaurant—but the vast majority of recipes were contributed by individuals.

Of course, the book doesn’t represent the eating habits of all Shreveporters. Flipping through its pages, Shreveporters will recognize many of the city’s oldest and wealthiest family names. One couldn’t be blamed for wondering how many of these recipes were written by Black domestic workers and credited to their white employers. In fact, on page 97, a recipe for cauliflower casserole is credited to “Sherman, Chef of Charlton Lyons, Sr.”

How many other chefs like Sherman, I wondered, weren’t named?

The only instance of a recipe being credited to an employee in A Cook’s Tour of Shreveport.

The more I thought about it, the more the issue of names in A Cook’s Tour of Shreveport bothered me. Not only were there, I assumed, many unnamed domestic workers hidden among the book’s thousand recipes—I also still had no names for the women who created my favorite cookbook. All I really knew were their husbands’ names. So, I went back and looked again. This time, I found a photo of the Cookbook Committee, taken the day after the book was released on Sept. 2, 1964.

The Cookbook Committee of the Junior League of Shreveport—who created A Cook’s Tour of Shreveport—on Sept. 2, 1964. Shreveport Journal photo by Cowen Studio.

By cross-referencing engagement announcements and obituaries against husbands’ names, I believe that I’ve identified many of the women who helped create A Cook’s Tour of Shreveport in addition to Barbara Turner. Everyone deserves to be called by their own name.

They were Jessie Jewel Sale Cheesman Brown (president), Elizabeth Cook, Joann “Jodie” Cook, Delores Hair Dietz, Marie Hamel Falbaum, Patsy Ferguson, Sybil Barnette Murrell, Betty Basinger Frierson, Joanne Breazeale Gardner, Betty Lou Whitmeyer Alexander Hawkins, Jeri Lane Thompson Kouns, Lynda Davis Perry, Julia Aletha Cherry Sippel, Helen Butts Tipps, Patsy Cherry Ferguson, Jaquetta Strain, Barbara Ann Walker, and Linnie Reynolds Waller. While I’m certain that this is not a comprehensive list, it’s a start.

Each time I flip through A Cook’s Tour of Shreveport, I think about how all of these dishes had special meaning to someone—their signature item to bring to an office potluck or cookout, the covered dish they carried into hurting houses, the thing that people asked them to bring to get-togethers. I called up my friend, Judy Williams (hear Judy’s terrific All Y’all story about her friendship with Orson Welles here). Judy’s mother, Arey O’Neal (pictured below), contributed a recipe for crab meat au gratin that was included in A Cook’s Tour of Shreveport.

A photo of Arey ONeal, an older woman with red hair

I asked Judy if she had any memories of crab au gratin from her childhood—which is sincerely the kind of thing that I ask people all of the time—and she laughed.

“They always made that crab au gratin for parties, cocktail parties,” Judy said. “I could hear all of the laughter from my room, and I just thought it was the most sophisticated and metropolitan thing in the world to host a cocktail party.”

That little detail—the laughter from the party filling the house, the briny, buttery scent of another round of crab dip being pulled from the oven—gave me a new attachment to the recipe.

Mrs. Arey O’Neal’s crab meat au gratin, from A Cook’s Tour of Shreveport.

For me, there was something really satisfying about completing the picture of this recipe, about understanding why this crab au gratin was Mrs. O’Neal’s selection for the book. I thought to myself: “I wonder if there’s a story like that for every recipe in this book? I wonder how many I could track down?”

I’m currently working on a cookbook of my own called Our Lady of The Stuffed & The Busted, and it’s shaping up be really cool. The book will include approximately 225 recipes from locals, but will also include some new stories about food and drink in Shreveport, some wonderful original illustrations, some bad food clip art, and some surprises. I’m looking at A Cook’s Tour of Shreveport constantly while creating the Stuffed & Busted book, and I’d like the community’s help paying homage to it in a chapter of Our Lady of The Stuffed & The Busted.

The logo of Prize Fest

Do you have a connection to A Cook’s Tour of Shreveport? Did a relative submit a recipe that was included in the book, or do you treasure a particular recipe from the book? If so, I would love to hear about it! Drop me a line at or fill out the form below. I’d like to add to this post with new stories related to A Cook’s Tour of Shreveport-Bossier from time to time—to keep building on the story that began in 1964.

The Stuffed & Busted logo

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