Key West Friday: Having Dinner With Tennessee Williams

November 11, 2011 in American literature, Key West Travel

Last week, we talked about Ernest Hemingway, one of America’s greatest writers, most famous drinkers, and a sometimes resident of Key West. Today, we’re going to shift our focus (but only a little) to yet another classic American author known for his culinary quirks: Tennessee Williams.

While Williams is more often associated with New Orleans than with the great state of Florida, the playwright and author spent years commuting between Manhattan and his modest residence in Key West. A true literary traveler, Williams lived all over the world, establishing homes everywhere from London to Rome, only to move once more when the mood struck him. According to some, It was in his Key West home where Tennessee wrote the first draft of his most famous and arguably most widely-read play, A Street Car Named Desire. Visitors to the city can still see his small bungalow, located in the New Town neighborhood, though sadly, it is privately owned and no longer open to the public.

Despite his long-time affiliation with Key West, many of the recipes in Troy Gilbert’s cookbook, Dinner With Tennessee Williams: Recipes and Stories Inspired by America’s Southern Playwright, have a decidedly Louisisiana flavor. However, the off-beat little book—which features recipes created by Greg Picolo, a New Orleans native and chef at the Bistro Maison de Ville—can still be viewed as a surprisingly literary way to enjoy all types of Southern cuisine. The publisher describes the book thusly:

Like Hemingway to Cuba or Mark Twain to the Mississippi, certain writers are inextricably tied to their environments-the culture, the history, the people, the cuisine. The plays of Tennessee Williams evoke the ambiance and flavor of the South. Part food memoir and part cookbook, this fresh look at the world of this great American playwright-both in real life and in his plays-is the perfect book for literary lovers and food lovers alike.

Inside the conceptual cookbook, you can find recipes for dishes like Grilled Ahi Tuna with Pineapple Relish, Maw Maw Lola’s Fig Preserves, and Chop Suey Soup. All the dishes are inspired by Tennessee’s plays, and are accompanied with archived photographs from Williams’ life and quotes from his distinctive dialogue.

As holiday season fast approaches, we can’t help but think this would be the perfect gift for a budding chef, bookworm, or even world traveler. Food, literature, and a little bit of Southern charm? That’s pretty much all we need to escape this dreary New England winter.

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