Red beans and ricely yours

by Mary Tutwiler

Remember 35-cent plates of red beans and rice? If you do, you also probably ate those quintessential red beans at Buster Holmes, in New Orleans' French Quarter. The iconic restaurant, on the corner of Burgundy and Orleans, was intrinsically New Orleans, a deeply local place where residents of the Quarter of all races mixed in the early 1960s, everybody there to eat a plate of Buster's great red beans.

Pelican Press has just reissued a second edition of the 1980 spiral bound book, filled with grainy black and white photos that will send you back to the summer of love, when garlic was still declassé and fruit cocktail mixed in with jello was considered to be salad.

The old building had two screen doors and the ceiling fans whopped hard, but it was always steamy inside, the kitchen open to the counter and big shared tables. Buster had garlic sausage on his menu back then; it was a buck more if you wanted sausage in your red beans. He also made the best garlic chicken I've ever had. If you wanted, you could get fried oysters with your red beans, coon and rice with greens, and a slice of pie for 50 cents.

The Buster Holmes Restaurant Cookbook has recipes as simple as they come, six or seven ingredients and a scant paragraph to tell you what to do. They're the kind of recipes you'd get from a friend, one cook to another, with great tips, like "Bacon drippings are good for frying tomatoes."

The Buster Holmes Restaurant Cookbook, $13.56, is available from Pelican Press, call 800 843-1724 or go to their website.