Fonville Winans achieved fame with his crisp black-and- white photographs of midcentury Louisiana life, capturing indelible images of Depression-era Cajuns on Grand Isle, brides and socialites around Baton Rouge, and an array of (sometimes notorious) politicians and public figures. But many locals also knew the renowned photographer as a passionate cook who spent decades experimenting in the kitchen and perfecting dishes that ranged from Louisiana creole classics to popular foods and international cuisines, along with a healthy dose of cocktails for entertaining. The Fonville Winans Cookbook features over 100 recipes created by the world-famous photographer, often accompanied by his notes on his cooking trials as well as his comments on successful dishes.
After Fonville’s death in 1992, his daughter-in-law Melinda discovered journals full of original recipes, many extensively annotated over the years with his remarks on how to prepare dishes that would live up to his demanding standards. This bon vivant’s love of spicy, roux-based dishes is evident in a dizzying array of recipes for Cajun gumbos, bisques, rice dishes, and other Louisiana staples. The state’s celebrated seafood features in the recipes as well, with crabs and crawfish as central ingredients of many dishes, including his iconic Pintail Crab Stew, named for the boat in which he explored the coasts of Grand Isle in the 1930s. Fonville also investigated food trends popular in the 1950s and 1960s, developing his own recipes for unusual dishes such as Jook, Azafrán Rice, and Coquina Stew. His appreciation for Mexican food resulted in recipes for margaritas, mole, and, of course, hot tamales, which he made by hand.
Along with a biography of Fonville culled from the memories of family members and friends, The Fonville Winans Cookbook presents dozens of his photographs, including many images never before published. It offers a new perspective on a man celebrated for capturing the spirit of Louisiana, pairing beautiful photography with easy-to-prepare, satisfying recipes steeped in the state’s culture and cuisine.
Cynthia LeJeune Nobles, series editor for The Southern Table from LSU Press, is the author of A Confederacy of Dunces Cookbook: Recipes from Ignatius J. Reilly’s New Orleans and The Delta Queen Cookbook: The History and Recipes of the Legendary Steamboat.
Melina Risch Winans, daughter-in-law of the late Fonville Winans, is a retired teacher who lives in Baton Rouge.