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Christopher Blake

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Christopher Blake's first experience with cooking was watching his mother bring a big pot of water to boil. There was nothing in it. She did it so that the nosey neighbors would think they had something to eat during the Great Depression. It gave him creative ideas as to how to feed himself. He did not know which knife or fork to use until he was fifteen, but then he took it in with a vengeance. After that he set his table with enough instruments for any surgeon to do his work. The boiling water episode took place at a very tender age in New York. From then on his education, experiences and everything else were all over the place. New Orleans has always been considered home.

His first cooking lesson involving real food, if you can call it that, was with Alice B. Toklas in Paris, France. She taught him how to make mayonnaise with hazelnut oil. For years it was the only oil he would use. Alice never fed him marijuana cookies nor hashish fudge, but she did stuff a hungry young GI with meat and potatoes and apple pie. Poor Gertrude Stein was dying of stomach cancer and could only eat gruel . She got so much pleasure from Blake's regular dinner visits, because then Alice would eat as well. He was able to supply Gertrude with toilet paper, which they called holy paper, from the PX.

Back in New Orleans after the years in Paris (where he remained after his Army service) and all of the gourmet dining with elegant and wealthy friends, he wanted to entertain. He knew that he could not afford to take friends and visitors to restaurants, so he decided that he could do what he had experienced in Paris. His roommate at the time and he had a charming 18th century house in Faubourg Marigy in New Orleans. It was there where he began to entertain friends.

He began to be recognized for his dinners and parties. One day he received a phone call asking if he would entertain Craig Claiborne for lunch. Blake asked who Claiborne was. He was told that Claiborne was food editor of the New York Times. Blake replied that he read only the drama and literary sections of the Times. He did entertain Craig for lunch. Claiborne was so impressed that he photographed Blake and wrote about him in the Times. He did not try to out French the French with him nor to impress him with extreme gourmet dishes. Instead, Blake gave Claiborne a simple red beans soup, trout that was so fresh it was still jumping, a simple salad and his own version of rum pie. All was washed down with a California wine, which cost l#1.49 a gallon at a wine merchant in the Pontalba Building. Years later, Blake teased Claiborne and accused him of starting Blake on his gourmet road to crime. Meaning, this spotlight eventually led to a restaurant (opened with Roc Johnson) called CHRISTOPHER BLAKE’S in the central business district of New Orleans and the honor paid to him by the then Mayor of New Orleans, Ernest "Dutch" Morial. Morial pronounced him Gourmet Laureate of New Orleans.

Blake considered himself a playwright and novelist, but some smart publisher in New York, instead of publishing one of his great novels..insisted that he write a cook book. The result was Easy Elegance which seems to work for many people as each recipe is created and worded by this cook, not a chef. Along these same lines General Walter McIlhenny asked Blake to work with him on a small cookbook - recipes for the boys in Viet Nam and how to make gourmet food from their C Rations. Fox Hole Dinners for Two was a great success. One year, the President of the National Press Club was a gentleman from New Orleans, Vernon Louviere. His innaugrauation was very important, as the position is very powerful. The great Congresswoman, Lindy Boggs, thought it would be a great idea if Christopher Blake created and prepared, with lots of help in the kitchen, the New Orleans dinner. He did, and it was a great evening. David Frost was emcee and Louis Armstrong entertained on the horn, as well as Diahann Carrol vocalizing. Louis Armstrong lamented to him that he could not eat his beloved red beans and rice because of medication. The result was another little cookbooklet called Red Beans and Rice-ly Yours. It is still in print (published by the Southern Food and Beverage Museum).

Having paid the price for indulging in too much booze and wine, for the past twelve years Blake has been preparing all these so- called gourmet meals for the residents of a Recovery House for alcoholics and addicts. Those great, so-called gourmet meals, are just as successful without alcohol. The happy faces and appreciation from men and women of all backgrounds is well worth whatever it takes to prepare meals for other people. He never tastes anything he prepares, he never eats while he cooks (of course he stopped sipping wines while cooking). He hates and never eats a meal by himself, either at home or in a restaurant. A good meal is only complete when sharing it with others.

Christopher Stanislaus Blake passed away in the Long Beach, CA VA Hospital 3/25/14 at approximately 2 am PST. He was 93.

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