I’d always heard about Sherwood Anderson, but never read anything he’d written until I devised this crazy plan to read 52 American writers, one a week for a year. I ended up reading Anderson’s entire collection of stories, Winesburg, Ohio.
Anderson (1876-1941) created this fictional Ohio town and with it inspired other writers to create their own small towns – like William Faulkner and Yoknapatawtha. Anderson left Ohio for the big city lights of Chicago and New Orleans, but it was his novel about Ohio that had made him famous.
The town of Clyde, Ohio, where Anderson grew up, proudly admits to being his inspiration
for Winesburg. But, that wasn’t the case when the book came out in 1919. Residents called it a “dirty book” and the town librarian burned it. Only in recent years, after the book was ranked #24 on the Modern Library List of 100 Best Novels, did the citizens of Clyde decide to honor Anderson — and cash-in at the same time. Today Clyde lures tourists with literary town maps and museum exhibits celebrating Anderson. They even celebrate his birthday every September 13 (that’s my birthday, too).
When Anderson lived in New Orleans in the Roaring Twenties, he opened his home to aspiring writers. John Dos Passos, Carl Sandburg and Gertrude Stein came to the city because of Anderson. For a while, a young William Faulkner lived at the Anderson’s home. But there’s no mention of Anderson’s culinary tastes in that gumbo town — not even a favorite restaurant, though he liked noisy restaurants, including one in Paris frequented by fishermen.
According to his grandson Michael Spears, Anderson liked to talk more than eat. Once when his grandfather visited their North Carolina home, the writer piled his plate high with mashed potatoes, gravy, greens, peas, pork chops and biscuits. He then became more interested in telling stories than eating. Maybe that’s what happened on the cruise when he swallowed a whole toothpick that eventually killed him.
Along with being the birthplace of Sherwood Anderson, 24 astronauts, and seven U.S. presidents , Ohio prides itself on pork sausage. So for Sherwood Anderson, I offer Ohio Proud Chicken and Sausage Gumbo, a taste of New Orleans flavored with Bob Evans’ Ohio Hot Zesty Sausage – yes, the same Bob Evans of Midwest restaurant fame.