BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - I hit the parking lot of the Citiplace Barnes and Noble book store and was stunned to see the parking lot packed on a Wednesday night. But one look at the front porch and you could tell why. There was a big green John Deere tractor with bales of hay artfully strewn about.
A young Baton Rouge couple had stopped at the display. The dad, David Hernandez, held the camera while their baby Angela was posing with her mom, Melissa Yarborough.
Inside, it was a little like a bee-hive. Everyone was buzzing with excitement. I climbed the dead escalator to get a birds-eye view of the crowd and so an enormous line waiting for John Folse's signature. The line went all the way across the store, but snaked left, disappearing. I went back downstairs and chased the end of the line.
"Where is the caboose?" I asked people in line. The column of people waiting turned and headed toward a back wall, then ran along the wall out of sight of the rest of the line. At the very end, I found Randalph Arabie, wearing a big smile.
"How many are in front of you?" I ask.
"There are 250 in front of me," he joked. We laugh, and I ask, "How many are you buying?"
"Five", he says. "My two sons, my mother in law, and I don't know about the others yet."
"I'm not the caboose in life. I'm the oldest sibling in my family, and I own my own business, I own Arabie's Tire and Car Care."
Starting back toward the front of the line, I find two little boys, chomping on candy and trying to stand still. Their parents and grandparents are in line with them.
Grandmother Pat Graves of Hammond explains that little Sam and his big brother Ben Kofoed are actually in the cookbook.
She says she was reading the newspaper and saw an article that Chef Folse was going to be doing a new cookbook. She jotted down the information.
"He was looking for pictures of your parents, or grandparents with their gardens. If you had a good picture of your garden and people in it, and I said, I'm gonna get a picture of the kids."
The boys came over to their grandparents garden and picked squash and cucumbers. Chef Folse chose one of the pics.
"We are so excited."
I'm there as they gather round a new copy of the book and check the index for the page where the picture will be. As they turn to it, both boys peer over the book, and everyone's face lights up. It was an adorable moment.
I move closer to Chef Folse and the front of the line, I nearly crash into Denise Calcagno, a Barnes and Noble employee who is frantically trying to keep the table of books offered for purchase and autographing stocked.
Folse is in his chef's coat from Restaurant R'evolution in New Orleans, and Seafood R'evolution, Ridgeland, Miss. He's wearing the same straw fedora hat he has in the cookbook's cover photo. People are approaching him with stacks of the same book, asking him to sign one for Aunt Liz, another for "my boss", or "Actually it's for me."
I ask, 'Is your hand starting to hurt?"
"I get writer's cramps," Folse says joyfully. "But I got the whole month of December to do this and so I can't slow down now."
"How many did you print?" I asked.
"Well I only did 10,000 called the First Edition, the Gold Edition."
He runs his finger along the metallic gold stripe that is on the spine of the book he's holding. "Because it's that first edition is a collector's edition. Then we go back and print a hundred thousand in January."
I said, "So if you want it for Christmas, you've gotta get it now."
"Oh yeh, you gotta get it now," he says and turns once again to personalizing every single autograph.
The book is called "Can You Dig It": Louisiana's Authoritative Collection of Vegetable Cookery. And yes, it's as big as several of his prior books. Michaela York shares authorship of this book. York has worked at Folse's side for years.
I ask Michaela how long it took to write this book.
"Well it took us five years. We had a lot of starts and stops and starts. Because in the process we also opened two restaurants , had numerous events, fundraisers for Nicholls State University that we participated in, so it was a little more of a challenge. It took a little longer" than other Folse cookbooks.
His book signings stretch into December.
- Friday, December 4, Barnes &Noble at Crossroads Shopping Center in Gulfport. 4 - 5:30 p.m.
- Saturday, December 5, Barnes &Noble, 1000 Highland Colony Parkway, Ridgeland, MS. 11 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
- Sunday, December 6, Barnes &Noble at Bayou Walk Shopping Center Shreveport 12:30 - 2:00 p.m.
- Also Sunday, December 6, Barnes &Noble 5705 Johnston Street in Lafayette 5 - 6:00 p.m.
- Friday, December 11 Octavia Books, New Orleans 12 - 1:30 p.m.
- Also Friday, December 11 Barnes &Noble Westbank in Harvey 5 - 6:30 p.m.
- Saturday, December 12 Barnes &Noble Mandeville 11 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
- Also Saturday, December 12, Barnes &Noble Metairie 2:30 - 4 p.m.
- Back in Baton Rouge Friday, December 18 Barnes &Noble Citiplace 5 - 6:30 p.m.
And this is just for starters!