In 2002, Elsa Hahne, a Swedish photojournalist who had been studying in New York City, planned a quick trip to New Orleans before returning to Europe. She's still in New Orleans, where she met her husband-to-be on the first night there -- and fell in love with the city and its cuisine.

Her affection for the unique culture and food of the Crescent City is apparent in "You Are Where You Eat" (University Press of Mississippi), a fascinating look at the people and recipes of New Orleans' neighborhoods.

Hahne conducted 100 interviews while working for Offbeat, a music magazine, and sharing the care of their two little girls with her musician husband.

The interviews and photos in the book, taken by Hahne, were started before Hurricane Katrina hit and continued afterward. For the most part, cooks use their own words to talk about their cooking, often speaking of the grandmothers and other relatives who taught them how to cook.

Hahne, who was born in Uppsala and grew up in the seaside village of Sundom in northern Sweden, still marvels at the contrasts between life in Sweden and in Louisiana.

"In Sweden, we'd have one chicken and it would be divided into four. In New Orleans, that would be an insult. Many of these people cook in great quantities for their families and friends; they are kind of community cooks.

"They would think serving just one chicken says, 'I don't have any friends, I don't want any friends, and I'm hoping to die alone.'"

The bounty and availability of ingredients also fascinated Hahne. "I grew up near the Arctic Circle, where it can be 30 below zero in the winter, and the short season for strawberries is from late June to mid-July, so it was amazing to me that you can buy strawberries here at farmers markets in the middle of December."

Cooks featured in the book are from many different ethnic groups -- including Chinese, Indian and German as well as Creole and African-American. Many of the recipes call for seafood, which can be pricey here but until the oil spill was more readily and cheaply available in New Orleans.

"Although it is changing a bit, it is very common that people here know someone who goes out to fish," said Hahne.