Teaser Recipes, Ch. 2, Presbytere &Church

As I’ve said before, the Tricentennial is upon us. But there are just 2 or 3 chapters that remain to be completed. Rather that wait around for the print version, I have decided to pre-publish the entire book here online within this blog. Chapter 2 (sans recipes) and the Christmas chapter may already be found here, but moving forward I will pre-publish all the chapters as I clean them up into final drafts (I use the word “final” very loosely). The included recipes will make their way into the chapters as the year goes by. Hope you enjoy the history AND the food!

Pain Perdue: 

A staple in any South Louisiana kitchen, translates as Lost Bread, and is a popular way to use up stale bread as opposed to making bread crumbs or feeding the birds outside; sometimes also called French Toast.

At its most basic, (1) heat up some oil in a frying pan, (2) make an egg and milk wash, (3) soak the stale bread in the wash, (4) fry it brown in the pan, (5) add some sugar, or cinnamon , or what have you, (6) eat it up with some coffee.

Ahhh! But as with most classic recipes, these simple steps offer a wide range of variations.  

Step One: What kind of oil? Frere Gerard would have used bear oil, olive oil, bacon grease, or butter. Each one would infuse a distinct flavor upon your breakfast toast. In our tricentennial kitchens, the plethora of cooking oils available in our markets gives the cook a vast repertoire of flavors to experiment with.

Step Two: Beat an egg into some milk (we won’t get into what kind of egg or which animal’s milk). Gerard may have added some vanilla bean, nutmeg, allspice, or cloves into the wash. Today, your choices are measured beyond number.

Step Three: The same sentiment holds true for the bread choice. In New Orleans today, it is usually stale po-boy bread. But again go with your imagination.

Step Four: Sugar (powdered or table) and cinnamon are almost de rigeur. But think pancakes or waffles (like at IHOP), knock your lights out.

Step Five: No choice or variation allowed here. Just Eat.

Crab Cakes

4 or 5 Red Potatoes, boiled & mashed
½ small onion
½ red bell pepper
2-4 cloves garlic
Oil. Egg, lemon juice, thyme, parsley, cayenne
½  lb. picked crab meat
Bread crumbs

Boil and mash 5 large red potatoes. Chop the veggies as fine as possible (modern, pass them through a food chopper).

Next prepare a proto-recipe for the blending medium, i.e. the mayo*. Blend together (vigorously beat together) a large egg yolk, ½ cup olive oil,1 tsp. each of vinegar and/or lemon juice, the thyme, parsley, and cayenne to taste. When you have a nice firm mayo-like sauce, add the crabmeat to the mashed potatoes, blend in the “mayo”. Form into 8 or 10 cakes, correcting the texture with added bread crumbs. Coat the cakes with a layer of crumbs. If you have time, chill the cakes for a few hours. Bake the cakes at 370˚ for a half hour, then fry them in a heavy pan, oiled ¼ inch deep for 2 minutes on each side. Alternately, you can fry the cakes directly in ½ inch of oil, five minutes in each side. 

* Gerard would not have had access to the sauce we call mayonnaise, as it wasn’t invented until the late 1700’s. However, egg and oil emulsions had been around sine Classical times. For a brief history and fuller discussion of mayo see chapter 14 Everyday Cooking in Creole New Orleans.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Coming soon as they are tested:

Sagamite Stuffed Cabbage*  with Black Eye Peas (for a New Orleans New Year’s)

Corn flour, Onions or shallots, Green peppers, Parsley. Chopped or Ground Pork. Cabbage leaves, Black Eye Peas

* makes great stuffing for mushrooms, tomatoes, or bell peppers as well.

Bacon Wrapped Cabbage Rolls – nuts, bread, carrots, onions

Pies: Fruit and Nut

Turnip and Rabbit Pie

 

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Filed under Creole Cooking, NEW ORLEANS TRI-CENTENNIAL 1718 TO 2018, Recipes

The Lakes of Pontchartrain; What a Great title !!!!

Since a title cannot be copyrighted, I feel no compunction in commandeering Mr. Robert W. Hastings’ entitlement of his excellent 2009 examination of the history, geography, topology, and biology of our Pontchartrain Basin. And seeing that the Bonnet Carre’ spillway was opened this past week, it seems like an opportune time to reflect on how the lakes influenced the development of Greater New Orleans and SE Louisiana 300 years ago. It is commonly accepted that New Orleans is where it is because of the Bayou St. Portage from the Vieux Carre to Lake Pontchartrain.

Before exploring the Pontchartrain/New Orleans relationship, an editorial opinion needs to be stated regarding the Native American name of the big lake, “Okwa’ta” . I cannot help here but to recall a reservoir one passes as I-40 crosses the Arkansas/Oklahoma border out of Fort Smith. The highway signs along the Interstate inform the traveller that this relatively large body of water (apparently a natural outflow of the Arkansas River) was known to the Native Americans as – Lotsawa’ta. C’mon folks, the Indian name for a big lake is lotsa water – give me a break! and now the Choctaws are telling us that Lake Pontchartrain is OK water. This blogger would very much appreciate any Choctaw speakers in the audience to give us European-Americans a clarification of this situation. Personally, I can accept a reasonable linguistic coincidence, wa’ta = water. But lotsa and OK give me pause to think that our Choctaw friends might just be pulling our legs a bit.

Now back to some history. While there “ is no clear evidence that any Europeans entered Lake Ponchartrain prior to Iberville (1699)…” p. 25 Spanish explorers of the northern Gulf Coast of the 1500s and 1600s knew of some kind of waterways in the region around the “lakes”. The Cortes map of 1520 may have been the first to actually depict the estuary in its approximate location along the coast west of Florida. The map shows two blobs at the mouth of two combined rivers named the Espiritu Santo as it opens into the Gulf. This could easily be the conflation of Mobile Bay, Lake Borgne, and Lake Pontchartrain with the mouths of the Mobile, Pearl, and Mississippi rivers. In later references, the lakes were often called bays (and also included the Chandeleur, Breton and Mississippi Sounds).

“ Even before New Orleans was developed, Lake Ponchartrain, Bayou Manchac, and Bayou St. John had become important waterways for the transport of goods to the French colony at Mobile. The voyageurs were active in the upper Mississippi Valley and would transport to Mobile by way of Lake Ponchartrain pelts, lead, bear’s oil, slaves, smoked meat, wheat, and flour, . . .” p. 37

In 1717 it was “suggested that store houses be built at “Biloxy on the Mississippi”, the future site of New Orleans, to shorten the journey of French Canadian voyageurs traveling down the river from the Illinois country. p.37

“Another idea presented long before its time was that of Darby (1816), who apparently was the first to propose a diversion of the Mississippi River flood water through an artificial channel at “Bonnet Quarre” to reduce the incidence of damaging floods along the lower Mississippi River.” pp. 38-39.

All of this information should remind us about the reasons for the European powers to push these efforts and spend lots of money on colonies. The prevalent economic theory in the 17th and 18th centuries was the Mercantile system. That is, the potentates and governments of the European powers back then wanted to establish colonies for two reasons. Colonies had natural resources and populations that could be exploited to increase a county’s wealth – in other words, to make money. The second reason can remind us of our own colonization efforts in 1990s and first decades of of this century. I am talking here about our colonization of the WWW. A common refrain during the fist dozen years or so of the Web’s existence was we (individuals, companies, and corporations) need a web site – why? – because our competitors have one ! – in other words, to make money. In the case of the emerging nations of the West in the 17th century, political and military power was also a driving force. To the point, Louisiana was founded by the French to exploit North American resources and to “balance the power” of Spain and Britain on the continent. The lakes of Ponchartrain were a vital conduit for the trade from and political/cultural expansion into the Mississippi valley.

Mention must also be made of the three very important connections in south Louisiana between the lakes and the extremely valuable trade highway we call the Mississippi. These bayou/portages formed the links between the easy passage through the lakes and the more problematic passage that the mighty river posed to navigation. First, of course is the Bayou St. John portage – the raison d’etre of our fair city. Water traffic from the Gulf and from upriver could easily be moved (in 18th century terms) to and from the city through the lakes and the bayou to New Orleans. Next upriver is the bayou/portage at Bayou Trepaigner (tre-pan-yay) at what soon became the German Coast and is today the Bonnet Carre. The third passage between the waterways was Bayou Manchac to the Amite river to Lake Maurepas. This outflow dis-tributary of the mighty river was very useful – but only during its annual floods. Constant dredging and tree removal hindered its year round use. Taken together these three passages to the lakes and the Gulf made a perfect trade route for traders and the furs and agricultural produce coming downriver from Upper Louisiana (aka the Illinois country).
Between the river and the lakes was THE natural place to locate the capital and chief port of Louisiana. It’s hard in these days of steam and diesel to visualize the amount the commerce that travelled over the waterways surrounding New Orleans. It was the fastest way to get cargo in and out before the railroads came, so it should come as no surprise. So next time you’re tooling around the lake in your Lafitte skiff or sailboat, or crabbing and fishing off the seawall, or even crossing the Causeway; the next time you’re at Spanish Fort at the mouth of the bayou, take a walk over to Robt. E. Lee Blvd and check out the Locks of Bayou St. John – say a silent thanks to that Bayougoula scout that showed the brothers LeMoyne where to build their city.

The page references above point to passages in Robert Hastings’ book, The Lakes of Pontchartrain  ISBN-13: 978-1604732719

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Everyday Eating in New Orleans, 300 years ago

Along with the historical matter that usually populates these pages. this tricentennial year will also be spent trying to capture a sense of what life was like for the founding generations. After all, a culinary history is by definition a cultural history. Putting ourselves into New Orleans’ everyday affairs is the goal here. What better way to commemorate our Tricentennial?

In seeking to uncover a cultural everydayness of French colonial Louisiana, we begin by seeking out the routine methods of food consumption. Was breakfast, lunch, & supper the norm in the eighteenth century?

The first reference checked is 200 years after the fact, but The Picayune’s Creole Cookbook proposes in its introduction to speak to the ladies of 1900, “to do as their grandmothers did, acquaint themselves thoroughly with the art of cooking in all its important and minutest details, and learn how to properly apply them.” . . . “To gather up from the lips of the old Creole negro cooks and the grand old housekeepers who still survive, . . . (before) Creole cookery, with all its delightful combinations and possibilities, will have become a lost art . . .”

The grandmothers here probably refer to to the Civil War/Reconstruction generation who did, in fact, still survive into the early 20th Century as well as ancestors of the colonial, American, and ante-bellum generations . This volume’s cultural information, or what we call today “foodways” (which without doubt reflect the ideals of the New Orleans household during the “Gilded Age”) can at least dimly reflect nineteenth and eighteenth century culinary customs, we do see the meal triumvirate of breakfast, luncheon, and supper may have been well established during the post-colonial period.

Examining some European background into the same question yields a slightly different picture. In Europe, prior to the settlement of the Americas, while most people ate whenever they could, meals prepared in kitchens tended to be two time a day. There was ‘dinner’, the main meal of the day, taken in the middle of the day (anytime between 11 am and 2 or 3 pm), ‘supper’ which tended to generally be a light meal, was eaten at 5 or 6 pm. More often than not supper was leftovers from the earlier midday dinner. Breakfast, as a meal, did not become institutionalized until the mid-1800’s. Prior to that, it was usually some porridge, or fruit, or bread, and something to drink. Breakfast was also usually eaten between the morning chores. Another point to consider is that mealtimes are culturally based. That is, eating (or indeed timekeeping itself) in an agricultural society (pre-1900) is a lot different than eating in an post-1900 urban culture. Meals certainly varied according to the relative wealth of the household as well as he time of sunrise and sunsets from season to season. The best we can say is that two meals a day was a general norm, with the main midday meal being the largest calorie intake of the day.

{Background for the above: The Rule of St. Benedict,
http://www.foodtimeline.org/foodcolonial.html#colonialmealtimes,
Massialot, etc.)

What and how does Suzanne cook on a daily basis for the Marigny family?

Early morning – “petit dejeuner” hot bread, coffee, milk, cream cheese, cornbread
Midday meal – “dejeuner”
Evening meal – “souper”

Having said all of that, what could life had been like in Tante Suzanne’s kitchen at the Marigny household?

One morning Suzanne found some mushrooms in the garden, wondering about what to cook for tonight’s dinner, she searched around her larder. Finding some items, she decided that a chicken dish was be perfect after the recent spell of bad weather. Not really thinking much about it, Suzanne set about preparing the meal in what would become a hallmark of future interpretations of the Creole cuisine she was helping to create – that is originating a world class cuisine simply from what she had on hand around the kitchen. Of course, such high-minded culinary philosophy would never have entered her mind; at least, not this morning.

The first task at hand was to kill, clean, dress, and cut up a chicken from the yard. She left the bloody work to one of the kitchen helpers. She knew first hand how to do it, but one of the benefits of being the Marigny’s chef de cuisine was being able to leave the dirty work to others. While some may consider tonight’s meal to be fancy eating, it was to this Creole family simply a well cooked weekday’s ‘dejeuner’, or perhaps ‘souper’.

She began by slowing frying, rendering perhaps is a better word, the chicken pieces in some bacon fat to get a good base for the dish. Next, she prepared a simple white sauce, en Francais, un bechamel. This classic and simple sauce is prepared with four spoons of butter, four spoons of fine wheat flour, two and a half cups of milk (heated), salt and pepper, and some thyme leaves.

Suzanne would begin by melting the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Then stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the paste cooks and bubbles a bit, but not letting it brown — about 2 minutes. Adding the hot milk, and continuing to stir as the sauce thickens until it comes to a boil. She adds the thyme, then salt and pepper, lowers the heat, and cooks, stirring for 2 to 3 minutes more. Finally she removes it from the heat and sets it aside.

Now after the chicken had rendered out a fair amount of grease, she sliced a dozen or so mushrooms and a handful of chopped parsley, then added this to the hot grease and sauté for a few minutes. Then put the chicken back into the pan, add salt and pepper, and cover each chicken piece with some of the bechamel sauce. Cover the pan, put it on a low fire and cook for about an hour. When the time is passed, remove the chicken pieces from the pan, add the rest of the sauce (perhaps thin it a bit with some stock or water). Mix the sauce well, return the chicken to the pan, cover again and cook for another 45 minutes to an hour. Serve over rice, or just by itself with some hot bread.

 

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Filed under 18th Century, Creole Cooking, NEW ORLEANS TRI-CENTENNIAL 1718 TO 2018, Non-Fiction, Recipes

The Tricentennial is upon us !

ANNOUNCEMENT!! Sunday, March 4, 2018:
I am proposing a walk along the Lafitte Greenway from the bayou at City Park (across from Beauregard Circle) as far as our feet can carry us towards the original city.

It was on this date in 1699, that two French Canadien brothers were shown a portage from the Mississippi to a small bayou that led to a lake that led to the estuary that would bring them back to the Gulf Coast, and to the anchorage of their ships at what is now Biloxi. Of course, the still unidentified Bayougoula Native was showing the LeMoyne brothers, Pierre (d’Iberville) and Jean Baptiste (de Beinville) the connection between the great river and Bayou St.John leading to the lake their soon named after their immediate boss, Compte de Pontchartrain. To celebrate this first “finding” of the spot that would 19 years later become New Orleans,

Everyday Life in New Orleans, 300 years ago

Along with the historical matter that usually populates these pages. this tricentennial year will also be spent trying to capture a sense of what life was like for the founding generations. After all, a culinary history is by definition a cultural history. Putting ourselves into New Orleans’ everyday affairs is the goal here. What better way to commemorate our Tricentennial?

In seeking to uncover a cultural everydayness of French colonial Louisiana, we begin by seeking out the routine methods of food consumption. Was breakfast, lunch, & supper the norm in the eighteenth century?

The first reference checked is 200 years after the fact, but The Picayune’s Creole Cookbook proposes in its introduction to speak to the ladies of 1900,
“to do as their grandmothers did, acquaint themselves thoroughly with the art of cooking in all its important and minutest details, and learn how to properly apply them.” . . . “To gather up from the lips of the old Creole negro cooks and the grand old housekeepers who still survive, . . . (before) Creole cookery, with all its delightful combinations and possibilities, will have become a lost art . . .”

The grandmothers here probably refer to the ancestors of colonial, American, and ante-bellum generations as well as to the Civil War/Reconstruction generation who did, in fact, still survive into the early 20th Century. This volume’s cultural information, or what we call today “foodways” (which without doubt reflect the ideals of the New Orleans household during the “Gilded Age”) can at least dimly reflect nineteenth and eighteenth century culinary customs, we do see the meal triumvirate of breakfast, luncheon, and supper is well established during the post-colonial period.

Examining some European background into the same question yields a slightly different picture. In Europe, prior to the settlement of the Americas, while most people ate whenever they could, meals prepared in kitchens tended to be two time a day. There was ‘dinner’, the main meal of the day, taken in the middle of the day (anytime between 11 am and 2 or 3 pm), ‘supper’ which tended to generally be a light meal, was eaten at 5 or 6 pm. More often than not supper was leftovers from the earlier midday dinner. Breakfast, as a meal, did not become institutionalized until the mid-1800’s. Prior to that, it was usually some porridge, or bread, and something to drink. Breakfast was also usually eaten between the morning chores. Another point to consider is that mealtimes are culturally based. That is, eating (or indeed timekeeping itself) in an agricultural society (pre-1900) is a lot different than eating in an post-1900 urban culture. Meals, obviously, also varied according to the relative wealth of the household. The time of sunrise and sunset also varies from season to season. The best we can say is that two meals a day was a general norm, with the main midday meal being the largest calorie intake of the day.

{Background: The Rule of St. Benedict,
http://www.foodtimeline.org/foodcolonial.html#colonialmealtimes,
Massialot, etc.)

Having said all of that, what was life like in Tante Suzanne’s kitchen at the Marigny household?

Having found some mushrooms in the garden, Suzanne was wondering about what to cook for tonight’s dinner. She searched around her larder, found some items and decided that a chicken dish was be perfect after the recent spell of bad weather. Not really thinking much about it, Suzanne set about preparing the meal in what would become a hallmark of future interpretations of the Creole cuisine she was helping to create without realizing what a foundation she was laying for future generations – that is originating a world class cuisine simply from what she had on hand around the kitchen.

The first task at hand was to kill, clean, dress, and cut up a chicken from the yard. She left the bloody work to one of the kitchen helpers. She knew first hand how to do it, but one of the benefits of being the Marigny’s chef de cuisine was being able to leave the dirty work to others. While some may consider tonight’s meal to be fancy eating, it was to this Creole family simply a well cooked weeknight’s supper.

She began by slowing frying, rendering perhaps is a better word, the chicken pieces in some bacon fat to get a good base for the dish. Next, she prepared a simple white sauce, en Francais, un bechamel. This classic and simple sauce is prepared with four spoons of butter, four spoons of fine wheat flour, two and a half cups of milk (heated), salt and pepper, and some thyme leaves.

Suzanne would begin by melting the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Then stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the paste cooks and bubbles a bit, but not letting it brown — about 2 minutes. Adding the hot milk, and continuing to stir as the sauce thickens until it comes to a boil. She adds the thyme, then salt and pepper, lowers the heat, and cooks, stirring for 2 to 3 minutes more. Finally she removes it from the heat and sets it aside.

Now after the chicken had rendered out a fair amount of grease, she sliced a dozen or so mushrooms and a handful of chopped parsley, then added this to the hot grease and sauté for a few minutes. Then put the chicken back into the pan, add salt and pepper, and cover each chicken piece with some of the bechamel sauce. Cover the pan, put it on a low fire and cook for about an hour. When the time is passed, remove the chicken pieces from the pan, add the rest of the sauce (perhaps thin it a bit with some stock or water). Mix the sauce well, return the chicken to the pan, cover again and cook for another 45 minutes to an hour. Serve over rice, or just by itself with some hot bread.

This recipe and others will be found in an upcoming chapter of vol. II of The Petticoat Rebellion.

Chapter ??? Everyday Bourgeois Food in New Orleans

What does Suzanne cook on a daily basis for the Marigny family?

Eggs, Bread, Cornmeal (sagamite), rice, beans, sausage, pork, seafood, poultry, ?lambs, sheep?, ham, soups, gumbos, stews, sauces,
Salads, fresh vegetables,
Pies, cakes, calas, puddings, ?sweetmeats?

The above list is a tentative number of reseatch goals, and may or may not make the final cut into the published chapter.

Don’t forget about the portage walk on March 4! Please RSVP if you can make it!!!! webmaster@tssi-no.com

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Presbytere & Church: A View from the Kitchen

A Tricentennial Xmas Gift. Prepublication of Vol.2, Chapter 2

HISTOIRE:

Frere Gerard sat on an old stool at the kitchen door looking out upon the potager. The Presbytere and the Church had come a long way since those early days eight or nine years ago, he thought, when it was a problem to get a couple of eggs to fry up for the brothers’ dinner. His kitchen was finally in place, the central hearth with its brick ovens, iron fixtures, black pots and pans, cranes, trivets, and fire dogs was always burning—except during the wee hours of night. The pantry was stocked with flours, seasonings, and grains. Just outside, a few yards from the kitchen door, the smokehouse was hung with sausage, hams, game, and fowl from farm and field. Just beyond—taking up the square between the Presbytere and the Rue Royale—was his pride and joy, the potager, bursting with herbs, vegetables, fruit bushes, and even some small trees.
‘Yes,’ he reflected, ‘New Orleans has certainly taken on the character of its place as a colonial capital.’ Tonight, he decided, after the hustle and bustle of after-dinner clean up, he would sing a Te Deum in thanksgiving for his fortune in landing in this wonderful country. One thought led to another, and soon Gerard was reflecting on the essential truth that Louisiana was indeed a New World. But he wasn’t thinking in terms the new and exciting adventures to be found in exploring new lands, immense mountains, mighty rivers, and the vast open spaces peopled with colorful and sometimes dangerous inhabitants. Gerard’s whole experience as a lay brother in service to his God and brothers of his cloister had shown him a much tamer version of life in the New World. His everyday affairs of tending to the potager, the marketing, and his kitchen had changed over the years as the needs of his fellow priests, brothers, and missionaries were met with the new and sometimes very different foods and conditions of supply. At home in his quiet monastery in Charleville, those problems had been met, solved and developed into a routine sanctioned by literally centuries of now hidebound methods and rules. When Gerard was a young monk training in his northern French convent, the everyday fare of the monks consisted of Porridge, Soup, Vegetables, Bread, and on very special occasions some Fish or Poultry. Here in the New World, the porridge had become grits, the soup was often as not gumbo, and while the vegetables were pretty much the same, Gerard’s bread could have been made from maize flour, rice flour, occasional wheat flour or some combination of the three. Gerard’s New World poultry was also basically the same as what he had learned to cook in the Champaignois – chicken, duck, and/or geese. Here in the colony, he added the ubiquitous turkey, as well as numerous game birds and pigeons. And as to the fish ! That perhaps will require a separate accounting. Regardless of these newfound riches of land and water with which to feed his company, Gerard was able to, by and large, stick to St. Benedict’s dietary rules. As can be seen, the rule leaves lots of elbow room to deal with local conditions. Gerard’s guidelines would have been excerpted from:

Benedict’s Rules for Monasteries: Chapter 39: On the Measure of Food

. . . that every table have two cooked dishes . . . and if any fruit or fresh vegetables are available, let a third dish be added.

. . . Let a good pound weight of bread suffice for the day,
whether there be only one meal or both dinner and supper.
If they are to have supper, the cellarer shall reserve a third of that pound,
to be given them at supper. . . .

. . . Except the sick who are very weak, let all abstain entirely
from eating the flesh of four-footed animals.

And Chapter 40: On the Measure of Drink

“Everyone has her own gift from God,
one in this way and another in that” (1 Cor. 7:7).
It is therefore with some misgiving
that we regulate the measure of others’ sustenance.
Nevertheless, keeping in view the needs of the weak,
we believe that a hemina (@ 10 oz.) of wine a day is sufficient for each.
But those to whom God gives the strength to abstain
should know that they will receive a special reward.

Gerard thought back to the problems of those early days especially providing bread and wine for the Liturgies. This, of course, would have been the primary consideration for any kitchen establishment of Catholic clergy, whether in monastery, mission, or parish. Since the beginnings of the monastic movement in mediaeval Europe, the first job at hand would be the production or procurement of bread and wine for the liturgies of the individual or group. Throughout the Middle Ages, as monasteries and convents moved into new territories, the planting of wheat and grapes would have been first on the agenda. It would be no different in the New World. In Louisiana, prior to the first productions of the field, bread and wine would have been supplies by the local trading/supply networks. In New Orleans, wine and flour came to the colony with the brothers, more were supplied by the supply ships from France, and then local production would have taken over as the seasons progressed.

Recipes: The physical POD book upon publication will contain several more recipes.

Chicken De Balize: With a Caribbean kick (The Balize was the French colonial term for the mouth of the river, there was a port facility there where ships of all nations could unload cargo to barges and pirogues for shipment upriver to New Orleans, not all of it sanctioned by the authorities. It’s location and trade practices also made it more part of the Caribbean than the Gulf Coast colony.

Small onion or half a large
Half a green pepper
Stalk of celery
5 toes of garlic
Third of a bunch of parsley
One jalapeño or to taste

2 tsp. Allspice, 1 tsp. ginger, 1/4 tsp. cayenne, salt (increase or decrease these spices to taste)

Corn flour/or meal

2 large chicken breasts, 3 leg quarters

1 large sweet potato, sliced
in circles (like chips) or sticks (your choice)

Chop the veggies into a traditional Louisiana mirepoix. Make a rub with some cornmeal and the spices. In the bottom half of a broiler pan (the kind that used to come with new stoves – maybe still do???) sauté the mirepoix for about 10 minutes, add some chicken stock, if it dries out too much.

Rub the chicken pieces with the spiced cornmeal. Place some sliced sweet potatoes in the bottom of the pan. Grease the top sheet of the pan, arrange the chicken on the top with the remaining potato slices. Bake at 350 for 2 hours.

History: The Capuchin parish of St. Louis, King of France 1720-1763.

Any discussion of colonial Louisiana usually includes several mentions of the Jesuits as the religious leaders of the enterprise. This is another popular misconception about colonial Louisiana. After all, the Jesuits are still here, in New Orleans, in some force. One only has to think of Loyola University (N.O.), the “Jesuit” church on downtown Baronne St., the corner of Banks and Carrollton. However, during the 1700’s the Jesuits were in and out of favor in France – even expelled for a while. During the French Revolution, all clergy were personae non grata. Upon the founding of New Orleans, it was the Capuchin monastic order* that was tapped to provide the religious leadership for the new capital**. The Capuchin order, under their third (really the first, as the first two were VERY temporary) pastor, Father Raphael, were the ones who actually built the church of St. Louis on the square, as well as the first Presbytere on the corner of Chartres and St. Ann. Both were destroyed by the fires of 1788 and 1794. They were rebuilt still under the aupices of the Capuchins. The famous Pere Antoine (namesake of the alley between today’s Presbytere and Cathedral) was a Capuchin pastor.***

As tro their life in the new colony, more insight may be gained from an original account, the journal of a minor company employee stationed in New Orleans during the late 1720’s. the journal of Marc-Antoine Caillot provides a brief vision of the Capuchin parish activities including an interesting comment on the morals and life of the priests and brothers of that first Presbytere. (See A Company Man, p.8)

“I forgot to say that there is also a monastery of Capuchins. there are three priests residing there, of which the warden is the vicar general of Quebec. . . . Their building is quite beautiful but too small for a monastery. Their garden is large and well cared for.”

( Here follow a few lines praising Father Raphael, the warden (leader) of the mission).

But, Caillot continues, “It is not the same same with the other priests, who secretly lead very excessive lives, of which it not necessary to make an account.
{Caillot then proceeds to make an account !}
Here in New Orleans they each wear shirts with lacy cuffs, silk stockings, and slippers, and carry money, a snuffbox, a watch, and a parasol.”

Caillot makes no mention of the foodways of the monastery, with the possible exception of his mention of the garden. But, as has been discussed by Symons⚜︎, cooks and kitchens (usually the domain of the servant class) are rarely spoken of in the writings of the bourgeois and/or the official classes. Frere Gerard, the [fictional] cook and gardener at the New Orleans Presbytere, is a lay brother – not quite a servant – but not quite a monk either. Can we also infer from the “excessive lives” of the priests that they ate differently compared to monks in a European cloister? Probably so, as official food supplies were few and far between, early New Orleans’ cooks and household chefs made due with what they had, or could produce in their gardens and backyard pens, or could find in the local markets.

The first Capuchin monks sent to Louisiana were from Champagne. Our fictional cook, Gerard, and his brothers were first drawn from the Charleville monastery in Champagne. Whoever the real monastery cook was, it was his task to blend the old world culinary traditions with New World circumstances (hunger, then plenty, then hunger again, sporadic food supply chains). By 1700 in Europe (France, Champagne, Charleville), a monastery would have been producing it’s own food for centuries. Mostly grains, vegetables, and fruits along with a very limited amount of meat (poultry and fish). Most in this locale (the province of Champagne) would have certainly produced it’s own wine as well. If a monastery did not have it’s own mill, there was certainly one nearby. In Louisiana, there were at first no mills and the the only agriculture was whatever the local Natives were growing, i.e. corn, beans, and squash. There was plenty of wild, native fruits, berries, and nuts. It was the cook’s task to create something from these resources as well as begin the process of establishing the monastery’s own food supply chain. At first, this would have been planting the “kitchen garden” (potager). Beginning in the late 20’s and certainly by 1740 gardens, farms, and mills were producing the food needed by the capital and the surrounding region. Local farms and backyards were also producing pork, poultry, and some occasional beef. Hunters ranging up the Mississippi, into the Ozarks, and the prairies to the west of the river (past Baton Rouge and Pointe Coupee) were supplying game and especially the “wild beef”, that is buffalo. The Illinois Country (Upper Louisiana) was exporting downriver hams, bacon, and wheat flour. We also cannot forget the use of the literally vast seafood resources found in the bayous, rivers, lakes, and Gulf coastal areas. This would have been especially important to the convents at the Presbytere and on Ursulines Street. So, after a very shaky start in the early 20’s, the cooks in the Ile d’Orleans were – by the 30’s and 40’s – able to utilize a growing, varied, and more regular food supply. It must also be recalled that despite the pitiful “official” supplies from France, Louisiana’s economy was largely based (60 – 70%) on the smuggling trade. This contraband consisted mostly of slaves, dry goods & textiles, but also foodstuffs from the Caribbean and New Spain (Pensacola, Mexico, and Texas), were supplied from these sources.

Holding to our theme that Louisianians HAD TO EAT something, the cooks, gardeners, Natives, traders, hunters and fishermen had by the 1730’s began the traditions of not only feeding the population but of feeding them in the stylistic origins of the famous Louisiana cooking of today. Along with native resources, consider the food heritage of the Champagne region from whence the Capuchin “Gerard” would have hailed – Ardennes smoked hams, wild boar, game birds, jugged hare, pig’s feet, blood pudding (boudin), dandelion salad, andouillettes, chicken in champagne, hams in crust, trout, brie cheese (from western Champagne) {see The Food of France, W. Root}. Before closing this discussion of actual food issues, a brief word should be said regarding early cooking methods. Frere Gerard’s iron pots and pans would be at home in any Louisiana kitchen today. Cajun cooking for sure, and Creole as well, is essentially “iron pot” cooking. Stews, gumbos, etoufees, fried fish or chicken, have been traditionally cooked in the iron pot since colonial times, and in the old world, going back centuries to classical times. Even now, in the 21st century, Mama’s iron pots are passed down to the daughters (or sons, as the case may be). If south Louisiana cooks did not inherit their iron pots, they acquired them in most instances as wedding gifts.

* The monkeys were named after the habits and hoods of the Capuchin order, not vice versa.

** There is much more to this story, at one point, French Louisiana was divided into three territories, each with a specific religious order assigned to minister to the inhabitants.
See Baudier, Roger. The Catholic Church in Louisiana. New Orleans: A.W. Hyatt Stationery Mfg. Co. Ltd.,1939.

⚜︎ Symons, Michael. A History of Cooks and Cooking. Champagne, IL: U. Of Illinois Press, 1998,2000.

***More on the activities of the Capuchins and the building of the Church and Presbytere can be found in Volume 1 of The Petticoat Rebellion, Chapter 10.

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300 Years Ago – More or Less: Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose !

This weekend coming, the Saints will take on the Panthers. Put another way, the game will be Louisiana vs. Carolina. And in the light of the Tri-Centennial, this is truly a case of history repeating itself. In one of those bizarre thought-trains prompted by a TV news note on the upcoming game, it occurred to me that the Panthers decided (in a fit of geopolitical correctness) not to claim either North or South Carolina in their namesake. This led to the thought that in colonial times, until 1712, there was only one British colony south of Virginia, the colony of Carolina. Which in turn reminded me that a constant thorn in the side of French colonial Louisiana was the said colony. As we prepare to watch Sunday’s game, let’s look back to that original rivalry between New Orleans and Carolina. Maybe some good conversation during commercials and half-time can be gained.

It’s pretty well known that France wanted a colony at the mouth of the Mississippi in order to, among many other reasons, drive a wedge between the Spanish empire in the west and the looming British empire on the Atlantic seaboard. The “unoccupied” northern Gulf Coast also offered Louis XIV and his ministers a connection between their holdings in New France (aka Canada) and the Caribbean. After 1699, the colony was established and began to grow. The Louisiana government dealt with the Spanish presence in a variety of ways. Their handling of the expansion proclivities of British Carolina was centered in Lower Louisiana (the Arkansas delta down) and was primarily concerned with Native dealings. The “nations” between the lower Mississippi and the Atlantic coast thus became the chief “Indian Affairs” issue for officials in Louisiana and Carolina. Control of the Natives or,at least, friendly trade and military relations with them were the major tools of both French and British colonists. One of the more significant incidents of this rivalry was an uprising staged by Louisiana’s Native allies against trade interests from British Carolina. What has come down in history as the Yamasee War began in April of 1715. It has been called a “serious if temporary blow to English trade and westward expansion . . . against the grasping English traders and the expanding frontier settlements of Carolina” and was launched by a Creek confederacy including the Alibamon group. This in turn prompted the French to establish Fort Toulouse at the Alabamans on the Coosa.* The fort remained in operation until the end of the French & Indian Wars.

For the remainder of the 18th century, tensions remained between the Carolinians and New Orleanians until they were finally resolved by the Seven Year’s or French & Indian Wars ending in the French evacuation of North America in 1763. Throughout those years, most of the Natives along the Mississippi remained French trade partners and allies, while the Natives of the Tennessee Valley and those in the eastern forests between Mobile and the southern end of the Appalachian mountains tended to side with the British Carolinians. Of the “major” tribes, the Choctaw usually sided with Louisiana while the Chickasaw were friends of Carolina. The Creeks pretty much did not like either side. Another item to note was that the Natives were not bashful about playing one side off the other. As a common diplomatic means of treating with the Natives, the European custom of gift giving to the various groups was practiced by both colonies. The Natives were savvy enough to get gifts from both powers and then settle back into day to day relations.

Hopefully, this small Tri-Centennial footnote will add some enjoyment and depth to the friendly New Orleans/Carolina football rivalry, and provide another note of interest to your enjoyment of Sunday’s game. As well as once again justifying that old French saying, Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose ! The more things change, the more they remain the same.

* see Thomas, Daniel H. Fort Toulouse; The French Outpost at the Alabamas on the Coosa. Tuscaloosa: Univ. of Alabama Press, 1989. p.7 ff.

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300 Years Ago – RIGHT NOW

Oh Noooo! It’s already started !! The TriCentennial has begun, and we almost missed it !!!

Wednesday night, Nov. 15, 2017 I watched the reader’s digest version of the History of French colonial experience in Louisiana. Channel 12’s (WYES) “New Orleans: The first 300 years.” How refreshing it was to find out that the last seven years of my life could be covered in 12 minutes of TV air time !!!!! Of course, I realize that covering 300 years in an hour and a half is challenging to say the least. So I cannot begrudge the otherwise fine production of this TV event. It even throws into relief the notion that books like my “Petticoat Rebellion” a culinary history of the French era can only enhance, expand, and increase our enjoyment and commemoration of this monumental anniversary of our “Queen City of the South”.

300 years ago – right now, Autumn of 1717.

October 1st, 1717: The Board of Marine in Paris appoints a cashier (called Bonnaud) and orders that a “counter” (a thing not a person – you know, like a kitchen counter or a physical Board of the Exchequer, perhaps even like the counter in a store where customers check out) be built AT NEW ORLEANS. At the end of December, D’Avirl, a court politico and military man was named “Major” of the city, later raised to Major-General. He actually served at New Orleans until January, 1721.

New Orleans now, as of October, 1717, officially EXISTS. On paper, at least. Of course, nobody actually in Louisiana knows this until several months later. It would be about six months later, in the spring of 1718, late March to early April, that Bienville and his intrepid band of salt smugglers and 8 or 9 actual carpenters get to the Indian portage between the Mississippi and Bayou St. John and begin clearing the land. In true Louisiana tradition, the founding of New Orleans would be a process that would go on for several years until finally in 1722, the new town is named the capital of the Louisiana colony.

{ The following account is a summary and paraphrase of the History of the Foundation of New Orleans (1717-1722) by Baron Marc de Villiers. Translated from the French by Warrington Dawson. Mr. Dawson translated this work on the occasion of the BiCentennial of New Orleans at the end of the Great War in 1918/20.

The entire work is available as a book, or can be found in the journal of the Louisiana Historical Society, Vol. 3 #2 April 1920, or at

http://www2.latech.edu/~bmagee/louisiana_anthology/texts/de_villiers/de_villiers–new_orleans_founding.html

Several sources agree that sometime in March of 1718, work finally began on clearing the land at the site that is now the Vieux Carre. In a report to Paris in June of 1718 the Commandant of Louisiana (i.e. Bienville) writes;

“We are working on New Orleans with such diligence as the dearth of workmen will allow. I myself went to the spot, to choose the best site. I remained for ten days, to hurry on the work, and was grieved to see so few people engaged on a task which required at least a hundred times the number. . . . All the ground of the site, except the borders which are drowned by floods, is very good, and everything will grow there.” (Archives des Aff. Etrang., Mém. et Docum. (Amérique) Vol. I; p. 200.)

As work continued on New Orleans from 1718 through 1722, the powers-that-were in Mobile and Biloxi fiercely contested the establishment of the new town. Their power base and the economy (such as it was) was rooted on those first establishments on the Gulf Coast. The two main problems on the coast, however, was the lack of strong (read protected) port locations and the simple fact that the sandy shores and piney woods cannot support any significant agricultural activity. Nor could the coastal fortifications control the Mississippi. All of this taken together required that the colony locate a central facility somewhere on the river.

Adding to the political resistance, geography and nature did not help the situation. Until the order of 1722 came down from the Company (of the Indies) in Paris, floods, hurricanes, and a “war” with Pensacola occupied much of Bienville’s and the government’s attention. In 1719, a Mississippi flood covered the new town. On September 12, 1722 a hurricane pretty much leveled the few buildings that were New Orleans.

This four year time-out did see some progress, though. On paper at least New Orleans began to take shape. Adrien de Pauger arrived at the site in March of 1721, “to trace on the spot the plan of New Orleans.” LaTour, the colony’s chief engineer, was an opponent of the plan to site New Orleans at the crescent and a proponent of the coastal capital. “Nevetheless, most Louisiana historians have attributed to La Tour the honour of creating New Orleans. This is both an error and an injustice. In truth, the engineer-in-chief, before receiving any formal instructions, had thought of building a big town at Biloxi, whose position he considered “advantageous, the air excellent, and the water good.” Pauger’s plans were buried in the colonial office’s paperwork and Pauger himself was sent to map the Mississippi River to Natchez. In spite of all this, Pauger’s plans of New Orleans mysteriously DID find their way to Paris. The decision was finally settled when, “Brought over by the Aventurier, the Company’s decision reached Biloxi on the 26th of May, 1722. A formal order being now given to transfer the seat of government, Bienville met with no further resistance; . . .”

Prior to and during all this skulldudgery, two other matters of note need to be mentioned: Jacques Barbazon de Pailloux, who might be called the first citizen of New Orleans, having lived there since 1718, was given the title of Director while remaining military commander of the counter. The Board deemed such an appointment a sufficient effort in behalf of New Orleans; Hubert, Father Charlevoix, and the Journal Historique all mention Pauger as the real author of the plan; and De Lorme, though he wasted no love on the engineer, yet writes at the end of 1721; “Pauger, after having sketched the plan of New Orleans, traced the alignments, and distributed the sites, came down the river with the Santo-Christo and built a beacon sixty-two feet high.” A few month’s earlier, “On the 15th of April, 1721, the Council of Regency reached a decision for founding in New Orleans a convent of Capucins (sic) from Champagne. Completing this, a further order was signed on the 16th of May, 1722, prescribing that the Company should “build in New Orleans a parish church of suitable size and an adjacent house for fourteen monks, with grounds for a garden and a poultry-yard.” Fathers Bruno, of Langres, Eusebius, of Vaudes, and Christophe and Philibert, both from Chaumont, were selected for rejoining the three Capucins already in Louisiana. (((And with them, of course, came our fictional Frere Gerard; cooks and servants are rarely, if ever, mentioned in official records.)))

”At last, an impetus had been given, and the number of inhabitants soon increased. From a census dated the 24th of November, 1721, we find the following:A total of four hundred and seventy inhabitants, of whom two hundred and seventy-seven were Europeans. In the list of residents, we find: Bienville, Governor; Pailloux, Commandant; Bannez, Major; de Gannerin, Captain; Pauger, Descoublanc, de La Tour, Bassée, Coustillar, officers; Rossard, notary; Le Blanc and Sarazin, storekeepers; Bonneau, secretary to Diron d’Artaguette; Bérard, surgeon-major; Bonneau, captain of the Neptune. We note also the commandant of negroes, a house outfitter, a turner, a barge-maker, a carpenter, two joiners, two armourers, an edge-tool maker, a black-smith, a harness-maker, a tobacco-curer, a carter, sixteen ship’s captains, some sailors, etc. Thirty-six head of horned cattle, nine horses, and “zero hog” complete the census.

If we add to the population of New Orleans that of the neighbourhood (Bayou St. John, old and new Colapissas, Gentilly, Cannes-Brulees, Petit-Désert, English Turn, and Tchachouas), we find six hundred and eighty-four Europeans, (293 residents, or planters, 140 women, 96 children, 155 servants); five hundred and thirty-three negroes or negresses, fifty-one Indians or squaws as slaves, two hundred and thirty head of horned cattle, and thirty-four horses.”

And so, there you have it. Beginning in late 1717 and through the intervening years until May of 1722, New Orleans becomes a reality. And the rest – as they say – is history !!!! How’s that for a cliche?

And speaking of history______________ H is the story of (whatever) based on the written records of the past. So goes the standard academic definition. However, we also have the words of the great English historian Edward Gibbon, who was required reading for any (of my generation) who had any pretensions of following the profession,

“The confusion of the times, and the scarcity of authentic memorials, oppose equal difficulties to the historian, who attempts to preserve a clear and unbroken thread of narration. Surrounded with imperfect fragments, always concise, often obscure, and sometimes contradictory, he is reduced to collect, to compare, and to conjecture: and though he ought never to place his conjectures in the rank of facts, yet the knowledge of human nature, and of the sure operation of its fierce and unrestrained passions, might, on some occasions, supply the want of historical materials.”

Edward Gibbon. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. opening paragraph, V. 1, Chapter 10.

The above account of the history of New Orleans’ founding used for this entry was written in French in 1792-4 and translated in 1918-19. As can be seen in the document quoted herein, the information is based on the colonial records housed in Paris. The interpretation of which is left to you, dear reader. Modern professional historians will undoubtedly have some bones to pick, but all in all, it follows the actual events pretty well. Besides, it was written for you, my blog followers, for as my all time favorite philosopher/historian – Will Durant – often said, “(Here I) pass it on, not to specialist scholars, who will learn nothing from it, but to (my) friends, wherever they are, who may find in it some moment’s illumination or brightening fantasy.”

HAPPY TRI-CENTENNIAL, EVERYBODY !!!!

(Undoubtedly, more to follow . . .)

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