Someone once told me, “the interruptions ARE my job”.
My birthday was August 19th. But that’s not why I’m writing this blog post. This birthday was a marker date in many ways. During the first part of August, I was happily moving along with a “little” part-time job, telling everyone that I was a retired teacher who fancied himself a writer. My wife and I were now among the “working poor”, after spending our lives at the lower end of the upper middle class.
Since my birthday, a mere 25 days ago, my wife started a new job, my daughter decided to move (so my truck and I have been pressed into service), a hurricane arrived, stayed longer than necessary, we lost power (see below) for three days, and I had to work way beyond my normal three half-day shifts during the hurricane time.
Now, I have to explain something about hurricanes, and a note about Isaac itself. Normally, if any hurricane can be called normal, a hurricane threatens, it makes landfall, blows and soaks everything for about 24 hours, moves on and slowly falls apart, What most non-hurricane people don’t realize is that from the human point of view, hurricanes require several days of planning ahead, several days of sitting around waiting for electricity to return, and several more days of putting everything back together again. These days can be multiplied by whatever happens during the storm. People lose their homes to wind, water, and even fire. People move away and return sometimes weeks later, sometimes months, sometimes never. Job requirements need to be balanced with time for preparing the family and home for the storm – which may never even come to your area. In this case, Hurricane Isaac, arrived in my life on Sunday, August 26. I had to work unscheduled shifts on Sunday and Monday, taking away from time I should have spent getting food, gas, supplies, generators, house, and people ready for the storm. Landfall came on Tuesday afternoon. The storm STAYED Tuesday night, all day Wednesday, Wed. night, and finally drifted away Thursday morning just before noon. Electricity (and our power trapped lives) disappeared by midnight Wednesday. Our generators failed. We had no power until Friday night, and we are luckier than most of the area.
Now, mid-September, life has begun to normalize. Unable to do any work on the 1718 Project for several weeks, I did a lot of thinking. For the remainder of September, at least, I follow the adage that . . .
CONTENT IS KING. The above brouhaha had left my on-going research and writing in the dust, until a few days ago. Now, I am pleased to report that once again I am writing. Frere Gerard’s adventures in colonial New Orleans continue to multiply. One point of this essay is to put my audience on notice, that for the next few weeks, very little will be forthcoming on the website. The next few weeks are being devoted solely to the production of content. After that, you will be reading a journal of the trials and joys of editing, formatting, and posting iBooks and eBooks. To sustain your interest, however, here is some of the kingly content as Frere Gerard experiences autumn in the capital.
It was a fine September day. Autumn had showed herself early this year, and it was a pleasant change. Instead of waking up in a pool of sweat, I even had to cover myself with my robe, as I tossed awake before Lauds. On this day the air felt drier and cooler, it would be a good day for the market. After Prime, I prepared the breakfast for the brothers of our little community. It was a simple affair of maize porridge and some of my – now regular – French and Indian Bread. On market day, I was relieved of clean-up duty by one of our servants so as to take advantage of the early morning coolness to walk down to the levee to secure provisions for the next week and month. Our little community had been here in the capital now for just over a year. Speaking as “Brother Kitchen”, it had been a tough year. food supplies were constantly low, and we often lived on a diet of maize, thin soup, and bear fat, sometimes an egg or two would be generously donated. But as the year progressed, things slowly got better. Our potager had eventually began producing some basic vegetables ( examples) and some herbs to flavor our poor fare. Gardens around the city also began to produce. The Allemandes upriver were able to ship some rice, milk, eggs, and produce to the capital on occasion. Our Native brethren even occasionally offered us in trade some of the game and fish they had secured from God’s bounty of forest and river. And now, it was harvest time once again, and I looked forward to reaping the bounty of our labors and lining the pantry and larder for the winter months.
For me, one of the joys to be found in opening up this new land, apart from the opportunity to spread the Word of God, was the discovery of the different flora and fauna that provided food and healing herbs different from the victuals of our homeland. America abounded in such new and, to us, outlandish, grains, vegetables, herbs, and spices. A wide variety of previously unknown game and fish were also to be found here; to be examined, cooked, tasted, and shared. I didn’t know it, as I prepared to go to the Levee Market, but I would find a new one today.
Now much of the land in and around our new capital, New Orleans, is flat and swampy. Near to the river, the lakes, and the innumerable streams (bayous), the land does rise several feet higher. This rise allows for long strips of good forest, wherein the game, the birds, and some productive trees are able to thrive. The first explorers to this land, led my M. de Bienville and his brother, God rest his soul, M. d’Iberville found and noted many of these trees producing goodly fruit, berries, and several types of nuts. Today, being a day in early fall, many of Indian women and even children had been gathering what looked to our French eyes like, baskets of walnuts. I thought they would be a good addition to the convent pantry, so I asked one of the children if I might try his wares. I broke away the outer shell to find a pretty brown nut with a much thinner skin than our walnuts at home. Breaking away that shell I popped the nut into my mouth. Dieu soit félicité!!! The nut practically melted like butter in mouth. I say like butter, because the taste was nutty and buttery at the same time! What is this! I exclaimed, it not a walnut ! The boy informed me, that in his tongue it was called a paccan. Needless to say, I bought up several bushels of these toothsome morsels, and began to formulate great plans for them. The next day, between Terce and Sext, when I would normally be busy in the potager, I left the Convent and travelled upriver along the natural levee, as I moved farther away from the town, I encountered a wide variety of trees growing along the bank. A bit away from the bank itself, past the willows and cottonwoods, I began to see the oaks, the gums, and to my great pleasure, some paccan trees, their nuts scattered among the undergrowth. Hopefully anticipating such a find, I had brought along a large basket, I spent the rest of the morning happily gathering the bounty which Pater Noster had graced this beautiful new world. Returning home with my treasure, I was already planning the wonderful meals these gifts from the Almighty would provide.
Christmas Holidays in the capital, 1726.
flour, sugar, milk, eggs, baking powder, baking soda.
8 oz. pecan halves, smashed into chucks
2 oz pecan liquor or brandy
2 tbsp butter
6 to 8 oz milk
thin with water to taste
Blend all ingredients together as you would make regular pancake batter. Cover the bottom of a large skillet with cooking oil (or bear fat), fry the fritters, turning once. Use syrup or powdered sugar to coat the hot fritters (en Francais, beignets) Enjoy a nice Christmas brunch.