Popular History, Creative Non-Fiction, the Histoire; A Reflection (perhaps a rant)

I recently turned 66 (last Saturday, the 19th), and like most birthdays – especially ones that mark an “official” change in life, like reaching the full retirement age for my generation (according to Social Security)  – this past week has been a time of reflection.  Where have I been,? where am I going? what have I done? what is there left to do?

I thought today about 51 years ago (or was it a millennia or two ago) sitting in Nick Revon’s World History class as a sophomore at Aloysius and deciding then and there that I would be a Historian ! Then I thought about the ensuing 51 years during which I spent being an ALMOST Historian. You see, having a Bachelor’s and a Master’s does not make one an official anything. Even during my academic career as a teacher of historical content and actual History classes, having a Ph.D doesn’t even do it anymore (BTW, I never had enough money to get a Ph. D.). So, in my mind, perhaps paranoiac, perhaps self-defeating, I never achieved attaining the rank of  an official bona fide “Historian”. So upon retirement, 7 years before getting to full retirement age, I decided to write a history book. A book to mark the 300th anniversary of the founding of my home town, the Queen City of the the South, New Orleans.

Thus I put on the mantle of Historian which (as followers of this blog know) has evolved into being a student and writer of Culinary History. As such, the 1718 Project has mostly morphed into The Petticoat Rebellion.

Noting the above, I have decided to proclaim in as official a manner as I can muster that this “Culinary History of French Colonial Louisiana”  enters the ocean of published books as a  – Popular History, sub-category Creative Non-Fiction and with the French connection – A Histoire.

To this end, I feel that I must – for my own peace of mind – substanitiate and justify my life’s work with the quotes of not one but two actual Professional Historians. The first is from none other than what was – if it still isn’t – required reading for all students of history in the last half of the 20th century; Mr. Edward Gibbon:

“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 second quotation is from a modern, still practicing scholar from the University of Chicago, and a MacArthur Fellow, and an expert and published (official, by the way) author of a history of French Colonial Louisiana, Dr. Shannon Dawdy:

“… these memoires, letters, and travel accounts are “a useful kit of knowledge” called Histoire, a combination of both “story” and “history” histoires were often a mixed bag of natural and administrative history, astronomy, fashion and culinary critique, and good old fashioned storytelling in which the tall tales spun by the writer were at times self-serving aggrandizements, or worse, gross distortions of reality.”

Quoted in Greenwald, Erin M. Marc-Antoine Caillot and the Company of Indies in Louisiana. p. 5

And so, hopefully avoiding those “gross distortions of reality” I conclude my rant and set my sights on completion of Vol. 2 of The Petticoat Rebellion. Have also decided that since 2018 is virtually upon us, I will set up a New Age publication sequence, in which the second volume will be published digitally via this blog, or perhaps a distinct one for the book, and then followed by a print/Kindle version after the work is completed.

Thanks for bearing with me through this ranting and raving, but as the work moves forward here is the recipe for Riz-au-Lait (rice pudding) from the Ursuline chapter:

Rice Pudding/ Rice and Milk/ Riz au Lait 

3 cups cooked rice (equals 1 cup raw)
3 cups milk
4 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 T vanilla
1 t. Mace (or Nutmeg)

Boil the rice and the milk until the rice is mushy. Beat together the eggs and the sugar, add to the boiling rice and cook for 3 or 4 minutes until the egg mixture sets. While cooking add the vanilla and the mace (or nutmeg). Stir all together, let it simmer for a minute or two. Put into custard cups to cool.

If you wish to use cook the rice especially for the pudding, remember, one cup of uncooked rice boiled or steamed yields 3 cups of cooked rice. Overcook the rice until it turns into a mush similar in consistency to mashed potatoes. At this stage, begin adding the other ingredients.

This is also one of those dishes wherein you can let your imagination run wild. For instance instead of or in addition to:

… mace and/or nutmeg, use cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, allspice, etc.

… add small fruits like raisins, currants, chopped apples, mashed bananas, chopped orange peel, strawberries, blueberries, etc.

… top with cinnamon sugar, cane syrup, (only Yankees 😁use maple syrup), cocoa, instant coffee, etc.

ENJOY and keep on reading!

 

 

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

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