A Very Simplified Timeline of French Colonial Louisiana and a timely Springtime recipe from Volume 2 (in progress)
The 1718 Tri-Centennial is fast approaching, so I thought a quick overview of the French Louisiana timeline was in order. Be advised that while the dates and entries are as correct as I can make them – all fact-checked and verified as not fake. Within the entries, my tongue (as the saying goes) is planted firmly in my cheek. And included below is one of Tante Suzanne’s recipes for a springtime roast chicken.
1699 – March 3, Iberville and his kid brother, Bienville, with their expedition pass into what seems to be a river running fast into the Spanish Gulf. According to Iberville’s calculations it turns out to be none other than LaSalle’s Fleuve de St. Louis, what the locals call the Mississippi. The next day, March 4, Mardi Gras that year, a friendly local, probably a Bayougoula, show the brothers a portage from the river to a large lake that connects to the Spanish Gulf and the islands where their ships are moored.
1704 – The ship Pelican arrives at Mobile (then Louisiana’s capital) carrying a boatload of young ladies (NOT THE CASKET GIRLS, they came later) who are quickly married to the Canadian settlers of the new Louisiana colony. These are the new wives who just as quickly rebelled (while properly wearing their petticoats) against the oversupply of Indian maize and the undersupply o-f French wheat.
1714 – In December, the first settlement within the borders of present day Louisiana was founded at the Natchitoches villages along the Red River.
1718 – Beginning in March, Bienville and some 50 or so workers spend the spring clearing the palmetto/cypress at the portage to lay out a new capital city for French Louisiana.
1719 – A few shiploads of unwilling Africans from Senegambia arrive in the colony. They are settled across the river (nicknamed Algiers) from the new city, now named after the Duc d’Orleans. The African ladies had managed to smuggle in some “gombo” seeds woven into their hair and this along with the heritage of rice farming in Senegambia, as well as their placement in and eventual dominance of colonial, antebellum, and Southern kitchens constituted a MAJOR influence on Creole and southern cuisine. Gombo, of course is the West African term for okra.
1727 – The Ursuline nuns arrive at New Orleans. One of their number, a young novice named Marie Madeleine Hachard, Sr. Stanilaus, has left us a number of letters describing life in the new city and colony including a most valuable catalogue of the food regularly consumed at the convent.
c. 1729 -30 – The Natchez War – the Natchez lose and effectively disappear from history. As a result of the Natchez uprising, The Company of the West, which had been ruling Louisiana since 1717, finally gives up on the colony in 1732. The king re-appointed the long-suffering Bienville as governor, who upon his return mounted a campaign in 1736 against the new or rather ongoing threat of the Chickasaw (allied with the British).
1736. 1739, et. al. – The Chickasaw War – the Chickasaw stalemate the French and their Quapaw (aka Arkansas), Choctaw, and Illinois Confederation allies for years. From roughly 1735 through the British victory over the French in 1763, the country east of the Mississippi from the mouth of the Arkansas river to the Ohio confluence was a see-saw struggle for influence between the Natives, the French, and the British.
1742 – Pierre de Riigaud Vaudreuil, Le Grand Marquis, becomes governor and sets the tone of New Orleans Creole “cul-tchah” until the middle of the 20th century. Under his regime, all the elements of Creole Cuisine were falling into place. The 2nd or Creole generation of French colonists were coming of age. The middle and upper classes were established, if not flourishing. Trade and food supply networks were in place between Upper Louisiana (the Illinois county), the settlements and plantations between Pointe Coupee and New Orleans (extending over to Mobile), Natchitoches and points west (into Spanish “New Mexico”), Pensacola and the Spanish Caribbean, as well as the French islands, etc. Homes, kitchens, taverns, hunters, gardens, fishermen, markets, and merchants all provided the resources for the fetes, dinner parties, Mardi Gras balls, and frivolities prompted by the presence and extra-governmental activities of Le Grand Marquis.
1753 – 1763 – Louis Belcourt, Chevalier de Kerlerec. Although not officially the last governor of French Louisiana, he was effectively the man who closed out the French regime in Louisiana. As had become usual in Louisiana, there were dirty politics all around. Not a whole lot happened from the cultural or culinary point of view.
1756-1763 – The French and Indian (aka The Seven Years) War.
1763 – France loses its North American empire, aka Louisiana and Canada.
Mid 60’s – our fictional cooks – Frere Gerard and Tante Suzanne pass on to the heavenly dining room, where they can eternally enjoy their creations of the original Creole Cuisine and never have to cook again (unless they want to).
1768 – The Rebellion of 1768 was an unsuccessful attempt by Creole and German settlers around New Orleans, Louisiana to stop the handover of the French Louisiana Territory, as had been stipulated in the Treaty of Fontainebleau, to Spain in 1762.
1769 – The rebellion aimed to force the new Spanish Louisiana Governor Antonio de Ulloa to leave New Orleans and return to Spain. The rebels did indeed force Ulloa but his replacement Don Alejandro O’Reilly was able to crush the rebellion, execute five of its ringleaders and firmly establish Spanish law in the territory.
1777-1783 – Another Spanish governor of Louisiana deserves special note, Bernardo de Galvez. His major claim to fame in Louisiana history is his generalship in several victories over the British during the American Revolution. He was victorious against the British in campaigns at Manchac, Baton Rouge, and Natchez. He then recaptured Mobile and went on to capture Pensacola in an 1781 amphibious assault. The next year he captured the British port in the Bahamas. When the war ended, he was preparing to invade Jamaica. In modern times, he was one of the only eight people to be awarded American citizenship.
1803 – The Louisiana Purchase, Here come the Caintuks.
As volume 2 of the Petticoat Rebellion, a culinary history, progresses, I find that for several reasons – I hit a old-fashioned writer’s block in my story telling and historical chronicling. However, since the Petticoat Rebellion also contains a colonial cookbook of sorts, I have altered my focus to the heretofore neglected creating and testing of the recipes to be included therein. And so to mark the coming of what has turned out so far to be a marvelous spring in the New Orleans region here is one of Tante Suzanne’s springtime chickens.
Chicken Roast (w/ Rosemary) – olive oil, salt, pepper, sage, onion, peppers, 4 sprigs rosemary, sesame seeds
Preheat oven to 350°,
Coat a deep frying pan liberally with olive oil. Season of 5 to 6 pound chicken liberally with salt, pepper, and Sage. Roll chicken around in olive oil in the pan. Rub in the seasoning, add more if needed. With four freshly cut 8 inch sprigs of Rosemary, strip the leaves from one twig and rub on the back office the chicken. Roll the chicken over stripping the leaves the rosemary rub between the thighs of the chicken place in the twigs in the cavity of the chicken. Rub the remaining sprig of leaves completely over the chicken breast.chunk up one half of a small onion and one half of a medium bell pepper. Place the chunks in the cavity of the chicken with the Roseberry twigs salt-and-pepper as needed.
Place chicken in oven, raise temperature to 400° for 20 minutes, generously cover the chicken with sesame seeds, cover chicken, lower temperature to 300°, roast for 2 to 3 hours.