Category Archives: Non-Fiction

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

Self-Printed 3.0 by Catherine Ryan Howard

Having been doing social media now for three or four years, this is the first time that I have an real understanding of what social media can be. Since my work was in the early stages of composition, I have been following Ms. Catherine Ryan Howard through her blog and some of her other writings. Now I have an opportunity to help Ms. Howard spread the news about the new third edition of one of the most valuable books that I have used during the opening stages of what I hope to be a long and fruitful career. So now, without further ado (drumroll please)…

Splash Badge

As part of this SPLASH process, which I assume is meant to splash news about her new book all over the Internet, participants got the opportunity to ask Ms. Howard a question. This facet of the program has the pleasant result of disseminating useful information along with notification of her latest efforts. I hope my readers find my question and her response helpful in their endeavours*, to wit…

Q. What are your thoughts and recommendations on managing time as a new author dealing with revising, editing and formatting your self-published book while trying to spend some creative time composing your current or next work?

A: To be honest my two primary tasks would be different to what you’ve outlined above. I don’t think you are constantly revising, editing and formatting your published book. That should all be done once, within say a 3 month period, and then the book gets published and that’s the end of that. I wouldn’t be writing a new one while that’s going on because it demands time and your full concentration.

I would say what you’re trying to balance is promoting your published books and writing a new one and the only way to do that is to divide up your time. When I was doing this full-time, I did new work in the morning and social media stuff in the afternoon. Now that I’m back studying, I have two days for my self-publishing/writing stuff, and I do new writing on one of them and everything else on the other one. There’s basically no getting away from the fact that you have to do both, because you can abandon neither. I like to keep them separate – different times, different days, different computers even! – because there’s no point trying to write 1000 new words and keep an eye on Twitter at the same time. Divide and conquer, Jerry – that’s my advice!

So there you have it, very useful information, A extremely well-done book on this whole process of self-publishing – or self printing – which is fast becoming the art of writing in the 21st-century. I hope my readers might find it interesting and useful. Best wishes to you in all your endeavors**. Meanwhile, back to work on The Petticoat Rebellion.

* Since she’s Irish, I figured I’d splurge and use the British spelling. Of course, this brings up the whole British/Irish situation, so maybe we better forget it.

** Ah, good ole America! We can misspell anythang.

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EVERYDAYNESS

My last post back in May originated in St. Louis. While I did in fact get lots of research done for the project there, it has been a while since I have been able to get back to my networking. Immediately upon our return from St. Louis we were thrown into the process of moving to a new house. Keeping it on the cheap, and since the distance from the old house to the new house was very short we decided to use our pick up truck to move. At the pace of one room every two or three days as well as all the accumulated stuff of 40 years of marriage, etc, the move took the entire month of June. We finally completed the last cleanup on the Fourth of July.  Naturally, except for an occasional visit into my real life – writing, that is – very little production was accomplished during that month. I looked forward to July to get back into the swing of things; production of new material, revision of old material, blogging, working on the webpage, et. al. Well, here it is the end of July and I have produced perhaps half a chapter. I have done no recipe testing and only a minimal amount of research. This morning in a moment of revelation, it occurred  to me that the nature of one of the great enemies of the writing life is “everydayness”.

TO MOWING DE LAWN

 

 

 

 

OR

DICKENS WRITING

THAT IS THE QUESTION

 

 

For instance, it is now One o’clock in the afternoon on a Monday, my family is away at work and I have the whole house to myself, I have plenty of food, lots of coffee, and yet what have I done since waking this morning? I prepared breakfast, I read the news, I watched the news, I went to the bank, I went to the gas station, I came home and cut the grass, then cleaned up a little bit in the yard and continued to do what I have been doing the entire month of July, that is, unpacking. The unpacking is almost done, as done as it needs to be for the family to be functional so now I can actually post to my blog. Last night I actually reviewed the construction of the new website. As of yet today I have done no research, have done no writing on the new production, nor any revision of the old material.

So there you have it –  everydayness – doing what a homemaker does, doing what a retired Country Gentleman does, doing all sorts of things except writing.

So now I will try to schedule not only general ideas of what I intend to do on a given day or during a given week, but I have taken up the idea of laying out a daily to-do list to balance the everydayness with the real purpose of my existence –  Writing Culinary History.

Stay tuned, something interesting may begin to develop as summer begins it’s march toward fall.

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Filed under Creole Cooking, New Orleans Tercentennial, NEW ORLEANS TRI-CENTENNIAL 1718 TO 2018, Non-Fiction

HELLO FROM ST. LOUIS

Hearth Arkansas PostTagging along on my coauthor/ photographer/wife’s business trip to St. Louis, I am reveling in first hand visual research on the Arkansas Post and the Illinois Country. We now have, among others, our first original photograph of an 18th century hearth.

Culinary historical research so far (2010 – present) has established that this area provided Lower Louisiana with pork, primarily hams, wheat flour, and wild game produce. This last category includes meat, fur, hides, tallow, and fat/oil. The materials provided by this unexpected adventure into Upper Louisiana will go far to further confirm these ideas as well as generate new information to complete coverage of this oft neglected source of 18th century Creole food ways.

View of St. Louis

Now (Later in the Week) the history of the region is coming more into focus. Lots of French and Indian diplomacy and cultural exchange going on from the 1670’s forward. French Louisiana has surprisingly more depth than a study of New Orleans and it’s surroundings would indicate.

On another note, St. Louis is about as American as a city can be. And surprise, surprise – it’s cuisine is a collection of food from literally all over the world. So far we have sampled St. Louis pizza, eh, it’s a pizza. St. Louis invented the toasted ravioli, turned out to be pretty good. The barbecue pork and beef are excellent.

Now for something completely different. Never stay at the St. Louis Airport Hilton. In-the-room wifi access is a charge, not free. The phone to the front desk does not work. No complimentary breakfast. The parking lot card reader is flaky, never know if you can get in or out until you’re there. Need one say more. However, the staff was very nice and helpful.

Get your FREE copy of
The Petticoat Rebellion Vol. One @ The iBookstore
OR
http://self.gutenberg.org
OR
our website, http://1718neworleans.com

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Self-Publishing and Self-Editing, Parts IV b & V; et. al.

http://1718neworleans.com

Self-Publishing and Self-Editing, Part IV b

The institutionalized process of academic printing has also encapsulated all of the above functions (i.e. create, print, edit, bind, publish, sell) into the peer-review system, especially the editing function. Whereas 20th century publishing houses offered editors to their authors* , in the academic system, the process of research, writing the essay, submission to journals, peer-review, criticism, controversy, rewrites,response to critics, presentation at conferences, more rewrites, collection into a book, submission to university presses, etc. pretty much solves the problem of having a book edited. Independent scholars and authors have yet to solve this problem. Or, better stated, the system is now basically a money issue. One can pay a professional editor to go over your work, do the rewrites and then submit ( see Part IV a). Or, I see hope in the revision process. The Petticoat Rebellion Vol. One is now at version 1.0. I know that it contains some errors. Over the next several months, as these errors come to light, the can be corrected and offered as updated versions, much like software has been done for decades. It remains to be seen how this process will play out.

*Note: how one became one of their authors is a whole other matter.

Self-Publishing and Self-Editing, Part V

Four units moved on the iBookstore. Thirty-eight downloads from the website. One download from Gutenberg Self-Publishing. And even one fan letter – in the FIRST MONTH !

Whoop didily do    !!!

This week Version 1.1 was posted making some minor corrections to chapters 6 and 17. I hope that my readers (that sounds so cool!) will forgive chapter 6’s title and fix themselves some red beans and rice, rather than some “read’ beans and rice. Oh well, after all, that’s why version 1.0 is free. Subsequent versions will also remain free. I am thinking of charging a dollar on the iBookstore once the on-going editing and revisions play out. Of course volume 2, will carry a charge, but that amount hasn’t been decided yet.

The self-publishing process was really a learning experience as well. Not only mastering the technology of iTunes Producer but tending to the thousand details regarding copyright, page layout, and book layout. Nevertheless, as time-consuming as the process was and remains, it is definitely NOT a waste of time.

Apart from the marketing, which never ends, the final task remaining is conversion to EPUB and submission to Amazon for the Kindle version.

And now for something completely different. 

I find it fascinating that one who could probably be considered the best of Louisiana’s French governors (after Bienville) is also the one least documented, the hardest to pronounce, and almost unknown to the general population, much less to the historically minded population. PIERRE DE RIGAUD DE VAUDREUIL DE CAVAGNIAL,  Marquis de VAUDREUIL, called by the citizens of New Orleans and Louisiana, and mercifully for historians and writers, the Grand Marquis. Monsieur Vaudreuil was a quintessential French aristocrat of the Old Regime. His governorship during the 1740’s raised Louisiana to it’s highest point as a French colony. He dealt with (and controlled) the Native Americans of the Mississippi Valley, he stabilized the colonial economy, he opened up trade (against policy) with the Spanish and British empires in North America and the Caribbean; and finally, for good measure, he introduced gracious living to New Orleans’ nascent Creole society. The Grand Marquis was indeed a traditional New Orleans character. He then went on to become governor of New France, that is all the French possessions in North America, where-in the wrong place at the wrong time-he was the governor who found himself surrendering to the British and pretty much losing the French and Indian Wars.

You will read more about him in The Petticoat Rebellion Volume 2. If you can’t wait, here is a link to probably the best biography available in English at this time.

http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/rigaud_de_vaudreuil_de_cavagnial_pierre_de_4E.html

 

http://1718neworleans.com

 

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Self-Publishing and Self-Editing, Part IV a

http://1718neworleans.com

It’s finally done. I am a self-published author. It’s curious how many parallels exist between this newfangled, all-electronic, website, blog, social media, etc. publishing process and the publishing process of, say, the seventeenth century. Back in the day (i.e. the 1600’s) a person would write a book and there it was – a manuscript. He* would then try to convince someone (a printer) to take the manuscript and print it out. Now the writer had a nice stack of paper of his printed work. Next, he had to shop around for someone to bind it all together. At this point it became a matter of “who you know” or of money (plain and simple). OK, let’s say our writer had the good luck or wherewithal to produce a nicely bound copy of his work. What now?

The next two steps were publishing the work and selling the work. The seventeenth century saw the fairly rapid development of a commercial support mechanism, that is “the publisher” (usually called the “printer”) who would take the manuscript through the entire above process. On occasion, the printer/publisher would also attempt to sell the work. More often, a separate operation existed to actually sell the book – called, not surprisingly, the bookseller. This last part of the process was usually encapsulated on the title page, to wit:

Title Page example

Title Page of the 1629 printing of the Lex Mercatoria

 

London, Printed by Adam Islip, and are to be sould (sic)  by Nicholas Bourne, at the South entrance of the Royall Exchange

_________________________

These last steps, publishing and selling were usually where the money issue also manifested itself. Finally, the finished product was done and offered to the public. So, what about the parallels?

 

1. (Then) Write a book – (Now) pretty much the same, except now we usually use a word processor or dictation software.

2. (Then) Bind the book – (Now) Actually print it out at home or take it to a printer like Fedex or UPS, then self bind it or pay someone to bind it, usually very expensive.

3. (Then) Print the book- (Now) Submit it to an online book service/printing/selling operation like iBookstore (Apple), Kindle (Amazon), Smashwords, CreateSpace, etc.***

4. (Then) Publish the book- (Now) Same as step 3.

5. (Then) Sell the book- (Now) As step 3, but with the marketing aspect essentially tossed back to the writer.

So then, like the song says, “Everything old is new again”!

 The Petticoat Rebellion Vol. One may now be downloaded for FREE from:

The iBooks Store

Project Gutenberg (http://self.gutenberg,org), and the 1718neworleans.com website, click on the Cookbook link.

* I use the masculine pronoun because it was seventeenth century Europe after all. For better or worse, not very many female writers went through the process described. Some did, but the people involved were overwhelmingly male.
*** Note that these operations represent the end point or publishers, which appeared at the end of seventeenth century.

http://1718neworleans.com

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Self Publishing-Self Editing

I follow Catherine Howard’s blog on writing and self-publishing, “Catherine Caffinated” http://catherineryanhoward.com. Two of the main points made in all her writings are “Write, write, write” and you MUST have your work edited BY A PROFESSIONAL EDITOR before publishing. while I agree in theory with both of these propositions, I must take issue with the second. The reason is very simple, MONEY. Without going into agonizing detail about why this is an issue (regular readers of this blog have probably gleaned most of the details anyway), suffice it to say that hiring an editor is pure and simple well beyond my means. “The Petticoat Rebellion” is over 100 iBook pages long. At $5 a page (ridiculously low-end) thats over $500, at $50 a page ( an actual quote received from a professional editor) that’s over five grand – yeah, right. I am not saying that prices within this range are out of line, they are not. Editors should be paid for their work at a fair price. These fair prices are simply beyond my reach.

So, where is all this going? What are the problems and pitfalls of editing your book yourself? I would say that the first issue would have to be a combination of elation followed by disappointment. You actually finish a book! The elation is grand. You have done something. You have achieved a great accomplishment. All of your work, all of your research, have now come to fruition. Then your life partner reads it. “Oh No ! This needs to be changed. You can’t have this picture here, there’s no transition here, you need to change this, I don’t understand what you’re trying to say.” And now you’re in a Charlie Brown moment, AAAARRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHHH !!!!!

Now you’re back to slogging away: reading over the manuscript, changing this, changing that, fixing this formatting, moving this picture, Will it never end? It’s a recurrence of that same feeling you got every semester in college. Looking over your paper, as the deadline approaches.” Oh, the hell with it, this is as good as it’s going to get. I’m turning it in just like it is. Let the professor make the edits, give me my gentleman’s “C” and let me go home.” But then the awful question arises. Is the” C” good enough? You are putting yourself out there, you are trying to establish your authorial reputation, can you afford to put it out there less than perfect?  Then you think back on all those crappy e-books you have bought over the past few years. I have one in German, didn’t know it was in German when I bought it.. You wonder where these people learned how to write. Is this supposed to be a translation? – it’s like one of those bad kung fu movies, broken English at best, a cultural insult at worst. And the best part is, while some of them were free, you actually PAID for some of them. So what’s it going to hurt if you put one out there less-than-perfect? Aren’t e-books and iBooks revisable? Let’s work on the new one for a while, then make a few more revisions on the old and post the revision.

Oh, what to do? What to do?
Boy, I wish I had a few hundred or a few thousand dollars to have this damn book edited. Has self-publishing become a game just for the rich like so many things in this life? Can someone even talented “like me” but desperately poor have a chance in this industry? These are some of the first questions A writ er must deal with when entering the world of self-publishing. The techie stuff maybe difficult for some people, but at the same time, it can be relatively simple and straight forward. We all know it’s the writing that’s the tough part. But now the writing is done. Stay tuned to see what happens.

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