Category Archives: New Orleans Tercentennial

A Way-Overdue Entry; Not Exactly 300 Years Ago

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.

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

300 Years Ago, 1717: We Got Cows!

Momentous changes were in store for Louisiana in 1717-1718. The old Crozat monopoly was done for and the new Company of the West began to get things done. For the next decade, the Company would run the colony. Although the new company’s rule was not always a panacea, the population continued to grow during the 1720’s and more and more of the Louisiana territory came under French control.

In 1717 the new shape of the colony began to take on more and more focus. Over the next several months, arrangements were being made to recruit Germans (really Alsatians and Lorrainer’s) for Louisiana. On a more somber note, the slave trade was ramping up for transport from West Africa to Louisiana. But these things were planned not actuated for many months. But we are getting ahead of ourselves. Meanwhile from two more or less reliable sources, we learn . . .

Jean Baptiste Bernard de Le Harpe: Summary of his chronicles of 1717:

March, 1717. Two royal vessels arrived at Dauphine Island carrying the new ?transition? government as Crozat’s regime ended and the Company of the West took over Louisiana. Within a few weeks,{towards the end of the month} one of the ships, the Ludlow, was sent to Havana to buy cattle for the colony. They purchased 60 cows, but loose lips sink cows, and the Spanish governor found out about the purchase and removed 45 cows from the ship, leaving the colony with only 15.

August, 1717. “a commercial company was formed in France and named the Company of the West” Also under the August entry: “. . . The colony numbered 700 people and about 400 head of cattle . . .”

From Giraud’s History of French Louisiana, Vol. 2, p. 122.

The new Company of the West “decided that the ships should pick up some cattle at Havana,a scheme that was to come to nothing.”

Here, once again, from the standard academic history and a primary source, testimony is provided that even though times were tough early on for Louisiana, these 700 Europeans did indeed have some food sources. Better than one head of beef cattle per every two colonists provided milk and beef on an on-going basis. and while the French settlers have achieved fame as being lazy and not interested in agriculture, most everybody had a garden and access to the rich bounty of the vast forests (game, nuts, and fruits) and endless waterways of south Louisiana. After all, these 700 people “had to eat” something.

SNEAK PREVIEW: 1717-18 SET UP OF THE TRICENTENNIAL:

{{{{{{Throughout the autumn of 1717, the company began to get organized and at the end of the year, ships sailed to Louisiana and arrived in February of 1718 with what was the kickoff of whole new era for the colony – To Wit:

• The ships landed a fourth company of infantry.
• M. de Boisbriant arrived, commissioned as royal lieutenant of the colony.
• Governor L’Epinay was recalled and Bienville was commissioned a Commandant General (aka governor) of Louisiana.
• M. Hubert was named named director general (the money guy) of Louisiana.
• 60 French immigrants arrived.
• An abortive expedition to St. Joseph’s bay in Florida was attempted but ended in failure.
• Bienville began to scope out “a suitable spot on the banks of the Mississippi” to build a new capital, then sent a group of 50 or so laborers to clear the land where the Bayou St. John portage met the river – 😉 and you’ll never guess what happened then :-0 }}}}}

But these events are really the part of the opening blog entry for next year.

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A Kansas City Interlude

Last week I had the opportunity to be in Kansas City, and devoted some time to researching Louisiana’s colonial presence in “the heartland” during the 18th century. Even before there was a Louisiana, the French presence at the mouth of the Arkansas was well established by LaSalle and Tonty (more on this in the future). And by 1716 (300 years ago), Upper Louisiana aka the Illinois Country aka the western end of New France had several active settlements. But it is the Missouri Valley, believed in 1716 to be the passage west to the Pacific, that is being considered today. A century before Lewis & Clark, the explorers of Louisiana were making their way up the great river to the Rockies. Even earlier, throughout the 17th century, the coureurs des bois (runners of the woods) from New France were trapping and trading the furs that formed the basis of much of the wealth which provided the Bourbon North American empire with its raison d’etre. There is a myth in Louisiana history that these coureurs des bois were the romantic nomads of Upper Louisiana who finally settled the mid Mississippi valley and became the economic basis of river trade through the mid 18th century. But the truth is, by the heyday of French Louisiana, the coureurs des bois were already fading into history. New France and Louisiana began to exert more control over the lucrative fur trade by licensing the formerly free trappers. Almost simultaneously with the establishment of New Orleans the coureurs were steadily being replaced by voyageurs (often the same individuals carrying official licenses). Regardless of what we moderns call these folks, the fur trade continued well into the twentieth century as an essential part of the Louisiana and New Orleans economies.One such individual who lived through these changes and went on to be rightly called the Discoverer of the Missouri Valley was Etienne V. De Bourgmont.
Like many European explorers in this timeframe, De Bourgmont travelled up the Missouri looking for the northwest passage to the Pacific. He lived among the Missouri Indians near the mouth of the Grand River from 1712-1719. (Dictionary of Missouri Biography, p. 108) Working under the aegis of the governor of New France and out of New Orleans under Bienville himself, he travelled up the Missouri to the Yellowstone and provided the data to DeLisle in New Orleans to create the first reasonably accurate map of the region. Later traveling back to France he wrote his journal and “opened the eyes of the Europeans to a new world within the New World: the 433,000 fertile square miles of the Missouri River basin, twice as large as France, and readily accessible via navigable rivers. ” (p. 109 DOMB)

Later, during Louisiana’s Spanish period, Bourgmont was followed into the Missouri valley by James Mackay and John Thomas Evans. Their travels provided much of the more contemporary information that Lewis and Clark used on the opening stages of their expedition. They made it to Three Forks, Montana but were forced to turn around due to resistance from the Sioux.One fun fact we can draw from their expedition was that Evans, a Welshman, was searching for descendants of a medieval legend which told of Welshmen arriving in North America in the 12th century. There were tales of an Indian group up the Missouri who exhibited Welsh racial coloring, and whose language contained words and sounds akin to Welsh. Sadly though, Evans found no evidence of this on the wide Missouri.

More info on all of this may be found in:

Frank Norall. Etienne V. De Bourgmont. (1988, U. Of Nebraska Press, Lincoln.) ISBN: 0803233167

Wood, W. Raymond. Prologue to Lewis & Clark. (Norman, OK: U. Of Oklahoma Press,2003.) ISBN 0806134917

And a very good website at:
http://www.museum.state.il.us/exhibits/lewis_clark_il/htmls/il_country_exp/preps/legend_madoc.html

Finally, I must note a sad fact about all of this European activity in the Missouri Valley. The Mandan Indians, the first significant nation up the river and the trading partners to all of the above mentioned explorers, had disappeared from the West by 1840 due to the European diseases that followed the explorers upstream. Of course, more description and info can be found in George Caitlin’s book, the great painter and chronicler of the Western Indians before “manifest destiny” brought about its terrible effects.

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A Bohemian among the WASPs

At the turn of the century, my wife and I decided it was time to leave our beloved New Orleans and move to the country. The “country” surrounding New Orleans is either the River Parishes or “across the lake” – Pontchartrain, that is. Now the River Parishes lay between the river and the lakes or between the river and Bayou LaFourche. This essentially translates to swamp. having lived in a swamp all of my life, as New Orleans is on average 3 to 5 feet below sea level, I decided that “across the lake” was a better choice. Here there are actually rolling lands, which, with some imagination, can be regarded as hilly terrain. Between the towns can be found these small hills covered with hardwood and/or pine forests divided by dozens of steams, a few even amounting to rivers.

Culturally, the population here is a mixed bag. Also known as the Florida Parishes, “across the lake” was never part of the Louisiana Purchase. Rather, it was the western part of the Fourteenth Colony. From 1763 to 1783, it was part to the British colony of West Florida, acquired by Britain, as a result of the Seven Year’s or French & Indian War. West Florida’s major settlements, Pensacola, Mobile, and Baton Rouge were captured by America’s Spanish ally, Governor Bernardo de Gálvez of Spanish Louisiana, during the American Revolution. From 1783 through 1803, West Florida was a separate Spanish possession along with East Florida (today’s state). In 1803, when Spain gave Louisiana back to Napoleon, West Florida was not included. The upshot of all of this is that, except for a fringe along the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain, there wasn’t a Frenchman in sight. West Florida was primarily settled by anglophones (some fleeing from the newly independent American states). These White Anglo-Saxon Protestants cleared the land, built churches, primarily Baptist or Methodist, and established towns with names like Hammond, Franklinton, Folsom, Independence, Covington, etc. Some Indian town names were included, like Ponchatoula and Bogalusa.

The result of all of this is, once past today’s great east-west thoroughfare of Interstate -12, a traveler no longer finds himself in the South Louisiana of seafood, French Bread, jambalaya, Cajun music, Mardi Gras, gumbo, French and Cajun patois, Jazz clubs, The Times-Picayune, Catholic Churches every few blocks, roast beef or oyster po-boys, parades for every occasion. In other words, once north of Folsom, you are back in rural America, with all that entails.

As a writer and retired teacher, I now have a part-time retirement job as a gas station cashier. Once I told a customer, merci beaucoup, after he made his purchase. He didn’t know what I was talking about ! On another occasion, I made some oyster patties one year at Thanksgiving. I brought some to share with my co-workers. They had no idea what they were ! My wife brought up pain Perdue or lost bread one day in a culinary conversation at her job. her co-workers did not realize she was talking about what they call French Toast ! More than once, I have been asked – not where I went to school – but what church did I belong to ! I replied that I was heathen Catholic. And may the gods and goddesses forbid, that the WASPs I associate with ever find out that we follow the old religion. And let’s not even get into politics. Suffice it to say that I was one of the 230 voters in Washington parish who voted democratic (for Bernie Sanders) in the recent primary.

There are many other examples of this cultural divide a scant 30 miles north of New Orleans. maybe I will chronicle them further in future writings. But as Beth and I carve out a bohemian haven here among the WASPs, include us in your prayers and good hopes for the future of democratic and cultural diversity in America.

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300 years ago: September 1st, 1715. Death of Louis XIV

Sad news reaches Louisiana this month. Louis Quatorze is dead. Louisiana’s namesake is no more. The Sun King has set on the French Empire. Philippe II, Duke of Orleans, became regent in 1715 for his nephew, the future Louis XV. Philippe ruled France for the next eight years and gave his name to the capital city of the Louisiana colony. The Duke had little to do with the faraway colony, almost immediately granting it to Antoine Crozat and then in 1717 turning it over to John Law’s Mississippi Company, later called the Company of the West, and finally the Company of the Indies. Louisiana was thus a mercantile “for profit” colony until 1731 when it reverted back to the crown. It was largely the economic policies of these companies that led to the appearance and the reality of Louisiana as a generally neglected colony of France.

louis-xiv-of-france

As my researches have shown, while this neglect had an important effect on the politics and economy of the colony, and while, at least in the official records, Louisiana always seems to be starving, it was, in fact, the settlers, the natives, and the slaves who really built the economy of the colony through their own labors with help provided by the vibrant activities of the unofficial smuggling trade and practices that formed the real foundation of French Louisiana and the cuisine that we still enjoy and celebrate today.

Don’t forget, the thesis propounded here may be found in the first volume of my work on French Colonial Culinary History, The Petticoat Rebellion, available on Amazon in print and Kindle as well as a free iBook at the iBookstore. The foundation of the ideas presented are listed in the Bibliography link found at the 1718 Project webpage – www. 1718neworleans.com

Stay tuned to this Facebook page for these Tricentennial moments marking notable events that occurred 300 years ago. And don’t forget the website and Facebook page are designed for collaboration. Let me know what you think.

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Blogging into the Void: Inspiration

Ever since Thanksgiving – fully two months ago plus – there has been a dearth of productivity on my part. It was always edit the next chapter. Get Volume One re-edited and redone for a reprint. Every once in a while some writing a V. 2 would sneak in. Then again it was always back to volume one, damn the volume one.

Well, now it has been re-edited. What remains is to re-submit it to the printer so that a clean version can be reposted online for sale. And yet, for the past several weeks, I have been more and more slipping into a depression of sorts wondering if Volume II can ever move forward. Finally, today, February 9, 2015, I have taken the day off. I have gotten some interesting books. Today I begin reading and seeking inspiration. It has in fact already started. The Muses await, peeking around the door and window, and hopefully today and tomorrow they will make themselves known more fully. This post is the first step.

 

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IT’S FINALLY DONE . . . Self-Printing and Self-Editing, Part VI

Well, IT’S FINALLY DONE!  (BTW, its never done) But Beth and I’s book, The Petticoat Rebellion: A Culinary History of French Louisiana is now available IN PRINT from Amazon.com. Just search for Laiche or The Petticoat Rebellion and it will take you right to it (the print version is listed at $8.99).

As stated above, it’s never really done. But we have at least reached a milestone. and since this blog now has the added dimension of being a chronicle of the self printed and self edited work that is writing books in the 21st-century; it seems that there should be a few comments here on this process. First of all, for me anyway, it was not really difficult to understand the process but it was incredibly hard work to follow the process. Two of the largest issues were waiting on CreateSpace and iTunes Connect to process the pages contained in the book. Other than the waiting, there were a few issues with the illustrations(specifically in CreateSpace). Another significant issue was the formatting. and the formatting, and the formatting. Such is the digital aspect of self-publishing and self editing.

Although volume 1 is virtually finished, I am sure that my readers(If any) will point out the typos, the grammatical errors, and any other goofiness that appears in their copy of volume 1. Already in discussing the proof copy with some friends we have already found two errors which will be corrected for the next release, Version 1.4, that is sure to follow (whenever).

But now it’s time to turn my attention back to volume 2.

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