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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The Tricentennial is upon us !

ANNOUNCEMENT!! Sunday, March 4, 2018:
I am proposing a walk along the Lafitte Greenway from the bayou at City Park (across from Beauregard Circle) as far as our feet can carry us towards the original city.

It was on this date in 1699, that two French Canadien brothers were shown a portage from the Mississippi to a small bayou that led to a lake that led to the estuary that would bring them back to the Gulf Coast, and to the anchorage of their ships at what is now Biloxi. Of course, the still unidentified Bayougoula Native was showing the LeMoyne brothers, Pierre (d’Iberville) and Jean Baptiste (de Beinville) the connection between the great river and Bayou St.John leading to the lake their soon named after their immediate boss, Compte de Pontchartrain. To celebrate this first “finding” of the spot that would 19 years later become New Orleans,

Everyday Life 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 the ancestors of colonial, American, and ante-bellum generations as well as to the Civil War/Reconstruction generation who did, in fact, still survive into the early 20th Century. 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 is 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 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, obviously, also varied according to the relative wealth of the household. The time of sunrise and sunset also varies 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: The Rule of St. Benedict,
http://www.foodtimeline.org/foodcolonial.html#colonialmealtimes,
Massialot, etc.)

Having said all of that, what was life like in Tante Suzanne’s kitchen at the Marigny household?

Having found some mushrooms in the garden, Suzanne was wondering about what to cook for tonight’s dinner. She searched around her larder, found some items and 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 without realizing what a foundation she was laying for future generations – that is originating a world class cuisine simply from what she had on hand around the kitchen.

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 weeknight’s supper.

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.

This recipe and others will be found in an upcoming chapter of vol. II of The Petticoat Rebellion.

Chapter ??? Everyday Bourgeois Food in New Orleans

What does Suzanne cook on a daily basis for the Marigny family?

Eggs, Bread, Cornmeal (sagamite), rice, beans, sausage, pork, seafood, poultry, ?lambs, sheep?, ham, soups, gumbos, stews, sauces,
Salads, fresh vegetables,
Pies, cakes, calas, puddings, ?sweetmeats?

The above list is a tentative number of reseatch goals, and may or may not make the final cut into the published chapter.

Don’t forget about the portage walk on March 4! Please RSVP if you can make it!!!! webmaster@tssi-no.com

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Presbytere & Church: A View from the Kitchen

A Tricentennial Xmas Gift. Prepublication of Vol.2, Chapter 2

HISTOIRE:

Frere Gerard sat on an old stool at the kitchen door looking out upon the potager. The Presbytere and the Church had come a long way since those early days eight or nine years ago, he thought, when it was a problem to get a couple of eggs to fry up for the brothers’ dinner. His kitchen was finally in place, the central hearth with its brick ovens, iron fixtures, black pots and pans, cranes, trivets, and fire dogs was always burning—except during the wee hours of night. The pantry was stocked with flours, seasonings, and grains. Just outside, a few yards from the kitchen door, the smokehouse was hung with sausage, hams, game, and fowl from farm and field. Just beyond—taking up the square between the Presbytere and the Rue Royale—was his pride and joy, the potager, bursting with herbs, vegetables, fruit bushes, and even some small trees.
‘Yes,’ he reflected, ‘New Orleans has certainly taken on the character of its place as a colonial capital.’ Tonight, he decided, after the hustle and bustle of after-dinner clean up, he would sing a Te Deum in thanksgiving for his fortune in landing in this wonderful country. One thought led to another, and soon Gerard was reflecting on the essential truth that Louisiana was indeed a New World. But he wasn’t thinking in terms the new and exciting adventures to be found in exploring new lands, immense mountains, mighty rivers, and the vast open spaces peopled with colorful and sometimes dangerous inhabitants. Gerard’s whole experience as a lay brother in service to his God and brothers of his cloister had shown him a much tamer version of life in the New World. His everyday affairs of tending to the potager, the marketing, and his kitchen had changed over the years as the needs of his fellow priests, brothers, and missionaries were met with the new and sometimes very different foods and conditions of supply. At home in his quiet monastery in Charleville, those problems had been met, solved and developed into a routine sanctioned by literally centuries of now hidebound methods and rules. When Gerard was a young monk training in his northern French convent, the everyday fare of the monks consisted of Porridge, Soup, Vegetables, Bread, and on very special occasions some Fish or Poultry. Here in the New World, the porridge had become grits, the soup was often as not gumbo, and while the vegetables were pretty much the same, Gerard’s bread could have been made from maize flour, rice flour, occasional wheat flour or some combination of the three. Gerard’s New World poultry was also basically the same as what he had learned to cook in the Champaignois – chicken, duck, and/or geese. Here in the colony, he added the ubiquitous turkey, as well as numerous game birds and pigeons. And as to the fish ! That perhaps will require a separate accounting. Regardless of these newfound riches of land and water with which to feed his company, Gerard was able to, by and large, stick to St. Benedict’s dietary rules. As can be seen, the rule leaves lots of elbow room to deal with local conditions. Gerard’s guidelines would have been excerpted from:

Benedict’s Rules for Monasteries: Chapter 39: On the Measure of Food

. . . that every table have two cooked dishes . . . and if any fruit or fresh vegetables are available, let a third dish be added.

. . . Let a good pound weight of bread suffice for the day,
whether there be only one meal or both dinner and supper.
If they are to have supper, the cellarer shall reserve a third of that pound,
to be given them at supper. . . .

. . . Except the sick who are very weak, let all abstain entirely
from eating the flesh of four-footed animals.

And Chapter 40: On the Measure of Drink

“Everyone has her own gift from God,
one in this way and another in that” (1 Cor. 7:7).
It is therefore with some misgiving
that we regulate the measure of others’ sustenance.
Nevertheless, keeping in view the needs of the weak,
we believe that a hemina (@ 10 oz.) of wine a day is sufficient for each.
But those to whom God gives the strength to abstain
should know that they will receive a special reward.

Gerard thought back to the problems of those early days especially providing bread and wine for the Liturgies. This, of course, would have been the primary consideration for any kitchen establishment of Catholic clergy, whether in monastery, mission, or parish. Since the beginnings of the monastic movement in mediaeval Europe, the first job at hand would be the production or procurement of bread and wine for the liturgies of the individual or group. Throughout the Middle Ages, as monasteries and convents moved into new territories, the planting of wheat and grapes would have been first on the agenda. It would be no different in the New World. In Louisiana, prior to the first productions of the field, bread and wine would have been supplies by the local trading/supply networks. In New Orleans, wine and flour came to the colony with the brothers, more were supplied by the supply ships from France, and then local production would have taken over as the seasons progressed.

Recipes: The physical POD book upon publication will contain several more recipes.

Chicken De Balize: With a Caribbean kick (The Balize was the French colonial term for the mouth of the river, there was a port facility there where ships of all nations could unload cargo to barges and pirogues for shipment upriver to New Orleans, not all of it sanctioned by the authorities. It’s location and trade practices also made it more part of the Caribbean than the Gulf Coast colony.

Small onion or half a large
Half a green pepper
Stalk of celery
5 toes of garlic
Third of a bunch of parsley
One jalapeño or to taste

2 tsp. Allspice, 1 tsp. ginger, 1/4 tsp. cayenne, salt (increase or decrease these spices to taste)

Corn flour/or meal

2 large chicken breasts, 3 leg quarters

1 large sweet potato, sliced
in circles (like chips) or sticks (your choice)

Chop the veggies into a traditional Louisiana mirepoix. Make a rub with some cornmeal and the spices. In the bottom half of a broiler pan (the kind that used to come with new stoves – maybe still do???) sauté the mirepoix for about 10 minutes, add some chicken stock, if it dries out too much.

Rub the chicken pieces with the spiced cornmeal. Place some sliced sweet potatoes in the bottom of the pan. Grease the top sheet of the pan, arrange the chicken on the top with the remaining potato slices. Bake at 350 for 2 hours.

History: The Capuchin parish of St. Louis, King of France 1720-1763.

Any discussion of colonial Louisiana usually includes several mentions of the Jesuits as the religious leaders of the enterprise. This is another popular misconception about colonial Louisiana. After all, the Jesuits are still here, in New Orleans, in some force. One only has to think of Loyola University (N.O.), the “Jesuit” church on downtown Baronne St., the corner of Banks and Carrollton. However, during the 1700’s the Jesuits were in and out of favor in France – even expelled for a while. During the French Revolution, all clergy were personae non grata. Upon the founding of New Orleans, it was the Capuchin monastic order* that was tapped to provide the religious leadership for the new capital**. The Capuchin order, under their third (really the first, as the first two were VERY temporary) pastor, Father Raphael, were the ones who actually built the church of St. Louis on the square, as well as the first Presbytere on the corner of Chartres and St. Ann. Both were destroyed by the fires of 1788 and 1794. They were rebuilt still under the aupices of the Capuchins. The famous Pere Antoine (namesake of the alley between today’s Presbytere and Cathedral) was a Capuchin pastor.***

As tro their life in the new colony, more insight may be gained from an original account, the journal of a minor company employee stationed in New Orleans during the late 1720’s. the journal of Marc-Antoine Caillot provides a brief vision of the Capuchin parish activities including an interesting comment on the morals and life of the priests and brothers of that first Presbytere. (See A Company Man, p.8)

“I forgot to say that there is also a monastery of Capuchins. there are three priests residing there, of which the warden is the vicar general of Quebec. . . . Their building is quite beautiful but too small for a monastery. Their garden is large and well cared for.”

( Here follow a few lines praising Father Raphael, the warden (leader) of the mission).

But, Caillot continues, “It is not the same same with the other priests, who secretly lead very excessive lives, of which it not necessary to make an account.
{Caillot then proceeds to make an account !}
Here in New Orleans they each wear shirts with lacy cuffs, silk stockings, and slippers, and carry money, a snuffbox, a watch, and a parasol.”

Caillot makes no mention of the foodways of the monastery, with the possible exception of his mention of the garden. But, as has been discussed by Symons⚜︎, cooks and kitchens (usually the domain of the servant class) are rarely spoken of in the writings of the bourgeois and/or the official classes. Frere Gerard, the [fictional] cook and gardener at the New Orleans Presbytere, is a lay brother – not quite a servant – but not quite a monk either. Can we also infer from the “excessive lives” of the priests that they ate differently compared to monks in a European cloister? Probably so, as official food supplies were few and far between, early New Orleans’ cooks and household chefs made due with what they had, or could produce in their gardens and backyard pens, or could find in the local markets.

The first Capuchin monks sent to Louisiana were from Champagne. Our fictional cook, Gerard, and his brothers were first drawn from the Charleville monastery in Champagne. Whoever the real monastery cook was, it was his task to blend the old world culinary traditions with New World circumstances (hunger, then plenty, then hunger again, sporadic food supply chains). By 1700 in Europe (France, Champagne, Charleville), a monastery would have been producing it’s own food for centuries. Mostly grains, vegetables, and fruits along with a very limited amount of meat (poultry and fish). Most in this locale (the province of Champagne) would have certainly produced it’s own wine as well. If a monastery did not have it’s own mill, there was certainly one nearby. In Louisiana, there were at first no mills and the the only agriculture was whatever the local Natives were growing, i.e. corn, beans, and squash. There was plenty of wild, native fruits, berries, and nuts. It was the cook’s task to create something from these resources as well as begin the process of establishing the monastery’s own food supply chain. At first, this would have been planting the “kitchen garden” (potager). Beginning in the late 20’s and certainly by 1740 gardens, farms, and mills were producing the food needed by the capital and the surrounding region. Local farms and backyards were also producing pork, poultry, and some occasional beef. Hunters ranging up the Mississippi, into the Ozarks, and the prairies to the west of the river (past Baton Rouge and Pointe Coupee) were supplying game and especially the “wild beef”, that is buffalo. The Illinois Country (Upper Louisiana) was exporting downriver hams, bacon, and wheat flour. We also cannot forget the use of the literally vast seafood resources found in the bayous, rivers, lakes, and Gulf coastal areas. This would have been especially important to the convents at the Presbytere and on Ursulines Street. So, after a very shaky start in the early 20’s, the cooks in the Ile d’Orleans were – by the 30’s and 40’s – able to utilize a growing, varied, and more regular food supply. It must also be recalled that despite the pitiful “official” supplies from France, Louisiana’s economy was largely based (60 – 70%) on the smuggling trade. This contraband consisted mostly of slaves, dry goods & textiles, but also foodstuffs from the Caribbean and New Spain (Pensacola, Mexico, and Texas), were supplied from these sources.

Holding to our theme that Louisianians HAD TO EAT something, the cooks, gardeners, Natives, traders, hunters and fishermen had by the 1730’s began the traditions of not only feeding the population but of feeding them in the stylistic origins of the famous Louisiana cooking of today. Along with native resources, consider the food heritage of the Champagne region from whence the Capuchin “Gerard” would have hailed – Ardennes smoked hams, wild boar, game birds, jugged hare, pig’s feet, blood pudding (boudin), dandelion salad, andouillettes, chicken in champagne, hams in crust, trout, brie cheese (from western Champagne) {see The Food of France, W. Root}. Before closing this discussion of actual food issues, a brief word should be said regarding early cooking methods. Frere Gerard’s iron pots and pans would be at home in any Louisiana kitchen today. Cajun cooking for sure, and Creole as well, is essentially “iron pot” cooking. Stews, gumbos, etoufees, fried fish or chicken, have been traditionally cooked in the iron pot since colonial times, and in the old world, going back centuries to classical times. Even now, in the 21st century, Mama’s iron pots are passed down to the daughters (or sons, as the case may be). If south Louisiana cooks did not inherit their iron pots, they acquired them in most instances as wedding gifts.

* The monkeys were named after the habits and hoods of the Capuchin order, not vice versa.

** There is much more to this story, at one point, French Louisiana was divided into three territories, each with a specific religious order assigned to minister to the inhabitants.
See Baudier, Roger. The Catholic Church in Louisiana. New Orleans: A.W. Hyatt Stationery Mfg. Co. Ltd.,1939.

⚜︎ Symons, Michael. A History of Cooks and Cooking. Champagne, IL: U. Of Illinois Press, 1998,2000.

***More on the activities of the Capuchins and the building of the Church and Presbytere can be found in Volume 1 of The Petticoat Rebellion, Chapter 10.

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300 Years Ago – More or Less: Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose !

This weekend coming, the Saints will take on the Panthers. Put another way, the game will be Louisiana vs. Carolina. And in the light of the Tri-Centennial, this is truly a case of history repeating itself. In one of those bizarre thought-trains prompted by a TV news note on the upcoming game, it occurred to me that the Panthers decided (in a fit of geopolitical correctness) not to claim either North or South Carolina in their namesake. This led to the thought that in colonial times, until 1712, there was only one British colony south of Virginia, the colony of Carolina. Which in turn reminded me that a constant thorn in the side of French colonial Louisiana was the said colony. As we prepare to watch Sunday’s game, let’s look back to that original rivalry between New Orleans and Carolina. Maybe some good conversation during commercials and half-time can be gained.

It’s pretty well known that France wanted a colony at the mouth of the Mississippi in order to, among many other reasons, drive a wedge between the Spanish empire in the west and the looming British empire on the Atlantic seaboard. The “unoccupied” northern Gulf Coast also offered Louis XIV and his ministers a connection between their holdings in New France (aka Canada) and the Caribbean. After 1699, the colony was established and began to grow. The Louisiana government dealt with the Spanish presence in a variety of ways. Their handling of the expansion proclivities of British Carolina was centered in Lower Louisiana (the Arkansas delta down) and was primarily concerned with Native dealings. The “nations” between the lower Mississippi and the Atlantic coast thus became the chief “Indian Affairs” issue for officials in Louisiana and Carolina. Control of the Natives or,at least, friendly trade and military relations with them were the major tools of both French and British colonists. One of the more significant incidents of this rivalry was an uprising staged by Louisiana’s Native allies against trade interests from British Carolina. What has come down in history as the Yamasee War began in April of 1715. It has been called a “serious if temporary blow to English trade and westward expansion . . . against the grasping English traders and the expanding frontier settlements of Carolina” and was launched by a Creek confederacy including the Alibamon group. This in turn prompted the French to establish Fort Toulouse at the Alabamans on the Coosa.* The fort remained in operation until the end of the French & Indian Wars.

For the remainder of the 18th century, tensions remained between the Carolinians and New Orleanians until they were finally resolved by the Seven Year’s or French & Indian Wars ending in the French evacuation of North America in 1763. Throughout those years, most of the Natives along the Mississippi remained French trade partners and allies, while the Natives of the Tennessee Valley and those in the eastern forests between Mobile and the southern end of the Appalachian mountains tended to side with the British Carolinians. Of the “major” tribes, the Choctaw usually sided with Louisiana while the Chickasaw were friends of Carolina. The Creeks pretty much did not like either side. Another item to note was that the Natives were not bashful about playing one side off the other. As a common diplomatic means of treating with the Natives, the European custom of gift giving to the various groups was practiced by both colonies. The Natives were savvy enough to get gifts from both powers and then settle back into day to day relations.

Hopefully, this small Tri-Centennial footnote will add some enjoyment and depth to the friendly New Orleans/Carolina football rivalry, and provide another note of interest to your enjoyment of Sunday’s game. As well as once again justifying that old French saying, Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose ! The more things change, the more they remain the same.

* see Thomas, Daniel H. Fort Toulouse; The French Outpost at the Alabamas on the Coosa. Tuscaloosa: Univ. of Alabama Press, 1989. p.7 ff.

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300 Years Ago – RIGHT NOW

Oh Noooo! It’s already started !! The TriCentennial has begun, and we almost missed it !!!

Wednesday night, Nov. 15, 2017 I watched the reader’s digest version of the History of French colonial experience in Louisiana. Channel 12’s (WYES) “New Orleans: The first 300 years.” How refreshing it was to find out that the last seven years of my life could be covered in 12 minutes of TV air time !!!!! Of course, I realize that covering 300 years in an hour and a half is challenging to say the least. So I cannot begrudge the otherwise fine production of this TV event. It even throws into relief the notion that books like my “Petticoat Rebellion” a culinary history of the French era can only enhance, expand, and increase our enjoyment and commemoration of this monumental anniversary of our “Queen City of the South”.

300 years ago – right now, Autumn of 1717.

October 1st, 1717: The Board of Marine in Paris appoints a cashier (called Bonnaud) and orders that a “counter” (a thing not a person – you know, like a kitchen counter or a physical Board of the Exchequer, perhaps even like the counter in a store where customers check out) be built AT NEW ORLEANS. At the end of December, D’Avirl, a court politico and military man was named “Major” of the city, later raised to Major-General. He actually served at New Orleans until January, 1721.

New Orleans now, as of October, 1717, officially EXISTS. On paper, at least. Of course, nobody actually in Louisiana knows this until several months later. It would be about six months later, in the spring of 1718, late March to early April, that Bienville and his intrepid band of salt smugglers and 8 or 9 actual carpenters get to the Indian portage between the Mississippi and Bayou St. John and begin clearing the land. In true Louisiana tradition, the founding of New Orleans would be a process that would go on for several years until finally in 1722, the new town is named the capital of the Louisiana colony.

{ The following account is a summary and paraphrase of the History of the Foundation of New Orleans (1717-1722) by Baron Marc de Villiers. Translated from the French by Warrington Dawson. Mr. Dawson translated this work on the occasion of the BiCentennial of New Orleans at the end of the Great War in 1918/20.

The entire work is available as a book, or can be found in the journal of the Louisiana Historical Society, Vol. 3 #2 April 1920, or at

http://www2.latech.edu/~bmagee/louisiana_anthology/texts/de_villiers/de_villiers–new_orleans_founding.html

Several sources agree that sometime in March of 1718, work finally began on clearing the land at the site that is now the Vieux Carre. In a report to Paris in June of 1718 the Commandant of Louisiana (i.e. Bienville) writes;

“We are working on New Orleans with such diligence as the dearth of workmen will allow. I myself went to the spot, to choose the best site. I remained for ten days, to hurry on the work, and was grieved to see so few people engaged on a task which required at least a hundred times the number. . . . All the ground of the site, except the borders which are drowned by floods, is very good, and everything will grow there.” (Archives des Aff. Etrang., Mém. et Docum. (Amérique) Vol. I; p. 200.)

As work continued on New Orleans from 1718 through 1722, the powers-that-were in Mobile and Biloxi fiercely contested the establishment of the new town. Their power base and the economy (such as it was) was rooted on those first establishments on the Gulf Coast. The two main problems on the coast, however, was the lack of strong (read protected) port locations and the simple fact that the sandy shores and piney woods cannot support any significant agricultural activity. Nor could the coastal fortifications control the Mississippi. All of this taken together required that the colony locate a central facility somewhere on the river.

Adding to the political resistance, geography and nature did not help the situation. Until the order of 1722 came down from the Company (of the Indies) in Paris, floods, hurricanes, and a “war” with Pensacola occupied much of Bienville’s and the government’s attention. In 1719, a Mississippi flood covered the new town. On September 12, 1722 a hurricane pretty much leveled the few buildings that were New Orleans.

This four year time-out did see some progress, though. On paper at least New Orleans began to take shape. Adrien de Pauger arrived at the site in March of 1721, “to trace on the spot the plan of New Orleans.” LaTour, the colony’s chief engineer, was an opponent of the plan to site New Orleans at the crescent and a proponent of the coastal capital. “Nevetheless, most Louisiana historians have attributed to La Tour the honour of creating New Orleans. This is both an error and an injustice. In truth, the engineer-in-chief, before receiving any formal instructions, had thought of building a big town at Biloxi, whose position he considered “advantageous, the air excellent, and the water good.” Pauger’s plans were buried in the colonial office’s paperwork and Pauger himself was sent to map the Mississippi River to Natchez. In spite of all this, Pauger’s plans of New Orleans mysteriously DID find their way to Paris. The decision was finally settled when, “Brought over by the Aventurier, the Company’s decision reached Biloxi on the 26th of May, 1722. A formal order being now given to transfer the seat of government, Bienville met with no further resistance; . . .”

Prior to and during all this skulldudgery, two other matters of note need to be mentioned: Jacques Barbazon de Pailloux, who might be called the first citizen of New Orleans, having lived there since 1718, was given the title of Director while remaining military commander of the counter. The Board deemed such an appointment a sufficient effort in behalf of New Orleans; Hubert, Father Charlevoix, and the Journal Historique all mention Pauger as the real author of the plan; and De Lorme, though he wasted no love on the engineer, yet writes at the end of 1721; “Pauger, after having sketched the plan of New Orleans, traced the alignments, and distributed the sites, came down the river with the Santo-Christo and built a beacon sixty-two feet high.” A few month’s earlier, “On the 15th of April, 1721, the Council of Regency reached a decision for founding in New Orleans a convent of Capucins (sic) from Champagne. Completing this, a further order was signed on the 16th of May, 1722, prescribing that the Company should “build in New Orleans a parish church of suitable size and an adjacent house for fourteen monks, with grounds for a garden and a poultry-yard.” Fathers Bruno, of Langres, Eusebius, of Vaudes, and Christophe and Philibert, both from Chaumont, were selected for rejoining the three Capucins already in Louisiana. (((And with them, of course, came our fictional Frere Gerard; cooks and servants are rarely, if ever, mentioned in official records.)))

”At last, an impetus had been given, and the number of inhabitants soon increased. From a census dated the 24th of November, 1721, we find the following:A total of four hundred and seventy inhabitants, of whom two hundred and seventy-seven were Europeans. In the list of residents, we find: Bienville, Governor; Pailloux, Commandant; Bannez, Major; de Gannerin, Captain; Pauger, Descoublanc, de La Tour, Bassée, Coustillar, officers; Rossard, notary; Le Blanc and Sarazin, storekeepers; Bonneau, secretary to Diron d’Artaguette; Bérard, surgeon-major; Bonneau, captain of the Neptune. We note also the commandant of negroes, a house outfitter, a turner, a barge-maker, a carpenter, two joiners, two armourers, an edge-tool maker, a black-smith, a harness-maker, a tobacco-curer, a carter, sixteen ship’s captains, some sailors, etc. Thirty-six head of horned cattle, nine horses, and “zero hog” complete the census.

If we add to the population of New Orleans that of the neighbourhood (Bayou St. John, old and new Colapissas, Gentilly, Cannes-Brulees, Petit-Désert, English Turn, and Tchachouas), we find six hundred and eighty-four Europeans, (293 residents, or planters, 140 women, 96 children, 155 servants); five hundred and thirty-three negroes or negresses, fifty-one Indians or squaws as slaves, two hundred and thirty head of horned cattle, and thirty-four horses.”

And so, there you have it. Beginning in late 1717 and through the intervening years until May of 1722, New Orleans becomes a reality. And the rest – as they say – is history !!!! How’s that for a cliche?

And speaking of history______________ H is the story of (whatever) based on the written records of the past. So goes the standard academic definition. However, we also have the words of the great English historian Edward Gibbon, who was required reading for any (of my generation) who had any pretensions of following the profession,

“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 above account of the history of New Orleans’ founding used for this entry was written in French in 1792-4 and translated in 1918-19. As can be seen in the document quoted herein, the information is based on the colonial records housed in Paris. The interpretation of which is left to you, dear reader. Modern professional historians will undoubtedly have some bones to pick, but all in all, it follows the actual events pretty well. Besides, it was written for you, my blog followers, for as my all time favorite philosopher/historian – Will Durant – often said, “(Here I) pass it on, not to specialist scholars, who will learn nothing from it, but to (my) friends, wherever they are, who may find in it some moment’s illumination or brightening fantasy.”

HAPPY TRI-CENTENNIAL, EVERYBODY !!!!

(Undoubtedly, more to follow . . .)

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A Bonus Chapter from Vol.1

Native Americans and Seafood

Greetings from Dodge City, KS. Here on a business trip and I decided to finish this post which I began last week. Welcome to all my new likes on the Facebook page. I hope I can continue to provide a bit of historical entertainment for you pleasure. To that end and in a bit of shameless self promotion, here you will a find a “bonus chapter” from Vol. 1 of The Petticoat Rebellion. The chapter currently under composition in Vol 2 is also about the discovery and adaptation of the local watery resources to Gerard and Suzanne as they continue to mythologically create the cuisine for which New Orleans is famous.

A VISIT TO THE HOUMAS (Ch.13 from vol. I)

When my countrymen first arrived in Louisiana under the command of Sieur d’Iberville, the many villages of our Native brethren lined the river and streams between La Balize and the Arkansas Post. During the next three decades, we discovered an important fact about “les petits nations”. Here in the New World, or at least here in Louisiana, the people do not stay in one place very long. Entire villages and towns move about quite freely and quite often. For instance, my current visitation and mission to the Houmas nation will take me upriver to the Pointe Coupèe settlement, then back downriver to where the Mississippi forks a few leagues below the Baton Rouge. At that point, we will travel down La Fourche (the Fork) into the swamps, streams, and lakes that is the marsh to the south and west of New Orleans. In all of these places we hope to meet with the Houma people and bring them the Good News and learn from them the ways of catching and cooking the abundant seafood and fishes that inhabit our rich new land. I am traveling to these settlements with Father Anselm**. Pere Raphael has sent him to minister to the Houmas and the the Frenchmen at Pointe Coupèe and beyond. I am tagging along to help him in his work, and not accidentally, to learn as much as I can from our little brothers about the local food production.
Past Baton Rouge, the land begins to rise. To the east, the terrain rolls away in hills and gullies, with bluffs very much like cliffs along the river and other waterways. to the west stretches a vast flatness of grasslands and meadows, which we call praerie in French. The settlement at Pointe Coupèe lay on the western side of the St. Louis. More technically, it is situated on a loop in the river that has been “cut off” from the main stream and now forms a lake. Folks moving up from Baton Rouge and even the local Indians often call the place False River. Pere Anselm and our party stayed there a couple of months, while Father preached the Word, and made arrangements to start building on a permanent chapel to serve the population. Since the locals were Frenchmen like ourselves, and – more to the point – cooked with the same ingredients I do, following the same methods and cooking on a hearth, there wasn’t much done here in the kitchen that I did not already know. So I spent most of my time, helping with the chapel and exploring the surrounding country. The settlement side that is the western bank is the rich alluvial prairie, which is perfect for the plow. Large farms had already begun to be established. On the eastern side of the river, the land was much more broken up and vast forests covered the hills and bluffs along the bayous and streams running down into the St. Louis. It was a rich hunting ground for native and settler alike, and the forest trees were filled with nuts, berries, and fruits of all kind. This indeed is a wondrous land and The Lord has blessed our countrymen in being able to come and partake in its bounty.
Monsieur d’Iberville first found the Houmas on the hills and bluffs of the eastern side of the great river. But, as I said earlier, these New World folk do not stay in one place for long periods of time. Pere Anselm and I did, indeed, find some of the Houma nation at Pointe Coupée, but we also learned from them that most of their people had moved south to the big fork in the river below Baton Rouge. During the visit, I had concluded that my time would be best spent in learning about the watery food resources that abound in Louisiana. To that end, I was excited when Pere Anselm finally decided to visit the scattered Houma nation down La Fourche and minister to them there. So, after some pleasant months, we left the rich farmlands around the False River and headed down the St. Louis (aka the Mississippi) toward La Fourche. Our first stop was at the town which had been a native community since before we clumsy Frenchmen stumbled into the river’s mouths. Since we arrived some thirty years ago, it had been occupied by the Bayougoulas, the Chitimacha, and now the Houmas. Here where the river forks, we stayed for a few days to get some sense of where we were headed. As Pere Anselm sought information about their beliefs and their spiritual culture. I befriended the hunters, the women, and the fishermen to see what they fed their people and, more importantly, how they acquired it and how they prepared it for all to eat.

Since I was expressly seeking information about the acquisition, preparation, and consumption of the local fruites de mer, the very first thing I learned from the Houmas is that – most interestingly – the native nations do not eat their symbol or sacred animals. The Houmas, recognized by the red crawfish, would not have consumed it. It was the same for the other petits nations as well. Each nation has its sacred animal, and will not consume it. Now as to the crawfish or, in French, la ecrevisse, this water dweller is very like a miniature lobster. while most of the nations find it very tasty, specifically the tail meat, it is small and rather difficult to extract the meat. But, once one has peeled enough of them, they make a variety of delicious dishes.

Anyway, since the Houmas do not prepare or consume them, for now we will consider the other fishes and their kin. La Fourche itself as well as the numerous streams, bayous, lakes, and ponds that are the Houma homelands provide a wealth of tasty species, including gar, choupique, catfish, paddlefish, sunfish,bass, eel, sac a lait, sturgeon, gizzard shad, and buffalo fish. As we travelled down the La Fourche closer to the Mexican Gulf, the natives took drum, croaker, speckled trout, redfish, flounder, and mullet from the coasts and bays. Along with the various finfish, during our extended visit we caught and consumed oysters which were abundant in the lakes and coastal waters. Everywhere from the river down to the Gulf, there were huge amounts of mussels, shrimp and crabs. From the marsh itself, I learned to prepare and – surprisingly, really enjoy – frogs of extraordinary size and even turtles, terrapins, and alligators. Finally, even though my Houma friends and guides showed me how, I couldn’t bring myself to consume the snakes.

Gathering the harvests of the waters occurred in many methods. The Houmas (and, most other natives) harvested the catch with hooks, lines, hoop nets made of rabbit-vines, cone-shaped traps made with wooden slats, trot-lines (a local creation where many hooks are dangled from one strong line stretched over the entire stream) and weirs ( sort of a fence or corral set into the stream, which were first used by the Natchez nation). Sometimes, fish were speared in shallow water by night and sometimes poisoned.This technique was usually employed in summer when the small streams were low. Poison was obtained from the horse chestnut, or buckeye; the root of the devil’s shoestring, or catgut or from green hickory nuts or walnut hulls. The natives would crush these materials and stir them into a pool, where the fish, with their gills paralyzed, floated to the surface.

Once the fish and/or shellfish are gathered, there is virtually no difference between our “civilized” way of cooking and preparing the meal, and the cooking ways of Houmas and other nations in the region. Well, maybe one difference, all of their cooking is normally done outside over a fire pit, whereas ours is usually done over the fire of an indoor hearth. Nevertheless, boiling, baking, broiling, roasting, frying, and parching are all accomplished on the bayous and marshes surrounding La Fourche just as in the royal kitchens of Paris. Separate pots are used for each type of food prepared, meat, vegetable, grain , or fish are usually cooked separately, except when combined in common soups, porridges, stews, and mush. Here, in this part of the new world, at least, bear oil serves as quite an adequate substitute for olive oil. I can only wish that my readers can see from this, that even to its most level, we Europeans are really not much advanced in the ways of life as our “little brothers” of the Americas. ‡

After a large catch, the Houmas would put the extra fish on a grill over a low fire to smoke and dry for later use. This common method would also be used for any game or other meat they wished to preserve over time.

As to the cooking of the fish, as is normal among all folk, there is a traditional set of cooking styles for any and all of the fish to which then are added all sorts of variations. For instance . . .

Boiling seafood
A very common method of preparing shellfish, especially crabs, crawfish, or shrimp is to boil them. The process is similar which species is being cooked. There are actually two stages in the boiling method, cleaning and boiling. Begin with live crabs or crawfish, with shrimp this is not necessary. Cleaning the shrimp is a simple matter of washing them in clean water. Some people like to devein the shrimp. There is even a special tool, sold in most local supermarkets, which is like a long curved toothpick which makes this easier. This usually works best with larger shrimp, with small shrimp, the vein does not make that much difference. When boiling fresh shrimp, remove the heads (reserve for stock), but do not peel the shrimp, then proceed to the boil.
Since live crabs or crawfish is used in boiling, the cleaning process is a bit different. The first stage is gently hosing down the shellfish to remove all the external dirt, mud, vegetation, etc. Once cleaned the animals are then “purged”, that is coved in a bath of brine, which serves to internally clean them out. From the purge the crabs or crawfish are dropped live into the boiling water.
Before starting the cleaning process, it is useful to set up the boiling pot and start the seasoning and boiling. While there are large pots sold for the specific purpose of boiling seafood, stock pots are also commonly used. Also, if you are cooking for two (or one), a large 2 or 3 quart saucepan works equally well. Start with enough water to cover the intended quantity and then some. The first seasoning is salt, which is used liberally to make a strong brine. The second essential is some form of pepper. Cayenne is usually used, but there are several cayenne and spice/herb mixtures commercially available under the name of “crab boil”. Experiment with several of these to find your preference. After these two, the boiling pot is open to interpretation. A standard combination is onions, celery, garlic, and lemon. The combinations, however, are endless and totally up to the cook. Bay leaf is often used, and most boils include fresh corn-on-the-cob and new red potatoes in the mix.
The actual cooking of the shrimp is done very quickly, for two minutes to be exact. The overall procedure, though is somewhat lengthy. Adherence to the strict timetable will insure a perfect boiled shrimp every time.

Step 1; Add your chosen seasoning to the boiling pot and make the stock first, boil for about 10 to 15 minutes minimum.
Step 2: Add the potatoes to the pot, return to boil and let boil for four (4) minutes.
Step 3: Add the corn to the pot, return to boil and let boil for eleven (11) minutes.
Step 4: Add the clean shrimp to the pot, return to boil and let boil for two (2) minutes.
Step 5: Turn off the fire, remove the pot from the burner, add one half a bag of ice to quick cool the shrimp, the shrimp will sink into the flavored stock and begin to soak up the seasoning.
Step 6: Let the shrimp “soak” for 15 to 20 minutes, the longer they soak, the more seasoning they absorb.
Step 7: EAT !!!
*The above procedure is adapted from Frank Davis Cooks Cajun, Creole, and Crescent City. By Frank Davis, Pelican Publishing Co., Gretna, LA: 1994.

Basic fried fish or shellfish
Frying means cooking something in hot oil. In colonial Louisiana that meant either bear oil, olive oil, lard, or butter. Seasoning the seafood with some salt and placing it into the heated oil is the simplest method. One can fry in deep fat (about an inch or two deep in a home kitchen) or simply in a pan coated with the fat or perhaps a quarter to a half inch in depth. Seafood generally cooks through very quickly. Depending on the size and thickness of the food being cooked, anywhere from a minute on each side to no more than five minutes a side should do. If deep fat is used the fish, oysters, shrimp, etc. will be done when it floats. That’s it!
The art of turning cooking into cuisine is what makes a culture like the Creole famous and sought after. Knowledge, experience, openness to new ingredients and methods, a sense of simplicity, and even some playfulness all combine to make a process as simple as frying into a work of art. A first step may be adding more spices and herbs to the seafood before the frying. A common second step is to “bread” the seafood in flour, breadcrumbs, or a combination of both. After these have been done and tested to your taste, the addition of sauces or the combination of other meats or fish with the fried morsels is a final step in the potential endless line of variations on the “frying” theme. To get started, lets do three dishes to explore the basics of fried, breaded and sauced seafood.

FRIED SHRIMP

Remove the heads and peel the shrimp, reserve the heads and peels for making a seafood stock. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper, fennel and/or ground coriander add that “Louisiana” taste. In a pan heat up your fat of choice until a small ball of meat or some bread sizzles when it is dropped in. Keeping temperature in mind, add one or two shrimp until they began to sizzle, then add the rest of the shrimp one at a time until they all are happily sizzling away. Let them fry until pinkish brown in color and they begin to float in the fat. Remove with a slotted spoon or spatula and drain on paper towels until cool enough to eat. Enjoy!

Breading catfish (or anything else)

Breading (simple) Mix a cup of flour and a cup of cornmeal together, add some salt and cayenne pepper. Begin with this simple mixture, then add other herbs and seasoning to taste. Vary the type and grind of the flour and cornmeal as well. Place the mix in a clean, empty butter tub. Get the deep fryer or a heavy pan ready, place the pan on the heat and add about one half inch of oil (of your choice). Have the fish soaking in water or beer. Place a fillet or some “nuggets” in the flour, close the lid and shake the tub until the fish is coated. Using the same test for temperature (as above) place one small piece in the oil, when it begins to sizzle, add the fillet or the nuggets. Bread the rest of the fish in the same manner, and fry for about five minutes. Judge the time by the thickness of the fish, and turn over at least once in the hot oil. Remove with a slotted spoon or spatula and drain on paper towels until cool enough to eat. Enjoy!
Breading (complex) Use two types of breading, a flour mixture as above and some breadcrumbs in separate plates. Soak the catfish as above, but also prepare and egg/milk wash (seasoned as you like). Prepare your hot oil and proceed: Shake the wet fish in the flour mixture, from her though move the fish to a quick dip into the seasoned wash, then roll in the bread crumbs. Repeat until you have enough to fill the pan. Place all the fish into the pan and let fry for five to eight minutes (depending on size).Turn over at least once in the frying process, Remove with a slotted spoon or spatula and drain on paper towels until cool enough to eat. Enjoy!
These same breading techniques work well with shrimp, oysters, any fish fillets you like, chicken, pork chops, and small, thin cuts of beef.

Ramoulade Sauce (1693)the following recipe is translated (by the author) from Massialot, Francois. Le Cuisinier Royal et Bourgeois, Chez Charles de Sercy, au Palais, Paris, 1693.

For several fillets of fish, one makes a sauce called Ramolade, it is made of chopped parsley, chopped leeks, chopped anchovies, chopped capers, put it all in a plate (bowl) with a little salt, some pepper, nutmeg, oil and vinegar, mix together well in a little water; Set your (cooked) fillets on a dish, and sprinkle with this Ramolade. Now, some dishes add some lemon juice, to serve it cold.

 

SOME HISTORICAL NOTES
About 50 miles upriver from New Orleans, the Mississippi opens one of its largest distributaries in SE Louisiana. On its western bank a large bayou drains some of its mighty waters through a rich and fertile plain down into the Gulf. So large, in fact, that its name defines it, not as a bayou, but as a fork in the great river. Later usage has demoted it to a bayou, but Bayou LaFourche still remains the fork in the river at present day Donaldsonville. Even in the earliest French records, this river fork, and the land around it was occupied.

Figuring out which Native group lived where in Lower Louisiana is an on-going puzzle. Between 1699 and 1750, the Louisiana Indians grew and shrunk in numbers, moved around, merged together, broke apart, fought with each other, lived with each other in the same villages and towns, battled the French settlers, traded with them, intermarried (or at least interbred) with Frenchmen, Spaniards, each other, and even some British wanderers. It is safe to say that basically they were rovers of the swamps and rivers of SE Louisiana. Comparing and analyzing the colonial sources along with modern studies of archaeology, tribal histories, and Native Louisiana folklore, a picture emerges of nomadic groups who survived along the edges of the marsh and the various rivers and bayous that is the Gulf coast of south Louisiana. It may be useful to compare their wanderings to the semi-nomadic lifestyle of the buffalo hunters of the same era on the North American Plains. In simple terms, all of these family groups and clan/tribes followed the game migrations. Seasonal villages were built along the group’s migratory cycle. People came and went with the seasons or with the flux in population. Different groups merged together and broke apart as climate conditions, landscapes, game populations, and human politics demanded. Unlike our neat Euro-American farmsteads, settlements, ranges, and ranches, which we claim and call our private property, Native Louisianians lived in the best places they could find, and the distributary at Bayou LaFourche remained a “best place” for this entire period and beyond.

Here in 1699, Iberville found the Chitimachas. Upriver he met the Bayougoulas and the Houmas. Further on were the Tunica. Later the Tunica joined the Houmas, then fought with them. The Tunicas eventually moved north to the Red River confluence and the Houmas south to Bayou LaFourche. By then, the Chitimachas and Bayougoulas had merged, and had been absorbed by the Houmas.* In any event, the now consolidated Houmas spread out down LaFourche and over the marshlands on either bank. It was here that Frere Gerard finds them in the 1730’s.

Frere Gerard indeed found them on the LaFourche in the 1730’s. Today, native Houma Indians may be found all over Louisiana. Our readers need to be aware that although the evidence is overwhelming, the Federal government still does not recognize the Houmas as a native nation ! Typical of the injustice caused by the silly action or non-action of the US bureaucracy, we should do all we can to right this wrong. To learn more about Louisiana’a largest Indian nation and their battle for recognition and against this blatant injustice, please visit:

http://www.southernstudies.org/node/4730Share.      OR.        United Houma Nation at http://www.unitedhoumanation.org

* In modern times, the Chitimachas again split from Houmas and are now their own group – the process continues.
** Vogel, The Capuchins in French Louisiana, p.60
† Kniffin, et. al., pp. 202-204.
‡ All of this has been paraphrased from Kniffin, et. al., pp. 204 ff.

If you enjoyed this bonus chapter, why not enjoy the whole book. Unlike this blog entry,  it is illustrated and contains many more recipes. The Petticoat Rebellion; A Culinary History of French Colonial Cuisine  978-0990737896
is available from
Amazon.com in print or Kindle
And via CreateSpace though
Biblio.com, alibris.com, B&N.com and many many other venues

HAPPY READING!

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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