Exactly, when ?

So, the tourist asks, “Exactly when was New Orleans founded?” Ah!, like everything else in New Orleans the date can be very easy going. We are the Big Easy, after all – and have been since the early 18th century! Most folks, including the city fathers/mothers (parents?), will come down on the exact date of >>wait for it<<- Spring, 1718 – most satisfying don’t you think?

So let’s look in the history books and see what we can find. . .

The following information and quotes are taken from:

de Villiers, Baron Marc. (Tr. Warrington Dawson) A History of the Foundation of New Orleans (1717 – 1722). The Louisiana Historical Quarterly, Vol. 3, No. 2, April 1920.

http://www2.latech.edu/~bmagee/louisiana_anthology/texts/de_villiers/de_villiers–new_orleans_founding.html Accessed 7/24/2018, and many other times earlier.

I have never yet been able to see any further research that goes beyond this thorough examination of the original sources to ascertain dates relevant to the founding of our hometown.

Exactly when . . .

“So the date for the foundation of New Orleans may be fixed at pleasure anywhere between the spring of 1717 and the month of June, 1722, when Le Blond de La Tour, the Engineer-in-Chief, compelled to go and visit the site of the capital, had no choice but to ratify purely and simply the plan drawn up a year before by Adrien de Pauger.”

“It is an incontestable fact that on the first of October, 1717, The Marine Board appointed Bonnard store-keeper and cashier . . . at the counter which is to be established at New Orleans, on the St. Louis River.” (Colonies, B42bis.fol.180)

“On the 31st of December following, M. d’Ayril, . . . was named Major at the new post.” (Ibid.)

further entries in the records show

“Resolved to establish, thirty leagues up the river, a burg which should be called New Orleans, where landing would be possible from either the river or Lake Pontchartrain.”

The decrees which follow prescribe the establishing of a burg at Natchez, and of forts in Illinois and among the Natchitoches.

Bienville writes, 10th of June, 1718: “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.”

The date for the first work done on New Orleans lies, then, between the 15th of March and the 15th of April, 1718. But in spite of Bienville’s efforts, and owing to hostility from “the Maubilians,” the buildings made but slow progress. Le Gac was justified in writing in his Mémoire sur la situation de la Louisiane le 25 août 1718: “New Orleans is being scarcely more than shaped.” (Bibl. de l’Institut, Mss. 487, fol. 509.)

Last and probably least, the 2018 edition of The Old Farmer’s Almanac (out of New England , of all places) gives “New Orleans, La. founded, 1718” on August 25 in their Calendar pages, p. 159. Maybe the Yankees in New Hampshire didn’t hear about it till then🤪.

A coincidence maybe, wasn’t Katrina in the gulf in late August, 2005? The 29th as I remember. While we are remembering hurricanes don’t forget Sept.11, 1722. Three months after the last possible “founding” date, June, 1722, New Orleans was completely destroyed by it’s first hurricane.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose !

One More Time>>>>>


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Thoughts upon the Completion of a Book

The Petticoat Rebellion; A Culinary History of French Colonial Louisiana (Parts I and II) is complete.

Complete and finished, though, are two distinctly different states of being. A huge chunk of my life is now wrapped up. The final phases of this magnum opus are now in the hands of a publisher. Their response will determine the course of the upcoming years. If accepted, there will certainly be months ahead of revisions, rewrites, and negotiations – both literary and fiduciary. If not accepted, months ahead will include a few more submissions, and/or preparing the work for the self publishing process. Whichever way this turns out, I – as the saying goes – have my work cut out for me.

The excitement, the fear, the hope, the prayers, the mood swings, now dominate my thoughts. I must press on, however, with the completion of the recipes, the illustrations, and the thoughts of the next project. Will there be a Part III (the Spanish colonial era) ? Should I turn my attention to Governor Vaudreuil, a popular biography? What about the 1718 website? Take it down? Modify it? Come to think on it, New Orleans wasn’t built in a day. it wasn’t until 1722 that the city became the capital. Or until the mid-1720’s that it took on any shape resembling a city.

Or should I just blow the whole thing off for a couple of weeks and work in the garden? In any event, thanks are once again in order. Whether anybody is reading this blog or not. having the ability to publicly think out loud about these things is a blessing in itself. So, to whoever is out there, Thanks Again.

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TriCentennial Transitions

Since retiring from teaching in 2010, my life has generally focused on researching and writing The Petticoat Rebellion in anticipation of the 2018 Tricentennial. Now that the Tricentennial is halfway over and THE BOOK IS FINISHED !!!!!!!, I have to figure out what to do with the rest of my life.

Presently, that is, the 4th of July, 2018, the last eight years of my life, The Petticoat Rebellion: A Culinary History of French Colonial Louisiana, Parts I and II is in the hands of an actual real book publisher ! I still can’t believe it. After one rejection, a second query letter resulted in a request for Part I and a bit more info. That request was soon followed by another for the entire manuscript !!!!! Taken completely by surprise, and still having 2 chapters to wrap up, my family (all writers) and I spent the entire month of June scrambling to finish the chapters, and run the whole thing through four complete editing cycles. Now, dear readers, you can understand why I haven’t been doing much blogging lately. Anyway the book is now at the publishers and I am – naturally – on pins and needles awaiting their next response.

So, now what????

First of all, you will find at the conclusion of this entry the latest recipe test that is included in the book. We made a crawfish pie based on the Massialot cookbook (Paris, 1699) with modern modifications from newer Creole cookbooks at our disposal and our own imaginations. Suffice it to say, at this point, that we decided to leave out or significantly reduce the turnips included in the recipe below.

Now, back to considering the next 10 or 15 years. Of course, a lot of this thinking depends on the publisher’s answer. If the book gods are kind, I expect to be doing a lot of revision and rewriting over the next many months. Otherwise, the self publishing route is to be considered and acted upon. But regardless of any of these outcomes I am thinking primarily of two options. One, continue the culinary history into the Spanish period of Louisiana colonial history. OR Two, an autohorticultural work (new word, anyone?) that is an autobiography of yours truly building a New Orleans garden in the exurbs of the city, the Northshore aka the Florida Parishes.

Before you look at the Crawfish Pie recipe below, I have a request. The New Orleans Tri-Centennial Facebook page (aka this blog) now has over 350 follows. I would LOVE to hear from some of you – even if it is just to tell me whether you like the turnips in the pie or not. There is usually a comment form below the blog entry, please use it to let me know what you think. Ok, enough of all of this, here’s the recipe:


• 1 lb. crawfish tails

• A double pie shell

• Onion, bell peppers, turnip, garlic, celery, mushrooms, salt, cayenne pepper,

• Basil leaves, thyme, parsley, olive oil, white wine,

Bake one pie shell first about 10 minutes in a hot oven (450) or until brown, cool.

First you make a roux. Sauté some mushrooms and 6 or so 1 inch cubes of turnip in olive oil. Mix up 1/2 cup of seafood stock, 1/2 cup of white wine, 2 tbsp each of butter and flour. Add to the sautéed mushrooms. Reduce by half.

Chop together, as finely as possible, the onions, bell peppers, garlic, and celery and four cubes of turnip. When the roux thickens and is almost cooked, add the chopped vegetables to stop the cooking process. Return to the fire and sauté for several minutes to cook the vegetables through. Add the salt and cayenne to taste. Wait about 5 minutes, taste the sauce and correct the seasoning, then add the crawfish tails. Cook together for 10 minutes.

Mix the thyme, parsley, and basil into the crawfish sauce and pour into the cool pie shell. Top with the second (uncooked) shell. Bake at 400 for about ½ hour or until the top shell is browned and crunchy.


BTW, The Petticoat Rebellion, Part I is still on sale at Amazon and other online venues, both in trade paperback and as an eBook; as well as – I am proud to announce – The Arcadian Books store at 714 Orleans St. , a half block behind the Cathedral in the French Quarter. Check it out.

(Using that phrase, it also reminds me that you can actually “check it out” from the St. Tammany Parish Public Library).

WISH ME LUCK !!!!!!!

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Eating Like a Voyageur

The following recipe is quoted from:

Mitchell, Patricia B. French Cooking in Early America. Chatham, VA: MitchellsPublications.com, 1991. Twelfth Printing, 2008. P. 3

Who, in turn found it in “Sourdough and Hardtack,” American Heritage Cookbook, New York, 1961. p. 49. By Evan Jones.

“Authentic Voyageur Stew:

“The tin kettle in which they cook their food, a traveler wrote, would hold 8 or 10 gallons. It was hung over the fire, nearly full of water, then 9 quarts of peas-one quart per man, the daily allowance-were put in; and when they were well bursted two or 3 pounds of pork, cut into strips, for seasoning, were added, and all allowed to boil or simmer until daylight, when the cook added four biscuits, broken up, to the mess, and invited all hands to breakfast. The swelling of the peas and biscuit had now filled the kettle to the brim, so thick that a stick would stand upright in it… The men now squatted in a circle, and each one plying his wooden spoon or ladle from the kettle to mouth, with almost electric speed, soon filled every cavity.”

Ms. Mitchell continues the theme for Voyageur Stew with her own recipe for a “Rendezvous”* version which adds onion, garlic, and bay leaves – along with salt and pepper – to the above.

Along with the stew, there are “voyageur” recipes and methods for Jerky (pemmican), boudins, and a discussion of egg and flour galettes.

* The Rendezvous, of course, was the annual meet-up of trappers and traders at the end of the season to indulge in all possible vices while trading and off loading their catches of the season. It was basically about the same – in attitude – as our New Orleans Mardi Gras without the parades.

BTW, anyone interested in the French-American culinary tradition ought to have Mitchell’s  little book. (ISBN: 978-0-925117-35-9)

And then there are the academics:

Podruchny, Carolyn. Making the Voyageur World: Travelers and Traders in the North American Fur Trade. Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 2006.

Scattered throughout this (very academic) overview of French Canadien voyageur life are numerous references to the culinary culture of these intrepid pioneers of North America west of the Mississippi.

If you are new to cooking or to any form of culinary commentary, one of the first things about food and food culture becomes ‘painfully’ obvious very soon. Any discussion or activity involving food is limited to four groups: proteins (meats), grains (wheat, rye, barley, etc.), vegetables and fruits, and beverages (drink). Humanity in all its myriad forms and expressions has done the most spectacular job in taking these four things and combining them into literally thousands of food traditions and millions of dishes. That group of (usually) men we remember as “voyageurs” were no different. Dr. Podrungny explains that there are several French phrases that came into common use by and about these explorers and traders. Two that easily apply to our topic here are Les mangeurs de lard, “The Pork Eaters”and Tripe de roche.

Les mangeurs de lard, was the (usually derisive) name given to the “low men on the totem pole”. Basically these were the canoe men, who paddled and navigated the huge cargo canoes which plied back and forth along the western rivers between the “North” lands and Lake Superior. Tripe de roche, was rock moss, boiled in water to make a boullion (often prevented starvation).

Beyond that, nourishment was found among the voyageurs in the usual ways. Protein was supplied by the outcome of hunting and fishing activities, by the nuts found in the forests, and the preserved meats such as pemmican or dried buffalo, and similar products like smoked or dried fish. Gathering was another important activity, often done by Native women. Some of there produce included wild onions, plums, various wild berries and fruit, and grapes.

It was such food resources and culinary traditions which were used by Sieur de Bourgmont, the Commandant of the Missouri Valley in the early decades of the 18th century.

Finally a word about the paucity of posts in the past month or so. It is too early to make an announcement, but let’s just say by the end of the week, Part 2 of The Petticoat Rebellion will be complete and then, hopefully, possibly, – interesting things may begin to happen.

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Voyages of a Voyageur

I betcha didn’t know that as New Orleans was being built, another Fort Orleans was coming into existence in a part of Louisiana most of us realize was there, but is not discussed very much in our histories. A French Canadien/Gulf Coast voyageur by the name of Etienne de Veniard, Sieur de Bourgmont was busy in the Missouri valley being essentially the first European to explore and map the “longest river in North America”. His story follows shortly, but first I would like to share a recurring “foodiepiphany” that occurred this afternoon (Mon. 5/21).

One of the guiding themes of The Petticoat Rebellion and of these blogs is that the origins of Creole Cuisine in French Louisiana was the result of, among many factors, making due with what one had. Since I am descended from a long line of French Creoles dating back to the 1750’s as well as the primary cook in my household, it is only right that I practice what I preach.  On this day I was planning to bake some catfish. By chance this morning I acquired a couple of bell peppers, once of which broke neatly in half on the way home. A menu begin to evolve in my mind and by 1:30, the fish remained in the freezer and pound of ground meat was removed instead. What follows is in the long tradition of Creole cooking, true to my heritage. Simple, straightforward, and fabulously delicious, here is tonite’s dinner!

Stuffed Bell Peppers w/ fake Dirty Rice
Peas & Carrots
Fresh Baked mini-Baguettes
Iced Tea

{By the way, most of the above are thoroughly modern convenience foods, which makes today’s cooking so much easier than all the preparation that Suzanne and Gerard had to go through to produce similar meals, that is a part of their genius of which I am chronicling}.

To make the fake Dirty Rice, I began by preparing a box of Zatarain’s Spanish Rice. Easy and well seasoned, I simply prepared it according to package directions, drained and set aside. Next I fried off the ground beef, adding a tablespoon of Worcester sauce. Pouring off some of the fat from the pan, I mixed the beef with the rice, added a little salt and voila – fake Dirty Rice! with one pepper broken, I sliced the other in half, sprinkled the seeds onto the rice, mixed, then stuffed the “dirty rice” into the peppers. I had on hand some frozen bake ‘n serve baguettes, opened a can of peas and carrots into a bowl for the microwave, fixed the Iced Tea – and the rest is history;-)


It is an oft repeated cliché the the French colony of Louisiana “was a failure”. And while this argument may hold some water, especially under the regime of the Crozat company and the Company of the West/Indies up until 1732, the colony showed every sign of growth and improvement from 1734 until the loss of the Seven Years War in 1763. IMHO, this reputation needs correction in that Louisiana was not a failure, the failure was in the actions, or rather, the IN – actions of the regie or the ruling boards of the Company(s). This in turn can be seen as a symptom of the failure of ancien regime which finally fell in 1789. These aristocrats on the “boards of directors” of the these companies consistently made promises of support to the Louisiana government, their appointed soldiers and explorers who mapped out and built out the vast colony,  as well as the Native Americans with whom they desired trade relations and peace, and the actual settlers and colonists whom they shipped over to the New World. These promises were only rarely fulfilled and even then often at partial levels. It is a wonder that the actual “boots on the ground” in French Louisiana were able to make any progress at all with virtually no promised help, aid, or supplies from the homeland?

It appears to this writer that the real people here, Bienville, Boisbriant, Bourgmont, the rest of the “government”, the colonists, the settlers, the voyagers and coiuriers de bois, as well as the unheralded and forced Africans – really made a success of this “failed” colony. When the “companies” finally gave up, the decades of Bienville, Vaudreuil, and Kerlerec actually saw an economic and political stabilization comparable to any Spanish or British colony in North America.

An excellent example of this point is the case of Etienne de Bourgmont, who may be properly be called “The Discoverer of the Missouri Valley”. Not only did he travel through and explore the Missouri and connected waterways, he treated with and established positive trade and military relationships with the Native communities along those rivers, he planted a settlement upriver from the Missouri/Mississippi confluence, Fort d’Orleans. The fate of this fort becomes a case-in-point of the above mentioned policies of the home government in France.

Bourgmont‘s adventures in the New World read like a modern action thriller. His career began in 1702 when he was convicted at age 19 of poaching on monastery land and fined 100 livres. he decided instead to take ship to New France (Canada). Once there he ingratiated himself with the authorities and by 1706 he was placed in command of Fort Ponchartrain (modern Detroit) where shortly a flare up between two Native groups resulted in the death of a French priest and sergeant. In true ancien regime fashion the aristocrats quickly passed the buck to Bourgmont, who, choosing the better part of valor quietly decamped into the vast forests of North America. Bourgmont and some companions became coureurs des bois around the eastern Great Lakes for a few years and finally made a return to Fort Ponchartrain where he became involved in an inter Native war between the Fox Indians (enemies of the French) and a coalition of Algonquin, Missouria, and Osage communities. By 1713, even though technically still outside the law, Bourgmont was once again in the aristo’s favor.

The French colonial experience in Louisiana has been seen by many as an expression of that cultural phenomena sweeping through France (and Europe in general) in the 17th and 18th centuries known as the “Enlightenment”. Bourgmont’s career in New France and Louisiana offers an excellent example of what it means to be an “enlightened” explorer and trader in the New World. While living the rough and tumble life of a voyageur, hunting, trapping, and trading, Bourgmont also adding writing to his repertoire.  In 1713 he began writing Exact Description of Louisiana, of Its Harbors, Lands and Rivers, and Names of the Indian Tribes That Occupy It, and the Commerce and Advantages to Be Derived Therefrom for the Establishment of a Colony.

After traveling to the mouth of the present-day Platte River in March of 1714, he composed The Route to Be Taken to Ascend the Missouri River. This account reached the cartographer Guillaume Delisle working in Lower Louisiana, who noted that it was the first documented report of travels that far north on the Missouri.

By now, Bienville had replaced Cadillac as commandant. On September 25, 1718, he recommended that Bourgmont receive the Cross of Saint Louis for service to France, for the value of his explorations and documentation of river travel. A year later the Council of the Colony of Louisiana also officially praised Bourgmont’s work with the Natives. Drawing on his years of experience in what is now “the heartland”, he established long lasting positive relations with the locals. Tribes were said to have valued the products Bourgmont offered, as he traded gunpowder, guns, kettles, and blankets. In contrast to the Spanish whom were said to trade few horses, knives, and “inferior axes.”  He once described his knack for for dealing with the native Americans,

“For me with the Indians nothing is impossible. I make them do what they have never done.”

{N.B.  Within the same time frame Bourgmont was connecting with the Indians and exploring the Missouri valley, Bienville and a small group of workers were busy building a new city, destined to become the capital of the French colony, New Orleans. As we celebrate our Tricentennial, it may be useful to remember that – thanks to Bourgmont – New Orleans was also the capital of the Missouri valley as it was being built.}

By 1720, Bourgmont had become a fixture in Louisiana, both Lower and Upper. A recognized leader in Native American relations, an explorer and geographer of note in the Missouri Valley. That year he and his son (by his Missouria wife) travelled to Paris. (Remember he was still technically an outlaw). Luck was still on his side, for simultaneously with his arrival, news reached France that Natives allied with the French had defeated a Spanish expedition into the mid continental prairies where there were no established European claims. Our not-to-reluctant hero, was commissioned as a captain in the French army. In August he was named “Commandant of the Missouri River” and was commissioned to build a fort on the Missouri River and negotiate with the tribes to allow peaceful French commerce.

In 1723, he established Fort Orleans, the first European fort on the Missouri River, near the mouth of the Grand River and present-day Brunswick, Missouri.] The fort was to be the staging base for a planned to visit the Padouca on the Great Plains and Bourgmont hoped to open a trade route to reach the Spanish colony in New Mexico.

{N.B. -again – Trade between New Mexico and Louisiana was strictly forbidden by the two empires mercantile policies. Take note that nobody in either (colonial) government paid much attention to the two empires mercantile policies.

* Bourgmont sought aid from the Kaw aka the Canzas to facilitate his expedition. He sent 22 Frenchmen and Canadians by boat from Fort Orleans to the Canzas village on the Missouri with supplies and gifts. The explorer himself set out by land, marching with 10 French colonists, and over 150 Natives. Prior to this first official French visit, many voyageurs, including Bourgmont, had visited them in the first two decades of the 18th century. The Canzas had also likely journeyed to trade in Kaskaskia. This grand expedition reached the Canzas village at the beginning of July, 1724. After innumerable speeches and feasts, the talk turned to trade, the Canzas were hard bargainers. Bourgmont wanted to buy some horses. With only five horses to trade, they extracted a high price. The Canzas also traded six slaves (likely American Indians of other tribes captured in battle), food, furs, and skins. At the end of July, in the high summer heat of the American prairie, Bourgmont, his original party of French, Missouri, and Osage, now swelled by most the Canzas village left on their quest to find the Padouca, almost certainly the French name for the Apache.

Unfortunately the heat caused a delay to the expedition. The commandant became ill and had to return to Fort d’Orleans to recover. By autumn, Bourgmont was once again able to travel. Not surprisingly, his Grand Expedition by this time had shrunk considerably. So, with fifteen Frenchmen and twenty-four Natives, including the five Apache who had joined him as guides, the “Commandant of the Missouri Valley” set out to finally, hopefully, connect the main Apache tribes.  The party headed southwest across the Kansas prairie, and after crossing the Kansas River on Oct. 11, Bourgmont recorded in his journal a sight that would dumbfound European and American travelers for the next two centuries, the Buffalo. As they passed through the innumerable beasts, they saw unfolding before them “a hunter’s paradise”. Recording 30 herds in one day, each herd consisting of 400-500 buffalo. Bourgmont wrote, “Our hunters kill as many as they please.” Deer were also abundant. In one day they saw more than 200, plus numerous turkeys near the streams.”On October 18, Bourgmont encountered the Apache*. Eighty Natives rode out on horses to meet the French and took them back to the camp.

The explorer’s journal narrates an honored welcome. It tells how he and his son with two other French explorers, were seated on a buffalo robe; carried to the tent of the Apache chief for a great feast. The next day Bourgmont assembled his trade goods and divided them into lots.

The following is the list:

“one pile of fusils [guns], one of sabers, one of pickaxes, one of axes, one of gunpowder, one of balls, one of red Limbourg cloth, another of blue Limbourg cloth, one of mirrors, one of Flemish knives, two other piles of another kind of knives, one of shirts, one of scissors, one of combs, one of gunflints, one of wadding extractors, six portions of vermillion, one lot of awls, one of large hawk beads, one of beads of mixed sizes, one of small beans, one of fine brass wire, another of heavier brass wire for making necklaces, another of rings, and another of vermillion cases.” The Apache (or Apache) had never seen such a variety of European goods.

After the trading sessions were done an assembly of 200 of the Apache chiefs and the Commandant discussed the need for peace among all tribes. He implored them to allow the French traders to pass through their lands en route to the Spanish settlements in New Mexico. Next, he invited the chiefs to take what they wanted of the merchandise. Bourgmont wrote that the Apache maintained permanent villages. He estimated that the village contained 140 dwellings, about 800 men, more than 1,500 women, and about 2,000 children. The imbalance between men and women indicates that the life of an Apache man was hazardous. The dwellings were large enough to house 30 people to live in each. The Apache chief said that he had twelve villages under his control and together four times the number of people as in this village, or about 16,000. The Apache lived in a large territory extending more than 200 leagues (520 miles).

They sent out regular hunting parties, in groups of 50-100 households. As one hunting party returned, another would leave, so that the village was occupied at all times. They apparently journeyed up to five or six days from their village to hunt. The Apache sowed a little corn and pumpkins. They obtained tobacco and horses from trade with the Spanish in New Mexico, in exchange for tanned buffalo skins.

The Natives were hospitable; they feasted and fêted Bourgmont and his group for three days before the French party turned toward home on October 22. On the 31st, Bourgmont had reached the Canzas village again. Traveling down the Missouri in circular “bullboats”, made of buffalo hides stretched over a framework of saplings, the party reached Fort Orleans on November 5. Bourgmont thought his expedition had been successful, but little came of it. Within about a decade, the Apache whom he had met in Kansas were gone, pushed south by an aggressive tribe migrating from the Rocky Mountains and sweeping all before them: the Comanche. By the end of 1724, the French, in the person of Etienne Bourgmont, had now established friendly and peaceful relations with the central Plains Indians. The Missourias, the Cansas, the Apaches, the Oto, and several other Native Communities effectively provided a secure base for the French in the Missouri Valley. Bourgmont had in reality become the “Commandant of the Missouri Valley”. But, alas, it was not to be. In 1725 Bourgmont was called upon to invite and accompany representatives of the tribes to Paris. The chiefs were shown the wonders and power of France, including a visit to Versailles, Château de Marly and Fontainebleau, hunting in the royal forest with Louis XV, and seeing an opera. In late 1725 the tribes’ leaders returned to North America. Bourgemont stayed in Normandy with his French wife, where he had been elevated to écuyer (squire). As usual, The French did not continue to support Fort Orleans, and it was abandoned in 1726. Bourgmont remained in France where he died in France in 1734.*

The above retelling of Bourgmont’s career (between the ** is a paraphrase from:

Wikipedia; https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%89tienne_de_Veniard,_Sieur_de_Bourgmont

PS: Authentic “Voyageur” recipes to follow shortly.

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Teaser Recipes, Ch. 2, Presbytere &Church

As I’ve said before, the Tricentennial is upon us. But there are just 2 or 3 chapters that remain to be completed. Rather that wait around for the print version, I have decided to pre-publish the entire book here online within this blog. Chapter 2 (sans recipes) and the Christmas chapter may already be found here, but moving forward I will pre-publish all the chapters as I clean them up into final drafts (I use the word “final” very loosely). The included recipes will make their way into the chapters as the year goes by. Hope you enjoy the history AND the food!

Pain Perdue: 

A staple in any South Louisiana kitchen, translates as Lost Bread, and is a popular way to use up stale bread as opposed to making bread crumbs or feeding the birds outside; sometimes also called French Toast.

At its most basic, (1) heat up some oil in a frying pan, (2) make an egg and milk wash, (3) soak the stale bread in the wash, (4) fry it brown in the pan, (5) add some sugar, or cinnamon , or what have you, (6) eat it up with some coffee.

Ahhh! But as with most classic recipes, these simple steps offer a wide range of variations.  

Step One: What kind of oil? Frere Gerard would have used bear oil, olive oil, bacon grease, or butter. Each one would infuse a distinct flavor upon your breakfast toast. In our tricentennial kitchens, the plethora of cooking oils available in our markets gives the cook a vast repertoire of flavors to experiment with.

Step Two: Beat an egg into some milk (we won’t get into what kind of egg or which animal’s milk). Gerard may have added some vanilla bean, nutmeg, allspice, or cloves into the wash. Today, your choices are measured beyond number.

Step Three: The same sentiment holds true for the bread choice. In New Orleans today, it is usually stale po-boy bread. But again go with your imagination.

Step Four: Sugar (powdered or table) and cinnamon are almost de rigeur. But think pancakes or waffles (like at IHOP), knock your lights out.

Step Five: No choice or variation allowed here. Just Eat.

Crab Cakes

4 or 5 Red Potatoes, boiled & mashed
½ small onion
½ red bell pepper
2-4 cloves garlic
Oil. Egg, lemon juice, thyme, parsley, cayenne
½  lb. picked crab meat
Bread crumbs

Boil and mash 5 large red potatoes. Chop the veggies as fine as possible (modern, pass them through a food chopper).

Next prepare a proto-recipe for the blending medium, i.e. the mayo*. Blend together (vigorously beat together) a large egg yolk, ½ cup olive oil,1 tsp. each of vinegar and/or lemon juice, the thyme, parsley, and cayenne to taste. When you have a nice firm mayo-like sauce, add the crabmeat to the mashed potatoes, blend in the “mayo”. Form into 8 or 10 cakes, correcting the texture with added bread crumbs. Coat the cakes with a layer of crumbs. If you have time, chill the cakes for a few hours. Bake the cakes at 370˚ for a half hour, then fry them in a heavy pan, oiled ¼ inch deep for 2 minutes on each side. Alternately, you can fry the cakes directly in ½ inch of oil, five minutes in each side. 

* Gerard would not have had access to the sauce we call mayonnaise, as it wasn’t invented until the late 1700’s. However, egg and oil emulsions had been around sine Classical times. For a brief history and fuller discussion of mayo see chapter 14 Everyday Cooking in Creole New Orleans.


Coming soon as they are tested:

Sagamite Stuffed Cabbage*  with Black Eye Peas (for a New Orleans New Year’s)

Corn flour, Onions or shallots, Green peppers, Parsley. Chopped or Ground Pork. Cabbage leaves, Black Eye Peas

* makes great stuffing for mushrooms, tomatoes, or bell peppers as well.

Bacon Wrapped Cabbage Rolls – nuts, bread, carrots, onions

Pies: Fruit and Nut

Turnip and Rabbit Pie


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Filed under Creole Cooking, NEW ORLEANS TRI-CENTENNIAL 1718 TO 2018, Recipes

The Lakes of Pontchartrain; What a Great title !!!!

Since a title cannot be copyrighted, I feel no compunction in commandeering Mr. Robert W. Hastings’ entitlement of his excellent 2009 examination of the history, geography, topology, and biology of our Pontchartrain Basin. And seeing that the Bonnet Carre’ spillway was opened this past week, it seems like an opportune time to reflect on how the lakes influenced the development of Greater New Orleans and SE Louisiana 300 years ago. It is commonly accepted that New Orleans is where it is because of the Bayou St. Portage from the Vieux Carre to Lake Pontchartrain.

Before exploring the Pontchartrain/New Orleans relationship, an editorial opinion needs to be stated regarding the Native American name of the big lake, “Okwa’ta” . I cannot help here but to recall a reservoir one passes as I-40 crosses the Arkansas/Oklahoma border out of Fort Smith. The highway signs along the Interstate inform the traveller that this relatively large body of water (apparently a natural outflow of the Arkansas River) was known to the Native Americans as – Lotsawa’ta. C’mon folks, the Indian name for a big lake is lotsa water – give me a break! and now the Choctaws are telling us that Lake Pontchartrain is OK water. This blogger would very much appreciate any Choctaw speakers in the audience to give us European-Americans a clarification of this situation. Personally, I can accept a reasonable linguistic coincidence, wa’ta = water. But lotsa and OK give me pause to think that our Choctaw friends might just be pulling our legs a bit.

Now back to some history. While there “ is no clear evidence that any Europeans entered Lake Ponchartrain prior to Iberville (1699)…” p. 25 Spanish explorers of the northern Gulf Coast of the 1500s and 1600s knew of some kind of waterways in the region around the “lakes”. The Cortes map of 1520 may have been the first to actually depict the estuary in its approximate location along the coast west of Florida. The map shows two blobs at the mouth of two combined rivers named the Espiritu Santo as it opens into the Gulf. This could easily be the conflation of Mobile Bay, Lake Borgne, and Lake Pontchartrain with the mouths of the Mobile, Pearl, and Mississippi rivers. In later references, the lakes were often called bays (and also included the Chandeleur, Breton and Mississippi Sounds).

“ Even before New Orleans was developed, Lake Ponchartrain, Bayou Manchac, and Bayou St. John had become important waterways for the transport of goods to the French colony at Mobile. The voyageurs were active in the upper Mississippi Valley and would transport to Mobile by way of Lake Ponchartrain pelts, lead, bear’s oil, slaves, smoked meat, wheat, and flour, . . .” p. 37

In 1717 it was “suggested that store houses be built at “Biloxy on the Mississippi”, the future site of New Orleans, to shorten the journey of French Canadian voyageurs traveling down the river from the Illinois country. p.37

“Another idea presented long before its time was that of Darby (1816), who apparently was the first to propose a diversion of the Mississippi River flood water through an artificial channel at “Bonnet Quarre” to reduce the incidence of damaging floods along the lower Mississippi River.” pp. 38-39.

All of this information should remind us about the reasons for the European powers to push these efforts and spend lots of money on colonies. The prevalent economic theory in the 17th and 18th centuries was the Mercantile system. That is, the potentates and governments of the European powers back then wanted to establish colonies for two reasons. Colonies had natural resources and populations that could be exploited to increase a county’s wealth – in other words, to make money. The second reason can remind us of our own colonization efforts in 1990s and first decades of of this century. I am talking here about our colonization of the WWW. A common refrain during the fist dozen years or so of the Web’s existence was we (individuals, companies, and corporations) need a web site – why? – because our competitors have one ! – in other words, to make money. In the case of the emerging nations of the West in the 17th century, political and military power was also a driving force. To the point, Louisiana was founded by the French to exploit North American resources and to “balance the power” of Spain and Britain on the continent. The lakes of Ponchartrain were a vital conduit for the trade from and political/cultural expansion into the Mississippi valley.

Mention must also be made of the three very important connections in south Louisiana between the lakes and the extremely valuable trade highway we call the Mississippi. These bayou/portages formed the links between the easy passage through the lakes and the more problematic passage that the mighty river posed to navigation. First, of course is the Bayou St. John portage – the raison d’etre of our fair city. Water traffic from the Gulf and from upriver could easily be moved (in 18th century terms) to and from the city through the lakes and the bayou to New Orleans. Next upriver is the bayou/portage at Bayou Trepaigner (tre-pan-yay) at what soon became the German Coast and is today the Bonnet Carre. The third passage between the waterways was Bayou Manchac to the Amite river to Lake Maurepas. This outflow dis-tributary of the mighty river was very useful – but only during its annual floods. Constant dredging and tree removal hindered its year round use. Taken together these three passages to the lakes and the Gulf made a perfect trade route for traders and the furs and agricultural produce coming downriver from Upper Louisiana (aka the Illinois country).
Between the river and the lakes was THE natural place to locate the capital and chief port of Louisiana. It’s hard in these days of steam and diesel to visualize the amount the commerce that travelled over the waterways surrounding New Orleans. It was the fastest way to get cargo in and out before the railroads came, so it should come as no surprise. So next time you’re tooling around the lake in your Lafitte skiff or sailboat, or crabbing and fishing off the seawall, or even crossing the Causeway; the next time you’re at Spanish Fort at the mouth of the bayou, take a walk over to Robt. E. Lee Blvd and check out the Locks of Bayou St. John – say a silent thanks to that Bayougoula scout that showed the brothers LeMoyne where to build their city.

The page references above point to passages in Robert Hastings’ book, The Lakes of Pontchartrain  ISBN-13: 978-1604732719

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