Monday, February 3, 2014

A Brief History of Creole Cooking in New Orleans - Part 2

Blogger's Note: While reading this article about New Orleans written in the 1930s, it becomes quickly apparent that Creole food and Louisiana seafood, spoken of here in luxurious poetic phrases, is king.  With none of the health conscience or politically correct restrictions of today, this article offers a window in to the origins of food in New Orleans Creole community, built on a tradition of simple ingredients; well-prepared and well-seasoned.  Filled with charming details of day-to-day New Orleans of the recent past, this collection studies the character and historical resonance of the traditional Creole way of life.  Enjoy!

From the Louisiana Works Progress Administration article A Brief History of Creole Cooking in New  Orleans, 1930s:

"The Choctaw Indians were very friendly with the European visitors and to them New Orleans is indebted for the "file'", which is used in one of the best know Creole dishes - "gumbo".

The file'  is made from dried sassafras leaves pounded to a powder.

The Indians would come to the city from their settlements in Lacombe, Louisiana three times a week.  On week days they would sell their wares at the French Market and on Sunday the tribe would gather in front of the St. Louis Cathedral with an array of baskets, beads, pottery, and file', like wise the older African-American women would be there selling their "Callas Tout Chaud", (hot rice cakes).

Although the Creoles are lavish entertainers and can prepare a sumptuous meal which is a source of never ending pleasure to the gourmand, they also follow the French trait of economy and were taught early in life the secret of a perfect blending of a quantity of well-cooked simple foods which are nourishing, but not a strain on the budget.

An example of one of these simple meals consists of - soupe-en-famille, or vegetable soup as it is most commonly known; bouillie, a beef brisket whcih is cooked with the soup and served either hot or cold with a sauce made from oil, vinegar, horse-radish and creole mustard.  Catsup may be added if desired.  Some of the vegetables from the soup are placed around the disk in which the boullie is served as garnish; a salad of lettuce or lettuce and tomatoes, French Bread and a bottle of claret.  This is a very good, economical and nourishing meal.

Native Orleanians are naturally very fond of sea food and they will drive miles to partake of any well seasoned dish of this delicacy.  At West End, a park situated on Lake Pontchartrain, there are numerous stands which specialize in the serving of boiled crabs and shrimp.

In the warm weather tables are placed along the seawall, and nothing is more enjoyable on a warm night, or after a swim in the lake than to ride to one of these places and feast on this specialty.

On certain nights, (usually Thrusday, Friday, and Saturday) many bars serve free crabs, shrimp and crayfish with the purchase of a glass of beer or any other drink."  Photos courtesy of the State Library of Louisiana.