Wednesday, February 29, 2012

~Mangeons & Dansons....Let's Eat & Dance!~

~Creole Cookbooks~
Beginning in the mid-19th century several Louisiana cookbooks chronicled the cooking styles of the Creole.Years later the Cajun style of cooking was documented in Peter Feibleman's 1982 book "American Cooking:Creole and Acadian.Yes,there is a distinct difference of which I had no idea!

All of the ethnic groups_French,African,Spanish,Portuguese,Native American,Italian and some German all play out on the plates of foods & in the music we all love from Louisiana!

Abby Fisher was the first African-American to publish a Creole cookbook in 1881.The World's Fair in New Orleans(1884-1885) boosted the tourism and the cooking industries.Two cookbooks_"La Cuisine Creole"(published by a Greek writer,no less) and "The Creole Cookery Book" (1885) promoted the city's cuisine_but very few of the recipes would represent New Orleans today. The most popular 20th century cookbook_"The Picayune's Creole Cook Book"(1900) was an exhaustive detailed history of Creole coffee,household hints,daily,holiday and banquet menus.It is still popular today. Many of the early cookbooks were examples of antebellum days and included Jim Crow era stereotypes like the Mammy caricature leading to the erroneous interpretation of the culinary history of New Orleans. Blacks were in fact NOT given any credit in this history.Yet,another example of not telling the REAL story in printed word!Here's some examples of Creole Food:

                                  Crawfish Etouffee_my favorite w/ a btl. of Tabasco!!!!
                                                              Creole Jambalaya
                                                                 Lobster Creole
                                                        Overview of Creole foods

Now,we all know who was cooking & creating in the sweaty kitchens of this era! It was not until 1978 when "Creole Feast" cookbook was created to highlight African-American Master Chefs and reveal their secrets that had been ascribed only to white cooks.In 1984_"Chez Helene:House of Good Foods"by Austin Leslie. AND, the lovely_Leah Chase,"The Dooky Chase Cookbook"(1990).Her restaurant is where my New Orleans eating experience began...(Blog #1 in Series)

~Cajun Cookbooks~
Now here's the difference folks.Creole food was prepared by SERVANTS in the stately residences of New Orleans Elite(European style);Cajun(Acadians)dishes are assembled in a black iron pot near the bayou!

Chef Paul Prudhomme in the 1980's transformed Cajun cooking.There was an abundance of  andouille sausage,gumbo,seafood jambalaya,moon-sized sweet potato pecan pie and massive ribs recipes.He celebrated Cajun specialities old and modern.His illustrated various roux chart is still used today. BUT,BEFORE CHEF PRUDHOMME_there was my dad's favorite chef that makes me smile,right now!
                                                         Justin "I Garontee"Wilson
His cooking shows aired on PBS and worldwide.He passed in 2001.I Just Loved Him!
Website at:

Other Cajun cookbooks include Mme Begue's,"Old Creole Cookery"(1900),Antoine's Restaurant Since 1840 Cookbook(1979) and PBS Chef John Folse's,"The Encyclopedia of Cajun & Creole Cuisine"(2004).With the destruction of Hurricane Katrina cookbooks became sought-after items.Elsa Hahne & Marcelle Bienvenu have written new cookbooks to address those old recipes and oral histories lost in the hurricane.Here's some examples of Cajun food:
                                                     Louisiana Crawfish Boil
                                         Cajun Shrimp Gumbo
                                   Boudin Balls serve w/ Hog Head Cheese and Dirty Rice
                                                        Overview of Cajun Foods

~Creole & Cajun Music~
Now that your plates are filled_HOW ABOUT SOME MUSIC?

The music that comes to mind is Jazz.But Louisiana music is made up of so many genres,there's not room enough to write about them all.But,feel free to check out this website for more information:

Contemporary Music of Wynton Marsalis is rooted in New Orleans musical history.The music that comes from that family is awesome.Some of the more historical greats include:
                                           My Main Man_Louis Armstrong!!!
                                                  Fats Domino_the Blues

                                                              Cajun Music
                                     American R & B and FUNK!!!
                                 The Greatest Gospel Singer of all times_Mahalia Jackson

It's about time people_ To Eat and Dance(Praise Dance included)_and celebrate the food & music of Louisiana.....par-tee time!

~Laissez les bons temps rouler~

Monday, February 27, 2012

"Creole,Cajun,Acadian,~What's In A Name~" ?

The term "Creole" can generate much confusion & controversy.What's does it mean? To be sure, it has many meanings some of which concern race or ethnicity.In the context of Louisiana history,"creole " means native to Louisiana. Then there's the historically accepted meaning that creole means black,white and mixed race persons native to Louisiana_it means different things to different people.BUT,what you may not know is that more than one ethnic group claim that term as well!

Actually,the word itself derives from the Latin(creare),meaning to beget or create.Portuguese used the form as (crioulo),meaning a slave born in the New World as opposed to Africa.By the 1600's,crioulo meant a New World colonist regardless of racial or ethic background.Then in Louisiana,the term criollo(Spanish) evolved into creole(French).18th Century free mixed race people in Louisiana became_Gens de Couler Libres in French_aka Free People Of Color.After the Civil War the Creoles were left with their group identity and nostalgia for halcyon days. Further,many whites in antebellum Louisiana referred to themselves as Creoles usually the upper class French or Spanish people as well as those of  GERMAN ancestry.To complicate matters more,the white Creoles inter-married with Acadians(poor rural people).
This "Portrait of a Creole Gentleman" by Julien Hudson depicts a prosperous, fashionably dressed figure.It is an oil on canvas and is in the collection of the Dallas Museum of Art.

In "Portrait of Betsy"(1837) by Franz Fleischbein,a housekeeper wearing an elaborate high tignon, the hair covering mandated for women of color after 1785. The Historic New Orleans Collection

The Acadians are the descendants of the 17th-century French colonist who settled in Acadia located in the Eastern Canada Maritime provinces_Nova Scotia,New Brunswick,and Prince Edward Island_ as well as part of Quebec, and present-day Maine to the Kennebec River. Here's a great link to learn about the Black Culture in Nova Scotia_ on the Oprah Show she made mention of her lack of knowledge about Black Nova Scotian History:

After the "Expulsion of the Acadians" from some of the areas_some settled in Louisiana.With the inter-marriage between Creoles and Acadians,they became known as Cajuns_ speaking a broken dialect of Cajun English/French!
Kathleen Babineaux Blanco,the78th Governor of Louisiana. She was the first woman to be elected to this office and she has Acadian heritage.

Contemporary Creoles have either full or partial African heritage. Like their ancestors,these Creoles are typically French speaking and Catholic.Whereas Louisianans of African heritage are English speaking and Protestant. Large populations of these Creoles can be found in New Orleans,the Acadiana region of Southern Louisiana,The Cane River/Isle Brevelle area near Natchitoches and in East Texas and Houston. Lalita Tademy traced her ancestry to the Cane River/Red River area in a extraordinary book called:

This book was so interesting,I finished it quickly and moved on to her next generational family story:
Both of these books trace Lalita's  history from 1834 to present day. I wondered why she had some features that looked Asian.In one of here many family trees _an ancestor was called "China Man",could that be a piece of the puzzle.These are two books you must read!

There are so many nuances involved with trying to decipher what's in a name. Like I said in another post_this Color business was/is confusing. But,what I do know is_ historically,any person with African ancestry,even if they were mostly white were designated and classified as black,according to the "ONE DROP THEORY".Whoa,that's a "subject" all to itself ! There is no clear cut way to determine all of the ethnics groups in America. In fact,the American Indian & Mexicans people commingled with Creoles as well_ creating another mixed group.

So,my the words of Rodney King,May 1, 1992, the third day of the L.A. riots,appearing in public,appealing for Peace asking:

"People,I just want to say,you know,can we all get along? Can we get along?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

"The Pleasure of your company is requested.. The Octoroon/Quadroon Ball_(aka Bal de Cordon Bleu)"! These were Balls sponsored by the Mother/Aunt or women relatives.These Balls enabled the White Gentry to be surrounded with "the most beautiful women in the world" to make arrangements that would further their "Placage"relationships.

Placage was the social practice of unofficial,heterosexual,interracial unions in New Orleans and other French and Spanish colonies in the Caribbean.It lasted from late 17th century through the 19th century.Under this system,white men and women of color set up common-law households to get around their inability to legally marry.Sometimes Placage was mistaken for Prostitution,but in fact these unions were long term consensual relationships benefiting both parties. The women got economic security for herself and children_which meant manumission during colonial and slavery periods.There was also the legal transfer of wealth from the father to her children via Wills and other testaments. These legal instruments were crucial since the law did not allow children born outside marriage to inherit more than 10 percent of the father's property unless arrangements were made in advance.

                                      The Octoroon Girl (1925) Archibald J Motley Jr.(Artist)

So,who are the women called Octoroons,Quadroons,etc.Believe me there is a long list of names for free people of color during that time.It seems an "Octoroon" is a the child of a white parent and a quadroon_1/8th Negro +7/8th white_a "Quadroon" is a child of one white parent and a mulatto_1/4th Negro + 3/4th white. For more information on the various terms used to call people of color...carefully(some offensive) link to this site:

I guess I'm perplexed about these 1/4,3/4,etc..because I want to know what type of blood test did they use to determine the amount of blood was this or that. It is very complicated, this color business. . . supposedly,the French colonial government at the end of the 18th century had registered some sixty combinations of white with Negro blood and gave each a name...who knew!
The other query is most research alludes to a young white creole man taking on a free woman of color as his mistress.Seems there's white Creoles and black Creoles...confusing!And,daughters were raised to become the next generation of mistress to the white Creole_yet the sons were sent to Paris to be educated.Now,it wasn't that the gentlemen were so extraordinarily virile to maintain a white family and a placage arrangement at the same time.Some say,their virility had to do with being everlasting romantics.

Supposedly their virility was sustained by the dozens of raw oysters, which were considered (and still are considered in New Orleans) a great aphrodisiac.They also took a stimulant made from Spanish flies, dried and powdered and made into a potion...could this be today's Viagra!! They drank a great deal of champagne and much absinthe. Oysters were their mainstay;scientist agree it's an aphrodisiac!

                                          Self-Portrait of Archibald J.Motley Jr(c.1920)

I traveled to Atlanta,Ga. where a classmate met me for "The Black Expo" in 1990's.Motleys' work was one of the main reason I wanted to attend the Expo! He is a Louisiana Creole painter,who unlike most Harlem Renaissance Artist,never lived in Harlem_was born in New Orleans and lived in Chicago.I have several of his paintings depicting NO Life.He painted the "Octoroon Girl" above.For more of his Art work check out:

There are several movies that depict the lifestyle of the Placage. These two are great_"The Courage to Love" and "The Feast of All Saints". Love this scene from Feast of All Saints_

Here's hoping you  have been enlightened at today's Quadroon/Octoroon Ball.....please join me again on this Creole Education journey! Laissez les bons temps rouler.......

Saturday, February 18, 2012

"Les Gens de'Couleur Libres,Creoles_The 3rd Race"

To be sure,I've been thinking of my many trips to New Orleans in the 70's.With Mardi Gras 2012 upon us,visions of King Cake,Crawfish Etouffee,Beignets,Pat O'Brien's Hurricanes, Zydeco Music,Jackson Square,Rue Bourbon St, Gumbo,the parades,the costumes,the crazy party people & the creme de la cream _visions of me almost backing up my VW1967 Bug into one of the Canals! I mean REALLY people that happened! Now that I'm more settled_don't get me wrong,as I'm still a Party-Person_I'm just more sensible! I've always wanted to know about the History of the Creole people as many of my friends are of that heritage.So,for the rest of the month_tag along on this quest for a Creole Education! Make a bowl of Crawfish Etouffee,French Bread and a bottle or two of Wine,read one of the book suggestions (to the right of page)AND watch the movie "A Feast For All Saints"_it's Mardi Gras Time,people! Let's begin where my first eating experience took place_
                         "Dooky Chase Restaurant" in 5th Ward,New Orleans

Dooky Chase's was flooded by Hurricane Katrina and was not scheduled to reopen until the summer of 2006. To save Chase's African-American art collection from damage, her grandson placed the art collection in storage.The New Orleans restaurant community got together on April 14, 2006 (Holy Thursday) to hold a benefit, charging $75 to $500 per person for a gumbo z'herbes,fried chicken, and bread pudding lunch at a posh French Quarter restaurant. The guests consumed 50 gallons of gumbo and raised $40,000 for the 82-year-old Mrs. Chase. Dooky Chase restaurant was scheduled to open April 5, 2007. It opened mostly for take-out and special events . When I dined there in the 70's it was a full service dining experience. The African-American Art was beautiful and the food beyond words.I met Mrs.Chase,took lots of pictures and had some great laughs! Mrs Chase is the epitome of a modern day Creole.
                           Mrs Leah Chase aka the Queen of Creole Cuisine

From the Colonial Days of New Orleans_the city was the most European City in America.Mrs.Chase's descendants were called Gens de' Couleur Libres_Creoles,the third race at that time. In the 19th century free people of color coexisted with those of European extraction.Some were former slaves who were able to buy their freedom.Thousands of free people of color arrived in New Orleans from Saint-Domingue(now Haiti) after the Slave Revolts in the late 1700's & early 1800's.Many others came from Cuba after 1809. Although they did not have all the rights as their white counterparts Creoles prospered in the 19th century.When you visit the French Quarters much of what you see and taste was due to Creoles of Color.The wrought iron on balconies,houses and atop cemetery crypts is due to the Artisans of iron work that brought this craft from Africa in colonial times.The coffee in the French Market was the idea of an enterprising femme de couler who formulated the idea of selling coffee in the market place.Creole food was the blending of spices & local produce,seafood,meats with the African methods of cooking.Remember folks_Okra came from Africa_as in Okra Gumbo.Cigar making techniques were brought from Cuba  by the creoles.
"Creole in a Red Turban"_by Jacques Guillaume Lucien Amans(1840) in Historic NO Collection

Planters,Artisans,Teachers,Composers,Doctors,Musicians,Poets,Hairdresser's,Tailors,etc added to the wealth of the city.Some femmes de couleur were property owners either by wise business ventures or were given property by either inheritance or through placage(next series blog).As of the 1850's Free People of Color owned over 2 million dollars of property!

New Orleans free people of color prospered until the time before the Civil War when the economies of New Orleans attracted "AMERICANS".Until then New Orleans was a "EUROPEAN" city with European customs and mores. Americans had a distaste for the Creole Way of Life. Early in the Civil War NO was seized making life hard for both whites and gens de couler.At the end of the war when slaves were freed and a wave of immigrants came to NO_the Creoles of color were no longer considered a "third race".

Group Portrait of Creole Children,by Francois Bernard(1872) The Historic NO Collection

The Gens de Couler Libre left a lasting imprint in New Orleans.Their rich culture and heritage still exist today in the descendants living all over America. Large Creole population reside in Los Angeles,Chicago,Houston and East Texas.Many you would NOT know because they appear white and some have_even_ passed for white.

"Until next time...let's continue this journey...."

Monday, February 13, 2012

~Free For All For Women, It's Leap Year,Y'all ,2012 ~

Okay, Ladies it's your chance. If there's a certain someone you've been pining for all your can ask him to marry you! That's right_it's Leap Year!  Upon inspection of the calendar you will find an extra day in February. This means in order to keep the calendar year synchronized with the astronomical or seasonal year an extra day is added to February. You see, seasons and astronomical events do not repeat in a whole number of days,  a calendar that had the same number of days in each year would, over time,  drift with respect to the event it was supposed to track.  By occasionally inserting an additional day or month into the year, the drift can be corrected. A year that is not a leap year is called a common year.

Source for Leap Year Cards:

So,here's the Custom. Ladies are traditionally given the opportunity to go boldly by legally proposing marriage__throughout the year. Many centuries ago Sadie Hawkins Dance programs,Parties,Balls and any and all opportunities to invite the one your heart pines for was offered all year long. There were special cards  & invitations for Leap Year get together!  Of course you could say the men were happy if lots of women flung their heart's and  love in droves!  But here my Ladies_you could choose the one you wanted.
From the beginning of time, women have waited & waited & waited for that special  man to say those magic words_will you marry me. So when you go Boldly and he turns you down...there could be consequences in a Leap Year! Yes,this special significance of a Leap Year proposal is said to stem from 13th Century Scotland when Queen Mary set a law that women could propose to any man they liked during a Leap Year, with refusal being allowed only if the man was already engaged. Those men who rejected a proposal were hit with a fine and made to buy the woman either a silk dress or a pair of gloves.      
Plan a Dance_ Sadie Hawkins Dances were at one time really a way to ask that fella the question,will you....So how did this tradition start?  The tradition arose from a comic strip Li'l Abner. There was a designated day in November when unmarried women could chase bachelors around the town in hopes of catching them for marriage.  According to the story, little Miss Sadie Hawkins was "the homeliest gal in all them hills" and this fateful day was her favorite!  However,it was the town bachelor's most dreaded - day of the year.  As the comic strip gained popularity, a holiday inspired by the "perpetually" single Sadie was born. Even though the holiday has been around since 1937 and most dance-goers are unaware of the hilarious history behind the idea, the girl-asks-boy date is still commonly named after sweet little Sadie Hawkins. 
So,your plans should have been in the making December 2010!  What better time than Valentines Day to ask the one you love for HIS hand in marriage! You have the whole year_so a Sadie Hawkins Dance in November, A Ball in the Spring, A May Picnic,  Summer Bicycle built for Two Tour, Wine & Cheese at your place, A Formal Ball where the invitation could read like this 1908 invite:
or an intimate Evening for Two!  What ever you choose_the "HUNTING & PROPOSING SEASON" is on..Every Male Is Fair Game_It's a Free For All Ladies. Now, if I had to HUNT & some of these were not captured or to's my List:  Brad Pitt,Ryan Gosling,Chris Pine,Blair Underwood, Robert Ri'chard, Eric Bana, Denzel, Shelmar Moore, Bradley Cooper, Antonio Banderas, Gilles Marini, Boris Kodjoe, Orlando Bloom and my number one would be_Olivier Martinez(watch out Halle Berry)_because when I saw him in the movie "Unfaithful"....I said "Will you be MINE! Happy Hunting Ladies All Year Long (2012)...who let the ladies out.......

              Olivier Martinez,Will You Be Mine this Valentines?

Monday, February 6, 2012

"Seeing RED" in February....

Greetings_Red Lovers. This is your month.The language of RED speaks to us in many familiar phrases:
Red Letter Day_Red Carpet Treatment_Red Sky in the Morning_Red Sky at Night_Paint the Town Red_Red Eye Flight_In the Red_Red Flag & Seeing Red.

My "Seeing Red' is NOT the traditional meaning_to be angry; it's really just the opposite.The color Red represents courage_revolution_blood and valor.Throughout the Month of February this color is prominent.Here's some reminders .

Hope you didn't forget to wear your Red Dress February 3rd to observe National Red Dress Day, supporting Heart Health Awareness for Women.For more information:

Secondly_this month has been designated as Black History Month.Over the years_ I've come to realize this as an opportunity to share the History of a Race that was left out of main stream history books,records,manuscripts,etc.So_I'll be sharing some great historical facts this month you've probably never heard of. Being the History Buff that I've always been...this is exciting. Here's a Red Fact: the Pan-African/African-American Flag is a tri-color flag consisting of three equal horizontal bands colored Red, Black and Green. It was originally created as an official banner to represent an international community for all African people in 1920.
The three colors represent:
  • RED: the blood that unites all people of African ancestry, and shed for liberation;
  • Black: black people whose existence as a nation, though not a nation-state, is affirmed by the existence of the flag; and
  • Green: the abundant natural wealth of Africa.

Have you seen the movie "RED TAILS" about the Tuskegee Airmen? In May, 1944 the 332nd Fighter Group under the command of Colonel Benjamin O. Davis were assigned to fly escort missions with the 306th Wing of the 15th Fighter Command. They were given the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt, affectionately called "The Jug" because of its shape. P-47's were well armed and could perform well at high altitude in the escort role as well as ground attack aircraft. The pilots of the 332nd Fighter Group painted the tails of their P-47's red, thus their nickname "Red Tails". Their reputation for protecting bombers would slowly grow and later bomber crews would affectionately call them Red-Tail Angels.
AND,then there's that Special Day for Lovers_February 14th_where we all see RED. Well, most of us if you have a significant other in any form...children,lover,husband,parents,friends,animals(no chocolate please,tummies can't take it),secret get the picture.RED ROSES RULE THE DAY. These Red Roses represent "I Love You" and respect /courage according to the language of Flowers.
BUT_on a personal note, I love Yellow Roses which represent the celebration of Life & Joy. I've finally convinced my husband that Yellow Roses Rule! It wasn't hard since he's a staunch Irish-Texican,History Reenactor_including The Irish Zouaves shown below in RED  of which he has this outfit & he's a History Buff.
You see_The Yellow Rose of Texas is a traditional folk song.The original "love song" has become associated with the legend of how a mulatto named Emily D.West helped win the Battle of San Jacinto_the decisive battle in the Texas Revolution..Well he's Irish and I could be considered mulatto_works out Perfect.

BTW_For those without a significant other_the first Rule of Life_is to "Love Thyself".Make it a habit of having a Love-Affair with yourself!

Now you know "Seeing Red" is NOT all bad! It's a good thing. I'm looking forward to writing about "Seeing Red" all this Month.It reminds us all to care about another Human_whether women's heart issues, a race of people forgotten in the written word or a Special Day that the sky rains LOVE all over the world. Sooooooooo,
~“'Twas a yellow rose, By that south window of the little house.."~Elizabeth Barrett Browning~