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New Orleans Food of the Day

Did you know?

wash day back when

Wash day – So glad I don’t have to wash like this! (Used with permission.)

I grew up many states away from New Orleans, but I did share one tradition with them, only our beans were chili and my mom also made homemade bread. I can still remember the smell of both on a cold Monday when I came in from school. 

While I’m off on memory lane, here are some days-of-the-week New Orleans food traditions: 

  1.  Sunday–Ham Day
  2. Monday–Red Beans and Rice Day
  3. Friday–Seafood Day during lent, including alligator and frog legs

Let’s start with the first day of the week. Sunday used to be ham dinner day. After church, folks gathered together at grandma’s, for example, to spend the afternoon with the whole family feasting on a delicious Sunday ham dinner, served on the good, passed down, china. This southern food tradition contributed to New Orleans’ Monday food ritual of red beans and rice.

Back in the 19th century, Monday was laundry day in New Orleans. The women didn’t have washing machines so they had to wash, scrub and hang each piece of clothing on the line by hand. It was an all-day affair. So, on Mondays, the ladies of New Orleans needed something for dinner that basically cooked itself. After soaking red beans overnight on Sunday, they could just sit them on the stove with fresh water to boil on Monday and let them cook as they did the wash.

It was in 1791 that refugees from the slave revolt in Saint-Domingue (Haiti) came to New Orleans and brought red kidney beans with them. The beans soon became a Louisiana staple. The women of New Orleans would throw the hambone from Sunday dinner into the pot of simmering beans so that the thick marrow from the bone flavored the beans as it slowly cooked with them and drained some of the starch out of them. They also added a bay leaf, some bell pepper, onion, celery, with a dash or a few dashes of thyme and cayenne pepper. Sometimes sliced andouille sausage was tossed in. And before their families knew it, all the clothes were clean, and dinner was on the table. It’s said that Louis Armstrong loved red beans so much, he signed his name, “Red Beans and Ricely Yours, Louis Armstrong”!

Fridays, during lent is seafood day, which in New Orleans also means frog legs, alligator, and crawfish.

The archbishop of New Orleans and the national bishops’ conference confirmed alligator is seafood and can be eaten during Lent. Frog legs are also allowed on lentil Friday’s and are eaten in New Orleans as well as shrimp, crawfish, crabs, oysters, and fish.

The main food to come out of the swampland is alligator. Gator tastes a lot like chicken or rabbit and the tenderloin, tail, ribs and other parts of the animal are used in dishes like alligator Cajun spiced ribs, creole stew, fried alligator tail, alligator pie, and more.

For centuries frog legs have been one of the most delicious foods to come out of the Louisiana swamps. First, you hunt and catch the bullfrogs, kill them, clean them, or you can buy them ready to cook. Then either mix up a buttermilk batter and fry the legs up in a hot skillet or cook them French Provencal style seared and then braised in a tomato broth or create a  rue and add some onions, celery, and bell papers, along with some frog broth and mix it all up—it’s great served with grits.

One of the many ways you can cook Crawfish or mudbugs as they are called is to boil them up, then twist the tail away from the head, and suck out all the juicy, salty flavor.

So that gives you an idea of what you can serve up for the family next Sunday, Monday, or Friday New Orleans style.

Perilously yours,

Pauline

P.S. Only two days until Worry Beads: The Big Uneasy 4 releases!

Worry Beads cover art

Releasing Dec 1! Click on the cover to preorder now!

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