I have to begin today by declaring an unsubstantiated axiom to preface my historical discussions and recipes for the Petticoat Rebellion Cookbook. That axiom is that Smuggling was the foundation of the Louisiana colonial economy. A corollary to this is that if a foodstuff, spice, herb, or potable was available anywhere in the Caribbean, or the Gulf Coast of North, South, or Central America, or even available through international Spanish, French, or British colonial trade; the possibility of it occurring in New Orleans cuisine of the first half of the 18th century is likely. I will substantiate this claim in a future article.
Oranges and Lemons: This week’s research for the The Petticoat Rebellion is citrus in 18th century Louisiana. The citrus group of fruits were Asian in origin and had spread to Europe by the Middle Ages. Columbus brought citrus seeds to America on his second voyage, where they quickly adapted to the climate of the Caribbean and the Gulf Coast. Therefore, the access to oranges and lemons in 1720’s New Orleans is not only substantiated but also documented by the original sources, to wit:
From the Letters of Marie Magdeleine Hachard:
Letter IV – peaches and figs and blackberry jelly, lots of oranges.
From Le Page du Pratz:
The orange-trees and citron-trees that were brought from Cape François
have succeeded extremely well;
The oranges and citrons are as good as those of other countries; but the rind of the orange in particular is very thick, which makes it the better for a sweet-meat.
Page(s): 190, History of Louisisana / Or of the Western Parts of Virginia and Carolina: Containing by Le Page du Pratz
NOOKstudy (Jon Laiche, email@example.com). This material is protected by copyright.
Having established availability, now we have to put ourselves in the shoes, er kitchens, as it were, of the ladies – French, German, African, and Creole – of the Isle d’Orleans (referred to henceforth as New Orleans) as to what one can do with all of this good fruit. For this week’s work, we are leaving aside the obvious, candied citrus, orange juice, citrus desserts, just plain eating the oranges, and concentrating on the savory uses that such fruit adds to the Creole menus of the district. Also, at this early stage it may be useful to imagine a useful pantry for our 1720’s Creole cooks.
To begin, the question confronting the Creole cook is how to use these oranges because “there were so many oranges growing (near New Orleans) that the settlers allowed them to rot on the trees.” (Midlo-Hall, p.126). Beyond the realms of dessert and breakfast, another excellent use of the fruits was the preparation of a savory orange sauce. This preparation will also allow us to consider some other stores that were to be found in the 1720’s Creole pantry. For instance, a quick Internet search for savory orange sauce yielded the following ingredients, all of which were available to Creole cooks in 1720’s New Orleans:
vinegar, ginger, pepper – black, red, fresh; salt, stock, sugar, wine, garlic, parsley, green onions, mustard (German), olive oil, bear fat, butter, lard, thyme, honey, horseradish, corn flour, wheat flour, more follows.
I guess I should close with some explanation of the philosophy behind The Petticoat Rebellion Cookbook. There are very few actual recipes in existence from this time and place in Louisiana history. Lafcadio Hearn’s Creole Cookbook was the first Creole collection published and it was 1885 before it appeared. So when faced with our specific mission of compiling this cookbook we are relying first on available ingredients, then on colonial cooking methods, then on the oldest contemporary (early 18th century and before) cooking sources we can locate such as herbals, other cookbooks, food and agricultural lists from the primary sources,and finally on the Creole cooking traditions inherited from our mothers and fathers. We pull all of this together, think in Colonial French, African, and Creole terms, and then produce recipes to reflect that understanding. Hope you will enjoy.
Finally, the recipe for pork chops with orange sauce will appear shortly (after testing) on the website http://1718neworleans.com
Jon (aka Jerry) Laiche
Historian, Philosopher, Antiquarian Book Expert
Primum est Edare, diendi Philosophari