Tag Archives: Jon G. Laiche

Self-Publishing and Self-Editing, Part IV a

http://1718neworleans.com

It’s finally done. I am a self-published author. It’s curious how many parallels exist between this newfangled, all-electronic, website, blog, social media, etc. publishing process and the publishing process of, say, the seventeenth century. Back in the day (i.e. the 1600’s) a person would write a book and there it was – a manuscript. He* would then try to convince someone (a printer) to take the manuscript and print it out. Now the writer had a nice stack of paper of his printed work. Next, he had to shop around for someone to bind it all together. At this point it became a matter of “who you know” or of money (plain and simple). OK, let’s say our writer had the good luck or wherewithal to produce a nicely bound copy of his work. What now?

The next two steps were publishing the work and selling the work. The seventeenth century saw the fairly rapid development of a commercial support mechanism, that is “the publisher” (usually called the “printer”) who would take the manuscript through the entire above process. On occasion, the printer/publisher would also attempt to sell the work. More often, a separate operation existed to actually sell the book – called, not surprisingly, the bookseller. This last part of the process was usually encapsulated on the title page, to wit:

Title Page example

Title Page of the 1629 printing of the Lex Mercatoria

 

London, Printed by Adam Islip, and are to be sould (sic)  by Nicholas Bourne, at the South entrance of the Royall Exchange

_________________________

These last steps, publishing and selling were usually where the money issue also manifested itself. Finally, the finished product was done and offered to the public. So, what about the parallels?

 

1. (Then) Write a book – (Now) pretty much the same, except now we usually use a word processor or dictation software.

2. (Then) Bind the book – (Now) Actually print it out at home or take it to a printer like Fedex or UPS, then self bind it or pay someone to bind it, usually very expensive.

3. (Then) Print the book- (Now) Submit it to an online book service/printing/selling operation like iBookstore (Apple), Kindle (Amazon), Smashwords, CreateSpace, etc.***

4. (Then) Publish the book- (Now) Same as step 3.

5. (Then) Sell the book- (Now) As step 3, but with the marketing aspect essentially tossed back to the writer.

So then, like the song says, “Everything old is new again”!

 The Petticoat Rebellion Vol. One may now be downloaded for FREE from:

The iBooks Store

Project Gutenberg (http://self.gutenberg,org), and the 1718neworleans.com website, click on the Cookbook link.

* I use the masculine pronoun because it was seventeenth century Europe after all. For better or worse, not very many female writers went through the process described. Some did, but the people involved were overwhelmingly male.
*** Note that these operations represent the end point or publishers, which appeared at the end of seventeenth century.

http://1718neworleans.com

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Filed under 18th Century, Creole Cooking, Louisiana History, New Orleans Tercentennial, Non-Fiction, Recipes

Some Coffeehouse Ramblings

Once again in the coffeehouse. Once again wondering what to blog about. I still don’t quite get all of this stuff about social media. I guess it’s a generational thing. Anyway,Volume One of The Petticoat Rebellion is now in the rewrite stage. I’m hoping to publish the free version by Christmas. Volume Two research and planning is well begun. I have decided to introduce a new character next year. While Frére Gerard can continue to cook his way thru the eighteenth century, his position in the presbytere hinders the development of the cuisine by it’s very nature of required simplicity. Therefore, Gerard has made friends with the cook and chef de cuisine at the home of a rich New Orleans merchant. Allow me to introduce Tante Suzanne. A femme de coleur libre, raised in the kitchens of a prosperous farmer who immigrated from San Domingue to Mobile in the early years of Louisiana’s settlement, she makes her way to New Orleans in the late twenties. Having the skills, the facilities, the equipment, and the opportunity, Suzanne and Gerard- and all those early cooks which they represent – can lay the foundations for Creole Cooking in all it’s forms from sagamites and stew to the finest courtbuillions, étouffées, and gateaux.

On another front, I am now officially retired!!! Receiving Social Security, income from a small part-time job, and the gracious provision of major living expenses from the most wonderful woman in the world (Yes, I am a kept man) I can pursue my dreams of history, of cooking, and of multimedia to my heart’s content.

Finally, on yet another topic,I have been receiving some encouragement from a reader who also writes about food and heritage. ( see her work  at http://thehistoricfoodie.wordpress.com) She has family connections with the Pennsylvania  Dutch. Although I have never really emphasized it,  the Creole half of my own heritage has roots that extend into Germany as well. In an oft quoted story, at least in Louisiana, during the seventeenth century the Germans on the West Bank of the Rhine in the provinces of Lorraine and Alsace suddenly found themselves to be Frenchmen. Over the next hundred years, many of them found their way to Louisiana. Within a couple of generations, they were French speaking Creoles even to the extent of basically losing their (public) identity. The most quoted example of this was the transition of the Zweig (twig) family to the famille Labranche. Thankfully, their industrious agricultural heritage was not lost. Food from the Cõte des Allemandes was essential to the survival of Louisiana during the early and mid eighteenth century. While they are most noted for their culinary contributions of sausage – andouille and boudin – their foodstuffs and farming techniques are also foundational to the original Creole Cuisine.

As I prepare this to post, I am thinking that perhaps this blog should be ramblings from the coffee house, or ramblings from the study, or ramblings from wherever. In any event, and whatever substance these ramblings emerge as, keep reading and you will be the first to know and among the first to be able to download Volume One of the Petticoat Rebellion in the next few months

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Smuggling Spice in Louisiana

http://1718neworleans.com

smuggle |ˈsməgəl|verb [ with obj. ]

move (goods) illegally into or out of a country: he’s been smuggling cigarettes from Gibraltar into Spain | (as noun smuggling) : cocaine smuggling has increased alarmingly.

In the 18th Century, in the Western Hemisphere, and specifically in the so-called “Atlantic World”, smuggling was a way of life, and the hypothesis brought forward here is that, for all intents and purposes, it was normal in the Atlantic marketplaces, and this includes the market at New Orleans.

New Orleans sits at the geographical apex of the colonial trade networks of the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. Furthermore, throughout the 18th and 19th Centuries, it was the link between these networks and the North American continent. It served as the exchange depot between the continent and the Atlantic empires of Spain, France, and the Netherlands ( and to a limited extent, the British, as well). When combined with the history, legends and stories of the piratical activity of the Lafitte brothers at the turn of the nineteenth century, these facts would seem to indicate that the New Orleans market was a smuggling capital of the Gulf/Caribbean region throughout the 1700’s. This essay will attempt to build the case for smuggling in general and more specifically of foodstuffs into and out of the New Orleans market. The time frame is limited to the French colonial period, officially 1718 to 1763 in New Orleans itself, but extended to 1699 – 1770 and to the lower Louisiana colony. It seeks to determine, as completely as possible, both the verifiable and the probable contents of a typical Creole pantry in French New Orleans. As will be shown, there are numerous foodstuffs and ingredients that can be verified in the kitchens of the colonial capital. Available historical records are replete with reference to various protein sources (meats, fish, eggs, nuts, cheese), and grains (maize, rice, wheat flour, etc.), and fruit ( oranges, pineapple, grapes, plums). They are less helpful in referring to vegetables which they tend not to specify, referring to them as generic “vegetables”. And even less so to herbs and spices – which are perhaps the defining flavors of New Orleans’ cuisine. Items of specific interest in this study are Tomatoes, Pepper varieties, clarification of garden vegetables, and spices available through world trade.

Without question, the most famous smugglers/pirates in Louisiana history were the Lafitte brothers, Pierre and Jean. While certainly part of the history of French Louisiana, their activity in Barataria, Lafourche, Baton Rouge, and New Orleans post-dates the chronology of this work. Nevertheless, while the brothers Lafitte brought notoriety, a certain acceptance, economic and organizational refinement, and great profitability to Gulf Coast piracy and smuggling, they did not invent it. They inherited it.  What they inherited is the matter of this essay. A brief excerpt from Lyle Saxon’s “Lafitte, the Pirate” best sums up this legacy.

“For 50 years before Lafitte saw it {in 1810} men and women had been living on Grand Isle and there were a cluster of houses half buried in the rank undergrowth.

Smuggling was only a part of the Islanders lives, for they were also trappers and fisherman, their luggers made the long journey to the New Orleans market over and over again ,carrying loads of fish and shrimp and oysters. They knew these curving bayous as the average city dweller knows the streets between his home and his office. The reedy labyrinths of Barataria held no mysteries for them. They had learned 100 hiding places for themselves and their boats in the vicinity of the city and when their luggers were loaded with contraband goods rather than with fish, they felt safe from pursuit or attack

For nearly 50 years than they had pursued their dual interests {smuggling and fishing}

. . .  it was an accepted thing . . .  “                       pp. 40-41

“The Pirates vessels’ brought in shipload after shipload of captured slaves to the harbor at Barataria; and the terrified savages ladened with chains, with dragged into the barracoon.

Prior to 1810,  . . . the smugglers had bought their slaves from Cuban slave traders. But under Lafitte’s regime a simpler and more direct method of supply was arranged. Nowadays the ships from Barataria went well armed and well man ned. They lay in wait off the Cuban coasts, and intercepted the slave ships as they came from Africa. Instead of buying the cargoes they stole them, and frequently burnt or scuttled the ships. Or sometimes the vessel with its cargo, but oddly empty of crew, was brought back to Grande Terre. And all of this in the name of Spanish prizes

This kind of “purchase”- as the corsairs called it – had double advantage: the slaves cost nothing, and the long voyage to Africa was a eliminated.  Then to, with Lafitte’s powerful connections in New Orleans, the slaves were easily sold.

Other richly laden prize vessels were brought into port : merchantmen, their holds filled with silks and spices from India . . .  At one time Lafitte’s storehouse was filled with goods of English manufacture. All this of course from Spanish vessels . . .  or so it was said. “                page 46

Saxon, Lyle. Lafitte the Pirate.

Two items of note may be drawn from this description. First, the dating of “organized” smuggling in the New Orleans region back to 1760. Second, the mention of specific merchandise, other than slaves, which were the stock of the smugglers, namely “holds filled with silks and spices from India”.

The Lafitte brothers not only assumed control over most of SE Louisiana’s smuggling activities, more importantly they came into the acquired knowledge of decades of exploration and exploitation of the watery pathways and passes to and from New Orleans and the Gulf. Legitimate trade and travel passed up the Mississippi from the government post at the Balize to the city and beyond as well as the now established passage through Lake Pontchartrain and Bayou Ste. Jean to the city’s back doors. By the beginning of the nineteenth century, the Carondelet Canal allowed water passage for trade and travel up to the walls of the city. The Lafittes’ predecessors meanwhile, had during the eighteenth century, established tradeways beyond the ken of the French or Spanish authorities from the islands of Barataria Bay and the mouths of Bayou LaFourche. Traveling up LaFourche from the Gulf to its Mississippi source at Lafourche-des-Chitimachas (now Donaldsonville, LA) was relatively a straight shot. There had been a settlement there since before the arrival of the French in 1699. Europeans moved in in the 1750’s and ’60’s. The other passage, up through the swamps from Barataria Bay to the river bank opposite today’s Audubon Park was somewhat more tricky.

These maps show the route through Barataria Bay to Bay Dogris, then up Bayou Perot into Lake Salvador. At the northern end of this lake is the outlet to Bayou Segnette which takes one to the river and the modern town of Westwego. Bayou Segnette is amplified on the detail map below.Smuggling Route from Gulf to New Orleans

Bayou Segnette map

Bayou Segnette

Prior to the Lafitte’s activity in the early 1800’s, there is evidence that these routes had been well established by the 1750’s. While there are no prior records – smugglers rarely keep books – there is no reason not to suppose that as soon as New Orleans was able to receive travelers and trade, someone from the coast was willing to supply the markets. The following remarks by two later scholars would seem to settle this question of the existence of a thriving smuggling economy in French Colonial Louisiana.

During the 16th and 17th centuries, especially among the Spanish and French colonies (less so with the British and Dutch) “ . . . The American colonies were chronically short of hard currency. Existing for the benefit of the mother countries, they were . . . not supposed to develop their own commerce with each other. The colonists would have starved if they had followed the European’s rules. Almost everything they needed had to imported. But they were only allowed to buy their supplies from vendors (approved by the mother state) at a high price . . . “

“With the Caribbean “a Spanish lake”,  . . . The only ways for the other nations of Europe to participate in New World commerce were through contraband, which became a way of life for the colonists early on, and through piracy. The colonists developed methods of conducting local business by barter, and traded with forbidden ships that were floating bazaars.”

“Santo Domingo withered from inattention . . . as Havana rose in importance. Contrabandists of various flags came to La Española’s north coast (Hispanolia), firing their cannons to alert the locals to come and trade. Buying up salted meat and hides, they drove up the price of beef in Santo Domingo. Worse, a cargo was intercepted of three hundred Bibles. Lutheran Bibles. The archbishop was alarmed; no Protestants were permitted in the New World.”

“Madrid’s response to loss of control over La Española was a spectacularly ill-advised order in 1605 to depopulate much of it, withdrawing the population to an area around the {capital}. . . . The entire northern coast of the island, and all of the west, was left unoccupied.

The pirates moved in.”    From Sublette, pp. 26-27.

“In September, 1714, it seems, a vessel bearing a permit from the governor of St. Domingue came to Mobile for “repairs” after encountering a storm. There is no record of any trading transactions, but “disabled by a storm” was so common a pretext for illicit traffic that the statement at once makes one suspicious.”

The Crozat regime tried to prevent unauthorized trade with the colony but this only “increased the popular ill-will because of the great need at the time of foodstuffs. Early in 1716 a request for {food} was sent to St. Domingue.” Some supplies were sent including rice, brandy, and wine, but at exorbitant prices. The regime then tried to establish St. Domingue as a “general depot of food supplies for the province (of Louisiana). Nothing was done with the suggestion and smuggling seems to have become more common than ever.  . . . In September, 1716, {even} Bienville on his own account sold 800 deerskins at four reaux each and a considerable amount of lumber. . . . {the regime} refused to alter the conditions that had caused the development of an illicit traffic, therefore they were unable to suppress it.”

From Miller-Surrey, pp. 370-371

Having thus established that smuggling was indeed commonplace and and often an almost invisible part of everyday commerce in French, Spanish, and British America during the 18th Century; it now becomes our task to demonstrate what food, and especially spices and vegetables, were part of the Gulf/Caribbean trade networks in the 1700’s.

{To Be Continued . . . } Meanwhile check out http://1718neworleans.com

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Retirement, sort of . . .

In May of 2010 I “was” retired from my 25 year teaching career. That is, my contract was not renewed –  for two reasons. First, and the one I tell everybody, is that with a Master’s degree and 20 some odd years of experience – I simply cost too much. The second is that somehow I ended up on the opposite side of the principal in the faculty politics of private Catholic high schools. In any event, here I was in the summer of 2010 at the end of a career. Upon retirement and in financial straights, I turned to to my first intellectual love, History. Casting about for something to do, I began the 1718 Project, This blog is part and parcel of that project. So far the project has been a success, in that it has kept occupied, if not gainfully so, for the past 2.75 years.

The Study

Where the Retirement happens – mostly

Regardless, it has taken that long for me to come to terms with my “retirement”

In the USA, in the 21st century, from the now extinct Middle Class, the question arises, what does one do in retirement ? First, I have to work the rest of my life. Presently, it is part time employment, which serves me well, at least for the time being. And predictably, I tend to gravitate to the things I’ve done for most of my life. One of the first things that happened upon “coming to terms with retirement” was the creation of a new study in a now-unused bedroom! It has become my haven of intellectual spirituality.

One of retirement’s greatest benefits is FREEDOM.

“The challenge of retirement is how to spend time without spending money.”  ~Author Unknown

I no longer have to justify my daily activities. I can do what I want to do – because I’M RETIRED. I  don’t have teach classes I have no interest in to further my career, to pay the mortgage, or to raise the kids. My kids are grown, I now rent a nice home, and my career is over. Now, I read history and write history! Now, I sell antiquarian books at an antique mall. Now, I cook gourmet dinners for my wife and myself, again. And, best of all, I write, compose, design the website, and post blogs about what I do.

NO JOB;   NO MORTGAGE;   NO WORRIES;   NO MONEY:  I’M RETIRED.

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An 18th Century New Orleans Potager

Its been a long time since my last blog. Research and writing continues apace. I can only blame the hectic holiday season and my work schedule during December. Now on Mardi Gras Day, 2013 I finally have enough to fill a good entry. I would like to welcome the new friends of the 1718 Tricentennial Facebook page. Please tell your friends about it. To quote David Bowie, as of now, “we’ve got five years”. I plan to make the best of them and get this Project afloat big time in the next twelve months or so. So when all the 2018 Superbowl fans return for the big party, all will be ready. Our mythical Frere Gerard is visiting the Houmas right now, and will soon be telling tales and cooking fish from the bayou country. But in the meantime, may I present . .

FRERE GERARD’S POTAGER

Finally, after about a year and a half in our original quarters (really no more than a shack), we were able to get larger quarters in the former barracks at the corner of Rue Chartres and Rue St. Ann. These are directly across the street from where the new church and new presbytere are to be located. The larger space also allows for a real chapel to be installed as well as an adequately sized kitchen. As the winter of 1724-25 waned, I approached Pere Raphael and asked that I be allowed to place the potager directly behind the proposed site of the presbytere in the rear of the square that had been reserved for our use. I reasoned that since plans for the new parsonage were already being drawn up, it would be counter-productive to dig a garden on the river side of Rue Chartres and only have to dig a brand new one on the opposite side in a season or two. FrereGerard1Pere Raphael commended me on my foresight and ordered me begin as soon as the weather allowed. Together we paced off a large plot bounded by the Rues St. Ann, Royal, and what was to become the central Rue d’Orleans. The front of the property facing the Rue Chartres, of course was left open for the soon-to-be Presbytere. I set to work at once observing the sun’s path across the property and laying out the garden plan. In late winter, right before Ash Wednesday, I moved some of city’s many orange trees to the line of the garden along Rue d’Orleans and turned the corner at Royal to finish the line and mark the potager’s western boundary. Interspersed between the established trees, I planted some plums and sassafras as well. On the eastern (Rue St. Ann) edge, I planted a low hedge, so as not to interfere with the morning sun. As Lent began to merge with Eastertide, it was now time to decide what to plant and where to plant it. As the winter progressed, I had the entire space dug over, weeded, dug again, manured, hoed and chopped up and made ready for the seeds and sets.

As a boy in the monastery at Charleville, the friars had put me to work in the kitchen and garden. The two are natural companions and complement the production of one to the other. As all things within convent walls, not much space or use is given to the ornament of the place (excepting the church, of course). And while various fancy foods and dishes are prepared in our kitchens, they are mostly reserved for traveling noble guests, local dignitaries, and high feast-days. So, now as the one in charge of the garden and kitchen,I made it a point to make both serve their proper, everyday roles. Of primary concern in laying out a potager is accessibility. After all, one cannot go tromping through the lettuces to get to the beans, or through the potatoes to dig a cabbage or a few onions. So paths through the potager are of prime importance. The actual vegetable “beds” should be no wider than one can reach into halfway, so as to harvest the dinner’s  ingredients without disturbing the other plants. Another chief consideration of plant placement is the nature of the vegetable plant itself. For instance, the high stalks of the Indian maize should not block the sun from the low growing plants like cabbages, lettuce, strawberries, etc. With all of this in mind, I set out our first potager as follows:

My first decision (after the orange trees) was to build out some arbors on the northern end, along Rue Royal, to plant the vines. Since winter was still officially here, I also decided to plant a couple of bay laurel and pecan trees at proper points in the potager. Henceforth, I will refer to the plan by the cardinal directions of the compass. If you are not in New Orleans, having our grapevines planted along Rue Royale will not mean much to you in your planning. So, leaving about 3 feet between the grape arbors and the first vegetable bed, I planted six rows of maize on the eastern side of the potager, Following the native practice of planting the “three sisters” together, between the corn stalks I planted some Indian beans (“snap” or green beans). These would use the corn stalks to climb upon. Finally, between the rows, I sowed the seeds for some melons and summer squash.

The next bed, or central one, would be devoted to onions, garlic, potatoes, and carrots, surrounded along the edges by lettuces and chard.

The last bed on the northern side contained the planting of radish,shallots, sweet potatoes, spinach.

The main ground of the potager between the northern beds and the kitchen walls themselves, I decided, in honor of our Saviour, to lay out in a cruciform. Making the arms of the cross all equal in length and width, rather than crucifix, the narrow cross (about three feet wide) will be the herb garden. Within the northern pointing arm, I am planting rosemary and tarragon.

Frere Gerard's Potager

Frere Gerard’s Potager

The arm pointing south will hold my parsley and sage. The east facing arm contains the thyme and fennel. Finally the western arm holds my medicinal herbs.

Now all that remains to be planted are the four quarters of the cross. In the NW corner of the NW quarter, I planted a fig tree. The rest of the NW quarter were rows of peas and celery. The NE quarter is being planted with a variety of lettuces and greens. Mache lettuce from home, along with arugula, turnips, beets, and endives. Enclosing the lettuce plot are the artichokes. In the SE quarter I decided to experiment with those native plants called peppers. Finally, another fig tree in the SW corner along with some strawberries, raspberries, and pineapples. As always in a living gardens these spring and summer plants will replaced  as August wanes into September with winter squashes, broccoli, more cabbages, those little tiny cabbages from Brussels, and whatever other fall plantings are allowed by our generous warm climate.

Now as April fades into May and Pentecost approaches, our new potager has taken form. Planted in such a way as to allow one to reach into every bed at least halfway, so as not to disturb the soil. The paths between all the sections of the potager are all 2 to 3 feet wide and will soon be graveled. On a fine day at the end of April, 1725. Pere Raphael and the community joined me in a Blessing ceremony. So now we only await God’s blessing and the magic of His natural creation to do their work, and our kitchen will now be provided with a steady stream of good, fresh food. The sun warms the soil, and the gentle spring rains nourish the ground, and – pardon the pun – the Capuchin friars have, with the grace of Our Lord, set the first permanent roots of their presbytere and potager.

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Cookbook Preview Arrives

It has been awhile. I have been wandering between the techno/intellectual frontier and what is commonly known as real life. Between bouts of household management, the onerous duties of convenience store cashier (please note tongue-in-cheek), and dutiful husband, I have actually been WRITING.

The Preview edition of

The Petticoat Rebellion, A Culinary History of New Orleans’
First Decades (with Recipes) 

 is now  online, to be printed, and to be edited (any offers?).

Cover shot for blog

And now I bear my writer’s soul. Here it is. Please download it, read it, and of the utmost importance, FEEDBACK!

IT IS OUT THERE FOR YOU TO PAN, TO ADMIRE, TO ENCOURAGE, TO BE OUTRAGED AT MY TEMERITY.

And in good old time business parlance, I look forward to your response.

Download available as .pdf or .iba (for iBooks on the iPad) at http://www.tssi-no.com/PRCmain.html

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Hurricanes, Electricity, Family, Jobs, Writing, and Frere Gerard.

Someone once told me, “the interruptions ARE my job”.

My birthday was August 19th. But that’s not why I’m writing this blog post. This birthday was a marker date in many ways. During the first part of August, I was happily moving along with a “little” part-time job, telling everyone that I was a retired teacher who fancied himself a writer. My wife and I were now among the “working poor”, after spending our lives at the lower end of the upper middle class.
Since my birthday, a mere 25 days ago, my wife started a new job, my daughter decided to move (so my truck and I have been pressed into service), a hurricane arrived, stayed longer than necessary, we lost power (see below) for three days, and I had to work way beyond my normal three half-day shifts during the hurricane time.
Now, I have to explain something about hurricanes, and a note about Isaac itself. Normally, if any hurricane can be called normal, a hurricane threatens, it makes landfall, blows and soaks everything for about 24 hours, moves on and slowly falls apart, What most non-hurricane people don’t realize is that from the human point of view, hurricanes require several days of planning ahead, several days of sitting around waiting for electricity to return, and several more days of putting everything back together again. These days can be multiplied by whatever happens during the storm. People lose their homes to wind, water, and even fire. People move away and return sometimes weeks later, sometimes months, sometimes never. Job requirements need to be balanced with time for preparing the family and home for the storm – which may never even come to your area. In this case, Hurricane Isaac, arrived in my life on Sunday, August 26. I had to work unscheduled shifts on Sunday and Monday, taking away from time I should have spent getting food, gas, supplies, generators, house, and people ready for the storm. Landfall came on Tuesday afternoon. The storm STAYED Tuesday night, all day Wednesday, Wed. night, and finally drifted away Thursday morning just before noon. Electricity (and our power trapped lives) disappeared by midnight Wednesday. Our generators failed. We had no power until Friday night, and we are luckier than most of the area.
Now, mid-September, life has begun to normalize. Unable to do any work on the 1718 Project for several weeks, I did a lot of thinking. For the remainder of September, at least, I follow the adage that . . .

CONTENT IS KING. The above brouhaha had left my on-going research and writing in the dust, until a few days ago. Now, I am pleased to report that once again I am writing. Frere Gerard’s adventures in colonial New Orleans continue to multiply. One point of this essay is to put my audience on notice, that for the next few weeks, very little will be forthcoming on the website. The next few weeks are being devoted solely to the production of content. After that, you will be reading a journal of the trials and joys of editing, formatting, and posting iBooks and eBooks. To sustain your interest, however, here is some of the kingly content as Frere Gerard experiences autumn in the capital.

It was a fine September day. Autumn had showed herself early this year, and it was a pleasant change. Instead of waking up in a pool of sweat, I even had to cover myself with my robe, as I tossed awake before Lauds. On this day the air felt drier and cooler, it would be a good day for the market. After Prime, I prepared the breakfast for the brothers of our little community. It was a simple affair of maize porridge and some of my – now regular – French and Indian Bread. On market day, I was relieved of clean-up duty by one of our servants so as to take advantage of the early morning coolness to walk down to the levee to secure provisions for the next week and month. Our little community had been here in the capital now for just over a year. Speaking as “Brother Kitchen”, it had been a tough year. food supplies were constantly low, and we often lived on a diet of maize, thin soup, and bear fat, sometimes an egg or two would be generously donated. But as the year progressed, things slowly got better. Our potager had eventually began producing some basic vegetables ( examples) and some herbs to flavor our poor fare. Gardens around the city also began to produce. The Allemandes upriver were able to ship some rice, milk, eggs, and produce to the capital on occasion. Our Native brethren even occasionally offered us in trade some of the game and fish they had secured from God’s bounty of forest and river. And now, it was harvest time once again, and I looked forward to reaping the bounty of our labors and lining the pantry and larder for the winter months.
For me, one of the joys to be found in opening up this new land, apart from the opportunity to spread the Word of God, was the discovery of the different flora and fauna that provided food and healing herbs different from the victuals of our homeland. America abounded in such new and, to us, outlandish, grains, vegetables, herbs, and spices. A wide variety of previously unknown game and fish were also to be found here; to be examined, cooked, tasted, and shared. I didn’t know it, as I prepared to go to the Levee Market, but I would find a new one today.
Now much of the land in and around our new capital, New Orleans, is flat and swampy. Near to the river, the lakes, and the innumerable streams (bayous), the land does rise several feet higher. This rise allows for long strips of good forest, wherein the game, the birds, and some productive trees are able to thrive. The first explorers to this land, led my M. de Bienville and his brother, God rest his soul, M. d’Iberville found and noted many of these trees producing goodly fruit, berries, and several types of nuts. Today, being a day in early fall, many of Indian women and even children had been gathering what looked to our French eyes like, baskets of walnuts. I thought they would be a good addition to the convent pantry, so I asked one of the children if I might try his wares. I broke away the outer shell to find a pretty brown nut with a much thinner skin than our walnuts at home. Breaking away that shell I popped the nut into my mouth. Dieu soit félicité!!! The nut practically melted like butter in mouth. I say like butter, because the taste was nutty and buttery at the same time! What is this! I exclaimed, it not a walnut ! The boy informed me, that in his tongue it was called a paccan. Needless to say, I bought up several bushels of these toothsome morsels, and began to formulate great plans for them. 

The next day, between Terce and Sext, when I would normally be busy in the potager, I left the Convent and travelled upriver along the natural levee, as I moved farther away from the town, I encountered a wide variety of trees growing along the bank. A bit away from the bank itself, past the willows and cottonwoods, I began to see the oaks, the gums, and to my great pleasure, some paccan trees, their nuts scattered among the undergrowth. Hopefully anticipating such a find, I had brought along a large basket, I spent the rest of the morning happily gathering the bounty which Pater Noster had graced this beautiful new world. Returning home with my treasure, I was already planning the wonderful meals these gifts from the Almighty would provide.
Christmas Holidays in the capital, 1726.

Pecan fritters:

flour, sugar, milk, eggs, baking powder, baking soda.

8 oz. pecan halves, smashed into chucks

liquid:
2 oz pecan liquor or brandy
1 egg
2 tbsp butter
6 to 8 oz milk
thin with water to taste

Blend all ingredients together as you would make regular pancake batter. Cover the bottom of a large skillet with cooking oil (or bear fat), fry the fritters, turning once. Use syrup or powdered sugar to coat the hot fritters (en Francais, beignets) Enjoy a nice Christmas brunch.

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