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Ain’t Technology Grand !?!?

Hello Dear Readers,

This post is simply to inform you that the revised, updated, and latest corrected version of The Petticoat Rebellion (Version 1.3) is now available as a .pdf download from the cookbook page at the The 1718 Project main website (http://1718neworleans.com).

Thanks are due to all my patient readers who have put up with the typos, omissions, and bad grammar in the earlier versions. One of the glories of the electronic age is the ability to consistently make our resources more accurate and useful.

“Ain’t Technology Grand !?!?”

N.O. Historic Marker

The raison d’être of the 1718 Project

And now that Volume 1 is “put to bed”, I think it may be time to begin thinking about and writing about The 1718 Project as a whole once again.

Thank you again for your continued support and encouragement as the Tricentennial grows ever closer.





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Three Blogs in One


Self-Publishing and Self-Editing, Part III

St. Joseph’s Day, March 19, 2014. iTunes Producer reads “Uploaded package to the iTunes Store”. We are almost there, in the olden days I could now say my book is at the publishers. But it is not the olden days and while the book is in fact at the publishers that doesn’t mean it will be published in short order. Meanwhile, I am on pins and needles waiting for the OK to come in and for The Petticoat Rebellion to appear in the iBookstore.

So in the meantime, I cannot market, so I am updating the social media pages. I have decided to focus on five venues. First and foremost, the 1718 New Orleans website, then the Facebook page, then the LinkedIn page. In addition to these three, serious work will be undertaken to update and activate more fully the Goodreads page/account and the Project Gutenberg account and whatever they may require for their program. In the midst of all this activity The Petticoat Rebellion also has to be converted from an iBook into an e-book. I will be doing this activity through a very helpful website and publication called Unruly Guides. The centerpiece of this process is an application called Sigil. Never fret, though, this process will be well-documented through this blog. Once the e-book conversion is completed, then submission to Kindle, Smashwords, and Project Gutenberg will be undertaken.

At now, like I don’t have enough to do, research and writing on Volume 2 progresses. To wit…

Doing History

Academic historians spend years pouring over documentary evidence isolating their research data and verifying their information. Unfortunately, this is about where their production levels off. On the scale of Information Architecture, data is followed by information is followed by knowledge is followed by wisdom. It is only in the lecture hall and, hopefully, in the books produced by the historian where said historian can rise to the level of knowledge and wisdom. However, communication in the classroom and sometimes even the books always seems to be bogged down by all the discussion of data and information. Reading histories written in the 1800s and before, then post-Von Ranke in the late 19th and early 20th century, and then continuing on to those written in the later 20th century, a definite pattern can be seen to emerge. Unfortunately, it is a pattern of devolution. The early historians, even going back to Herodotus, communicate at the level of knowledge/wisdom. During much of the 20th century historians communicated at the level of data and hopefully, occasionally, rising to information. Those of us trained in the late 20th century are possibly breaking out of this mold.

Now at the beginning of the 21st. A return can be seen to be re-evolving from the previous “scientific” histories into a more
?enjoyable? type of historical presentation. It is at this juncture where information is being transformed into knowledge that I strive to place my work. For those interested in following the information, the 1718 website has a link to the Project’s bibliography. The iBook/e-book also contains footnotes that links to or references entries in the bibliography. It is my hope that by choosing a mixture of historical fiction (i.e. stories of cooks and cooking in New Orleans during the 18th century); adding the recipes that would be generated by the available foodstuffs and kitchen activities, filling in with actual recipes from 18th-century French cookbooks; and finishing with historical essays that supply factual backgrounds to the stories and recipes; that the combination takes the reader from information to knowledge. I do not go so far as to state that reading these books will lead to wisdom, but I can only hope that my readers see the difference between the fictional and historical entries and take away, not only a knowledge of what this Tricentennial is celebrating but more importantly, a feeling, or an understanding, of what the early settlers of New Orleans and Louisiana had to deal with and SUCCEEDED IN DEALING WITH thereby creating the unique culture that we celebrate today.

To this writer, a retired teacher an active scholar, this is what DOING HISTORY is all about. Enjoy the study, make the recipes, and Bon Appétit. And to La Nouvelle Orleans and it’s culture which created us, Joyeux Anniversaire !!!


One of the glories of Creole Cuisine is its simplicity. Especially in considering 18th Century Creole Cuisine, where official records are quick to chronicle all of the shortages and suffering in the colony, thankfully, there were always enterprising settlers ( and their “creole” descendants) to supply the kitchens and markets of the capital and surrounding settlements (see The Petticoat Rebellion, ch. 18). Where the official colonial records note scarcity and want , private records of the time consistently mark “imported luxuries lavishly spread on carved oak tables: olive oil, brandied fruits, anchovies and invariably, coffee which the Creoles served in spectacular quantities. People ate remarkable amounts of chocolate, considering that it was expensive and hard to come by. . . . a formal dinner {was described} with “many courses”and “many spices”,which was nevertheless followed by desserts”seemingly without end.” Cakes was served at every party;The guests divided up the leftovers and brought them home in their lanterns which might not be needed for light because many parties broke up after dawn.The pastries so generously distributed were not cheap, {wheat} flour was of course in short supply, “ (Vella, pp. 30-32)

This following recipe should be noted for its incredible simplicity. The only extravagant ingredients would be the coconuts and vanilla. The “spice” would have been brought in by smugglers from one of the many ships which traded in the trans-Caribbean Spanish/French/British/Dutch commercial network. Spices, such as vanilla, nutmeg, and cinnamon, made their way to the Gulf and Caribbean from the Pacific ports of Mexico and New Spain (Petticoat Rebellion, ch. 18). And in reality, the following dessert recipe can skip the vanilla without much detriment to its enjoyment. I have no proof, but I would be willing to say, that good old custard, that is the mixture of milk and eggs and sugar or sweetener probably goes back to time immemorial. Creoles throughout the Caribbean, South America, and the Gulf Coast call this variation on custard-Flan.

Tante Suzanne* (See the 11/5/13 blog entry) in preparation for a family feast (like the one described above) and having acquired some coconuts† and vanilla beans from her market sources proceeded to create her Flan as follows:

CARAMEL SAUCE: (first known use of the French word caramel was 1658)
Mix a cup of brown sugar, 1/2 cup of light cream, 4 tablespoons butter, and a pinch of salt in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook while whisking gently for 5 to 7 minutes, until it gets thicker. Add 1 tablespoon crushed vanilla seeds and cook another minute to thicken further. Turn off the heat, cool slightly and pour the sauce into a baking dish. Let it cool and thicken some while you mix the custard.

In a heavy saucepan pour 3 pints of milk and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in 5+ tbsp. sugar and continue simmering 10 to 15 minutes, or until milk has reduced to 3 cups. Strain. To this boiled down (condensed) sugar milk add a pint of coconut milk, some coconut flakes, another pint of of fresh milk, and four or five eggs (depending on size). Mix all of these together very well. Pour the custard slowly over the caramel sauce and bake in a moderate oven for about an hour or so until the custard sets.

† The coconut is not indigenous to tropical America; it was introduced to the Caribbean and the Atlantic coasts of the Americas in the 16th century. By the end of the 17th century the coconut was well established in Jamaica, but did not become an important plantation crop until the middle of the 19th century.


Whether or not the markets of New Orleans had coconuts in the 1700s is problematic. They were introduced to the Caribbean environment during the 1500s and 1600s, However in San Domingue, {after 1665} “More cattle, and slave agricultural holdings, coffee plantations and spice plantations were implemented, as well as fishing, cultivation of cocoa, coconuts and snuff”.


If Tante Suzanne access to them in San Domingue or Louisiana she could have used them in this Flan recipe. They are not technically required for this recipe but if you have a romantic streak in you may want to include them.





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Filed under Creole Cooking, New Orleans Tercentennial, Recipes, Tri-centennial, 1718, 2018, 300th, anniversary, author, writer, speaker, teacher, non-fiction, Bienville, Iberville, Bayou St. John, Natchez, Indians, Native American, Tunica, Bayougoula, Mississippi,

And so it begins . . .

the Bourbon Flag

Oh! The joy! Oh, the gratification! Oh, the fulfilment! I have been APPROVED by Apple. The company that has guided me for the last 30 years in all my endeavours in the professional world has granted me approval. Oh be still my fluttering heart!

And so now I am ready to press the publish button on my iBook! And so it begins. Now begins the real work The decisions, the decisions . . . should I charge for my book or not? Can I distribute it freely under other formats? Now to market, to market, to sell a fat book. What to do first after the iBook, what next?  Can the book be revised and updated as time goes by? Today the question plaguing me is to print or not to print? I foresee the next year as one of refining, reformatting, and refitting the work – i.e. The Petticoat Rebellion, Vol. 1 (v. 1.0) – enabling it to be distributed through as many channels as possible. All the while composing Vol. 2, again in iBooks.

And the most important question of all, what can I do to make YOU want the book? Do you want it to be free? Would you feel more comfortable if you paid $3.99 or $4.99 for it? Would you download it as an iBook to be read on an iPad or perhaps a Mac? How about a free .pdf that can be read anywhere, but is not as pretty? Or are you going to wait until the Kindle version comes out? Are you interested in the culinary history of French colonial Louisiana? Are you interested, and I believe you are if you are reading this, the 2018 tricentennial? Finally, another big question is, how do I go about telling you about it?

Therefore, as the previous generation might have said, children saluting the flag“Let’s run it up the {virtual, digital} flagpole, and see if anybody salutes!”

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How is culinary history done?


Thank you Catherine Howard! I was lying in bed this morning wondering what I was going to blog about this week. And what do I find in my inbox when I finally get myself up to attend to my morning activities, but Catherine’s blog about blogging. Yes, I admit it. This blog was started because because as an aspiring author, I was led to believe that 21st Century authors should have a blog. I also admit that I began my book because I thought it raised the possibility that I might be able to make some money with it now that I was retired. Also the fact that I was now retired and desired something intellectual to challenge me and pass the time I suddenly had on my hands. Anyway, now that the book and blog are up and running, both are moving along at a good pace.

Whether or not anybody reads the blog is a completely different question. I have never received any response from anyone, I did receive a comment once, way back when I started, but nothing really since then. And yet, I still write it. So what does this mean? A few weeks ago, I was having a conversation with another writer (my wife), and I quoted or misquoted Miss Howard as follows, “No one gives a flying —- about your book.” or words to that effect. While I had accepted this premise intellectually for many years, over the past few months I have come to accept it emotionally. To me, this seems like progress. Another way of putting this is that now I have come to a point where I write because I want to, I write – for no other reason that that I am a historian. This is indeed progress. So, thank you again , Catherine Howard, for putting into words a lesson that all writers must learn.

Now then, what is a culinary history? More to the point, how does one do culinary history? The 1718 Project, of which this culinary history is the first fruit, started out as a straight history exercise. A teacher of history and biblical studies, (truth be told-taught very much by the same methodology) now faced with retirement, I was looking about for something to do. My mind was quite naturally bent to pursuing my lifelong love of historical study. But, what to study? Here it was a few years away from New Orleans’ 300th anniversary, well if that isn’t history I don’t know what is. So now I had it, I would write a history of the founding of New Orleans. Before going on now, if you don’t already know, I am a foodie (more on this later) and a native of the Crescent City. Research commenced on the history book, research as I learned to do in grad school getting my Masters degree. Then something happened. The more primary sources I read, the more they seemed to talk about food. So now my research, notes, and writings split into a history book and a cookbook. But, there were no recipes from the 1700s. At least, none that were readily apparent in the research. But there was a place to begin. The journals of the French explorers of early Louisiana often listed the foods that they ate or that they traded with the Indians. Food lists were also available from shipping manifests. And then, in the research, there appeared the letters of Marie Hachard, an Ursuline nun who was writing home about life in New Orleans. In these letters there were long paragraphs identifying all the foods that were available to the nuns either through their own industry or by gifts to the convent. With this beginning, we started thinking of possible recipes that the colonists would’ve eaten based on the ingredients available. We turned to very early creole cookbooks from the late 1800s. We even discovered two French cookbooks from the 18th century, mainly directed at the aristocratic tables. Research then led to food production and/or resources provided by local farmers, hunters, fishermen, and Pirates. The data began to yield recipes, chapters, and a morass of details and contradictions. Culinary history was being done, and like all things culinary, the kitchen was a royal mess while the meal was being prepared.

Finally, I arrived at a solution for all the seeming inconsistencies. This culinary history, would be a combination: first,  a story-historical fiction-that would tell the tale of life in New Orleans during the 1700s; next, Recipes from the journals by the French explorers of early Louisiana, from the extant French cookbooks of the 1700s, and created from the ingredients, the foodstuffs, that are listed throughout the primary sources. Finally, essays based on ship supply lists, early agricultural records, records of the people who lived and worked in French New Orleans, what they grew and what they ate. There are ample food references found in the primary records. This last is the “hard history” of the book. Many of the recipes are straight from these primary records and sources. Just as many recipes are based on the foods that existed in New Orleans and Lower Louisiana during the 1700s. All is woven together by the tales of Frere Gerard and Tante Suzanne. this my response to the question – how is culinary history done?


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Let us welcome Tante Suzanne

Tante Suzanne and Gerard sat down on the levee with their cans of steaming coffee. She opened her aprons to show her companion the treasures hidden therein. Inside were five elongated fruits of red and green color, a half-dozen precious brown nuts, and a handful of little dried out black pods.”Where did those come from!?” exclaimed Gerard. “Shush”, Tante Suzanne said, “you want the whole levee to hear you?”

Gerard had met Suzanne at the levee market a few years earlier. Like himself she was responsible for running the kitchen and the potager for a large family at a nearby home in the city. Although her mother had been African and a slave at the time of her birth, she herself was freeborn. All of her brothers and sisters were freeborn as well, due to an agreement between her mother and the Frenchman she worked for. In fact, before she was 10 years old her mother was also freed by her French owner. Nevertheless, free mother and children alike, had followed Monsieur Miragouen from San Domingue to Mobile in the early 1700s. As those early years in Louisiana passed by, Monsieur Miragouen had established a thriving farm and cattle ranch a few miles up the river from the city on the bay. By her early teens, Suzanne had demonstrated an affinity for the hearth and the garden. And by the time she was 20 she was the cook at the big house on the farm. A few years later her father died and Suzanne was forced to consider her options because of her lascivious half-brother Louis. A tall and handsome woman, Suzanne was often forced into uncomfortable positions as she, Louis and the others were growing up. He would playfully grab her or hold her against a tree making indecent remarks. Now that he had inherited his father’s farm and ranch, things were getting a little too serious for Suzanne.

A few years prior to this, when Governor Bienville had decided to build the new colonial capital at New Orleans about 150 miles west of Mobile, her brother Romulus had decided to go along and help settle the city. As Suzanne’s talents had manifested themselves in the kitchen, so her brother’s had shown up in the stable yards. With his knowledge of and seemingly natural abilities to handle horses, Romulus quickly found work in a large household of a rich merchant in New Orleans. Suzanne decided to move to New Orleans herself and within a few short months she established herself with the same family in their kitchen and gardens. While settling into her new city and  workspaces, she often saw this interesting looking fellow at the markets in town seeming to be a bit out of place. One day, while examining some freshly caught catfish and shrimp being offered by a riverman, she bumped into this fellow, and a conversation began as to how to best prepare these gifts of the Great River.

Over the next few seasons Frére Gerard and Suzanne became fast friends, sharing cups of coffee on the levee along with their recipes, gardening ideas, and methods of running kitchens. On this day at the levee market, Suzanne, called Tante by her household family, had come across one of her acquaintances from the bayous and swamps west of the city. This area has long been a thriving depot for boats and pirogues coming up from Barataria Bay with fabrics and foodstuffs, whose origins in the busy ports of the Caribbean islands and cities along the Gulf Coast from Veracruz to Pensacola, were not officially sanctioned by the New Orleans Superior Council. This is why the spices were hidden in her apron. Now to be shared with her close friend Gerard were some wonderful chili peppers, nutmegs, and cloves.

Gerard gratefully accepted a few of the chili peppers, two of the nutmegs, but left the cloves for Suzanne this time around. On her part, Suzanne was already thinking of the wonderful puddings and cakes she was planning to bake for her household’s next Sunday dinner.


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The Creole Pantry, Part II

As always, further information and deeper insights into this topic maybe found at http://1718NewOrleans.com

Ref: 1718neworleans2018 blog entries for May 6, 2013 and June 30, 2012

Of course, other cultures whose representatives immigrated to Louisiana, continued in the 18th Century to add to the Creole Pantry. The primary scope of the Petticoat Rebellion Cookbook is the first 40 years of French Louisiana’s existence, 1699 to roughly 1740. These dates exclude two very important contributors to today’s New Orleans’ cooking, the Acadians and the Spanish (with those darned tomatoes again). This essay covers the Native Louisianans and the French. The Germans, Swiss, and Africans with their vital agricultural and culinary contributions are covered in a subsequent paper. Also to be studied in this context are the elusive and amorphous contributions to the pantry from the international markets of smuggling.

These words were blogged over a year ago. In web time, as well as in my own experience, it seems like 25 years ago. Nevertheless, and despite many distractions, work has continued and further research has provided some new insights into the whole idea of what foodstuffs the Creoles had to cook with in the 18th century.

Shannon Dawdy, an anthropologist from the University of Chicago, does archaeological digs in New Orleans and has expanded our ideas, adding much grist to our Creole mills. In her comprehensive work on French Colonial Louisiana, Building the Devils Empire, she establishes – as fact – smuggling in the colony during the 1700s.  Her essay, “Smuggling Empire”, (pp. 115-134) provides ample documentation (and supported by several other sources) that the Louisiana economy was based largely, if not mostly, on the trade of illicit goods throughout the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean with Spanish, British, Dutch, and other French colonies. Her archaeological digs in New Orleans as well as research documented in her various books and essays all confirm that New Orleans was a significant and major part of a greater Gulf/Caribbean commercial world. Through this network came the vegetables, herbs, and spices carried by the larger international trade of European colonialism. The 18th century can be viewed as the height of the much touted “Columbian Exchange”; through which flowed a delicious mix of spices from India and Asia, vegetable and herb seeds and plantings from the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, Africa, Mexico and the Caribbean islands. Now what remains to be established is the nature of the goods traded, specifically food, beverages, spices, and vegetable plants that found their place in  the potagers and kitchens of Creole French New Orleans.

To all of this may be added this note from a newly discovered, translated, and published journal from 1720s Louisiana. Marc-Antoine Caillot came to Louisiana in 1727, as an employee of the Company of the Indies. In his luggage was a trunk, common among virtually all travelers from Europe to its colonial territories, containing…

“Mercantile policies embodied by the Company’s right to complete control over imports and exports rendered any alternative trading systems illegal but actual enforcement of those policies proved difficult. Not all the goods loaded onto the Durance (or other trading ship) could be considered legitimate. Before setting foot in the colony, Louisiana bound passengers (not to mention ships’ officers) ranging from high-level administrators to soldiers destined for the lowest ranks of the outpost workforce took every opportunity to fill their trunks with contraband trade items that might help them sustain or further themselves once they traversed the Atlantic. Demand for metropolitan fashion accessories was high in the colonies…

The Company Man, p. 60 n. 98.

Nevertheless, while it is important to establish, for a fact, that a vibrant smuggling economy sustained Louisiana all through the 18th and the first quarter of the 19th centuries, a culinary history like this must focus on the items exchanged within this economy. Specifically, the edible ones. Once again, Ms. Dawdy’s book leads us forward.

“New Orleans served as the central agricultural market where small farmers sold or bartered rice, greens, figs, sweet potatoes, eggs, and hams in exchange for imports such a sugar, coffee, wine, cloth, and furnishings.  … Plantation slaves came to New Orleans on Sundays to sell the surplus of their provision plots… Records show that they came on other days as well… to peddle produce and street food. … Native Americans frequented town, peddling fresh fish and game, bear oil, corn, herbs, and Persimmon bread, in addition to deerskins.”

“Mercantilism and Alternative Economies” in Building the Devils Empire, pp. 104.

While this food list gives us a good solid ground for what could be found in a typical Creole pantry, the task still remains to specify the “greens”, “provision plots”. “produce and street food” grown in the cities potagers, and the spices that were to be acquired through the “alternative economy”. Throughout the various sources supporting this paper, there are many mentions of such particulars as …

“Indian trade items”, “Household sundries”, “Fine goods”, “foodstuffs considered contraband”, “French imports stocked in city shops, or browse for delicacies in the bustling open air market.” (Dawdy, p.106.)

France treated Louisiana as an importer of flour, alcohol, and a few more luxurious foodstuffs, but supply lines were too tenuous and shipments always too small or spoiled for colonists to rely on… (Usner. p. 198)

{Author’s Note} Could the “luxurious foodstuffs” mentioned possibly be the spices, herbs, and other luxury ingredients from France?

M. Caillot tells of stewing some birds with bell peppers upon his arrival in Louisiana.
A Company Man (p.72)

The documents we have examined so far, mostly government records and memoirs, are incredibly useful for setting the context of a culinary history. As has been shown, they become inadequate resources for identification of the actual food and recipes that are being prepared. References to actual food, especially vegetables, herbs, and spices, are sporadic and very general in nature. The 17th and 18th centuries saw very little in the way of cookbooks or recipes that were written down. Thankfully, though, a few were prepared in  those years and do give us insight into these foodstuffs. For instance, François Massialot, a chef in the royal household of France in the late 17th century, did write a cookbook that was published in 1699 and revised throughout the 1700s. Simply leafing through his work, one can extract the following vegetables herbs and spices by just reading through the recipes. To this we can add the food items here (in bold), that were provided by the Germans who settled up river from New Orleans on the German Coast in 1721.

truffles, mushrooms, morelles, garlic, onion, St. George’s mushroom, cucumbers, shallots, artichokes (hearts), asparagus, hearts of lettuce, beets, leeks, peppers (green & hot), carrots, celery: The gardens {of the German Coast} LIKELY (my emphasis) included leaf lettuce, onions, radishes, cabbage, beans … , corn, peppers, celery, endive and a variety of root vegetables.  . . . they quickly adapted to rice and sweet potato crops in Louisiana. Mustard greens, collards, turnip tops, beet tops, spinach, and purslane were also provided from here.

Lemon, oranges, orange flower water, limes, From their farms in the Rhineland, “chestnuts, peaches, apricots, figs, … flourished.”

Parsley, bay leaf, sorrel, chervil, thyme, fines herbs,?flowers?, Mint and herbs grew in the kitchen gardens. Other important herbs MAY HAVE INCLUDED garlic, horseradish, thyme, sweet marjoram, coriander, caraway, fennel, and rosemary.”

quartre épices*, capers, salt, pepper, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, mustard, filè†, allspice

*quartre épices= pepper, cloves, nutmeg, ginger.
18th Century Cuisine: a blog

† provided by Louisiana’s Native Americans

bouillon,  anchovies, vinegar, oil (olive?),  butter,  fat rendered into lard, parmesan, wine red or white, macaroons, flour (wheat?), almonds, pistachios, pecans (native),  ( the German coast also provided) cream, cheese, and eggs; as the century progressed, this area was also providing pies made from cherries, apples, plums, peaches, strawberry, blackberry, raspberry, elderberry, custard, cheese, crookneck squash, and mincemeat;

The above listings can now give us a much clearer picture of the ingredients and items that may have found their way into Frére Gerard’s pantry. Virtually all of these items were available to French cooks in the old country. This is not to say that some were not rarer than others. Even so, I feel it is not unreasonable to hold that, between (the less than legal) international trade routes, the Columbian exchange, the Caribbean-Mexico-North Gulf coastal trade routes, as well as the gardens and farms of old New Orleans; many if not all of these ingredients were available to the cooks of French Colonial New Orleans. As the 20s and 30s of that century progressed, the German farms upriver from New Orleans began to provide the city with a regular stream of fresh produce.

Therefore, by the end of his first decade in New Orleans, we can see that Frére Gerard potentially had a pantry and a garden as well supplied as any in the old world. The only item in question that remains, is the tomato. While this staple of modern Creole cuisine was certainly grown in Mexico and probably in the Caribbean during the 18th century it was unpopular among the French who thought it was poison.  Tomatoes non-withstanding, we can rejoin our (mythical) Frère Gerard as he continues to clean and stock his ever-growing kitchen, he putters in his potagér, and continues to meet with and share ideas with all his African neighbors, his German suppliers at the levee market, and his Indian friends roaming the streets of the early Vieux Carré. Together, these original New Orleans foodies continued to blend the food resources from the rich alluvial Mississippi lands, the great trading network of the Gulf of Mexico, and the abundant game and seafood from South Louisiana and the Gulf Coast into the foundation of what legitimately may be called {one of} America’s most famous food culture.

‡ for further reading, see my published bibliography (regularly updated) which may be found at http://1718NewOrleans.com, the bibliography link.

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Filed under Louisiana History, New Orleans Tercentennial, Tri-centennial, 1718, 2018, 300th, anniversary, author, writer, speaker, teacher, non-fiction, Bienville, Iberville, Bayou St. John, Natchez, Indians, Native American, Tunica, Bayougoula, Mississippi,

Smuggling Spice in Louisiana


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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