The Picayune's Creole Cook Book

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9781495976575: The Picayune's Creole Cook Book
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An excerpt from the PREFACE:

The Picayune Creole Cook Book, of which this (the sixth) is a revised and very carefully prepared edition, is more than a cook book. It is, in fact the record of a school of cookery, the most savory and yet the most economical ever devised. in making that dual claim we are not speaking idly and boastingly, but have valid arguments to support both contentions.

It long has been recognized throughout the world that the cuisine of France, under the later Louis and the Empire, reached a perfection of refinement due not alone to a French genius for that art, but because gastronomy was so highly regarded there that it drew the best from all parts of the world. Thus we see some of the most typically French "plats" to have had their origin in Poland, ltaly, Spain and Russia, though undoubtedly refined and improved from passing through the hands of the French masters. it was this French school of culinary art that supplied the foundation, the general basis for the Creole cuisine.

It must be remembered that many of the French settlers in La Louisiane were the aristocratic "émigrés," who brought with them the highest refinement of gastronomic culture, while at the same time there came many peasants with their simple though delicious "pot au feu" and "grillades." But, in the evolution of a Creole cuisine, to this double element of French cookery there came an infiltration of Spanish "arte de componer las viandas" because of the considerable element of Iberian population that settled in Louisiana during the Spanish rule. This added a somewhat broader, stronger seasoning, and a further admixture came from our proximity to the pepper-loving tropics. Thus we find our Creole cookery departing somewhat from its French origins; but there were other and still more important changes that could not fail to come because of our isolation and because of the difference in the staple culinary materials here and in Europe.

One of the conspicuous differences of this kind was due to our waters that teemed with fish, scale-fish and shell fish, and many varieties of marine food that were either unobtainable in France or were there so rare as to have become no staple item of the menu. in the wild New World sea food was easiest and safest to catch. it might even be captured by the women folks while the men were on sterner business, and with such new and delicious materials to experiment with, the inventiveness of the pioneers went to work and devised new and delicious combinations of shrimps, crabs and crawfish, as well as of the almost limitless varieties of the finny tribes. There were the reliable "grognards"—we call them croakers. Both names are due to the rebellious utterances of the fish when hooked and landed. There were the trouts, white and speckled, so plentiful in Louisiana and Mississippi waters; the delicious sheepshead, with stripes of the broiler ready upon it as it came from the water; the handsome red fish, marked for ready identification by a single black dot beside its tall; and then such aristocrats as the Spanish mackerel—a nobleman indeed beside his plebeian relative, the mackerel of the Atlantic—and, supreme among fish, the delicious pompano. With those and an infinity of oysters at command, it was not to be wondered at that the native chefs wrought marvels of tastiness that have been the envy of many a European "cordon bleu." ...

Lastly, there were the Indians to whom at least one item of Creole cookery, still today fairly indispensable, is due—namely, the "gombo file" Even to the present day that condiment, so unlike all others, is gathered and sold by the remains of the once powerful Choctaws.

With all these new elements added, we find ourselves far away from the original French cuisine, but that school had the force to enclose the New World additions without losing any of its own charms when it became a question of cooking the standard foods....

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About the Author:

Established in 1837 by Francis Lumsden and George Wilkins Kendall, this newspaper published in New Orleans is now called the Times-Picayune after a merger with a rival paper, the New Orleans Times-Democrat, in 1914. Its original price was a Spanish coin equivalent to $.0625, a “picayune.” Today, the paper is part of Advance Publications, owned by the Newhouse family. 

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