While I was in New Orleans, I had the pleasure of doing a walking tour of food and history. We used a company called Tastebud Tours and they were great. Here’s a little food and history lesson for you.
We met at Little Vic’s to start our tour. Lindel was our tour guide and she certainly knew her stuff! She is a native New Orleans who just happens to be ahi story teacher for her day job. It was great to listen to her tell us he history with such passion.
Little Vic’s was chosen for their muffuletino. It their version of a traditional muffuletta. These sandwiches are usually layered with mortadella, salami, mozzarella, ham and provolone topped with an olive spread. Long story short the owner of Central Grocery, in New Orleans, noticed his patron struggling today the ingredients separately while balancing on a rate. They really didn’t have time to relax since they had to get back to work. He suggested slicing the bread open and making a sandwich. The thick braid bread they used proved hard to bite into as a sandwich. The Grocer created a new bread, called muffuletta that had the flavor they were used to but a softer consistency. The olive sale was key because they would often let the sandwich sit in the sun to warm the cheese. A mayonnaise based dressing would spoil but the olive spread just gets better with the heat.
We had a quick history lesson on the difference between a Cajun and Creole. Cajuns are Acadians. They descended from the French settlers. With all the different accents, it got boiled down to Cajun. The Creoles were more descendant from the Spanish settlers and there was a great Caribbean influence, as well.
Next we were off to The Coffee Pot for some authentic jambalaya. It is important to note that the super spicy food often associated with New Orleans cuisine, is not necessarily an accurate representation of what really happens there. The heat is much more subtle and should hit your mouth just at the back of your tongue. The recipe I shared in my previous post I’d from Paul Prudhomme and is a little spicier. It is tomato based.
Next we tried Gumbo. Gumbo originated as an African soup that was cooked up by the slaves in New Orleans. On their day off they would go up to Congo Square to congregate culturally. This is where jazz started, too. Typically, they would bring what they had been given by their owners/employers to throw into the mix. While there are many versions. The African version uses okra as a thickener. We tried both a tomato base and fish based. I personally liked the tomato base better but they are equally great.
We made or way to Johnny’s for Po’ Boys. These sandwiches are traditionally beef,but are a pretty simply composed submarine sandwich. They get there name from a sandwich shop that was owned by two men that used to be streetcar conductors. When the streetcar conductors went on strike in 1929, the former colleagues would come in to the shop and asked if they had a free sandwich for a “poor boy”. Withe dialect in New Orleans it wasn’t long before it was shortened. We were served traditional roast beef Po’ Boys. They were delicious! The line out the door is clearly an indicator of the popularity and reputation of Johnny’s.
Our last stop was at Cafe Beignet, just off Bourbon Street for just that, beignets!! They were delicious.
I hope you have enjoyed this little tour of New Orleans. I did!!!!