From the West Indies and the smoke pots of Haiti came exotic vegetables and cooking methods. Braising, a slow cooking technique, contributed to the development of our gumbos. Mirlitons, sauce piquantes and the use of tomato rounded out the emerging Creole cuisine.
Native Indians, the Choctaws, Chetimaches and Houmas, befriended the new settlers and introduced them to local produce, wildlife and cooking methods. New ingredients, such as corn, ground sassafras leaves or file powder, and bay leaves from the laurel tree, all contributed to the culinary melting pot.
I would be remise if I failed to mention the tremendous influence of "the black hand in the pot" in Creole cooking. The Africans brought with them the "gumbo" or okra plant from their native soil which not only gave name to our premier soup but introduced a new vegetable to South Louisiana. Even more importantly, they have maintained a significant role in development of Creole cuisine in the home as well as the professional kitchen.
Creole cuisine is indebted to many unique people and diverse cultures who were willing to contribute and share their cooking styles, ingredients and talent. Obviously then, Creole cuisine represents the history of sharing in South Louisiana. Early on in the history of New Orleans, the Creole wives became frustrated, not being able to duplicate their old world dishes with new world products. Governor Bienville helped to solve this problem by commissioning his housekeeper, Madame Langlois, to introduce them to local vegetables, meats and seafoods in what became the first cooking school in America. This school aided them in developing their cuisine in a new and strange land.
Creole cuisine, then, is that melange of artistry and talent, developed and made possible by the nations and cultures who settled in and around New Orleans. Those of us who know and love it, keep it alive by sharing it with the world.
Chef John D. Folse Cec, Aac; shared by Fred Towner; Mm by Dorothy