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looking for info on old cajun/creole foodways


cheesecurdsinparadise
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Wondering if anyone can help me with my research. I am a student at LSU in Baton Rouge attempting to write a master's thesis on how french speaking countries shaped the current culinary landscape of Louisiana. I've been studying American food history for a few years now, and feel as though I have exhausted the TX section (cookbooks and the like) of most libraries, having read some of the most famous works on Louisiana food cover to cover (eg, the Picayune Creole Cookbook and John Folse's 800 page Encyclopedia). I have information on the origins of most traditional Louisiana dishes, but I am having trouble going beyond the dishes themselves. I have been tearing apart libraries and web pages in an attempt to learn more about the foodways of old creole society in new orleans (both high and low class) and of early cajun societies. I am curious about customs, culinary etiquette/table manners, cooking techniques, consumption patterns, linguistics--anything other than your basic "bananas foster was invented in the 1950s at Brennan's by Paul Blange" type information. I'm surprised at how little seems to be out there, but perhaps I'm not looking in the right places. Would any of y'all be able to guide me to resources/people/information that may be of help? If there are any professional food historians in the bunch, perhaps you could clue me in on research techniques in food history that might not be evident to a 25 year old master's student.

You can contact me directly, too.

mhunts1@lsu.edu

225-281-9687, though it hasn't been working since the hurricane.

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Barbara Haber, Curator of Printed Books

Schlesinger Library

Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Stuy

Harvard University

10 Garden Street

Cambridge, MA 02139

617-495-8647

Probably the best culinary history library in the United States. Ms. Haber is responsible for the Radcliffe Culinary Times, a quarterly literary journal on culinary history.

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If you can find Susan Tucker from Tulane's Newcomb College Center for Research on Women, she may be able to point you in the direction of some good oral histories and/or living sources. Susan is the the archivist and librarian at NCCROW, but I'm not sure where she went upon evacuation.

Bridget Avila

My Blog

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Or try to talk directly with John Folse, he is a culinary historian himself. I heard him once talk about the history and developement of bread and bread makers in New Orleans.

It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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University of Michigan has the Janice B. Longone collection which is supposed to be a fairly extensive.

Longone Center

Additionally, the New York Public Library has a very large collection of books on food, cookery and foodways.

Edited by bloviatrix (log)

"Some people see a sheet of seaweed and want to be wrapped in it. I want to see it around a piece of fish."-- William Grimes

"People are bastard-coated bastards, with bastard filling." - Dr. Cox on Scrubs

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I'd call the Diocese of Lafayette and get some names of the older and/or cajun priest. There are quite a few of them and they know a great deal about food culture in Louisiana. The cajuns are mostly catholic, and the parish priest have always had a place at the parish's families tables. I know there was a tradition we used to have of leaving a place setting for an angel..after mom had 8 kids there wasn't anymore room for the angel's seat so the custom stopped in our home, but that may have been an irish thing. \

The priest are quite good historians and most of them are teachers in some capacity so would probably be quite willing to help you.

Good luck!..If I get any specifics from the locals around here, I'll let you know.

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  • 3 weeks later...

You may want to look at some of the ACADIAN and French Canadian history web sites. A lot od Cajun trafions come from Acadia. I remeber reading an article a few months ago about cultural exchanges between So. Louiaiana ana Nova Scotia and how every one was amazed on how the cooking was the some but with such differnt local ingediants.

Jessica Harris has written seveal book on infulace of African cooking on Blackinng in Americai. While these are primarly cook books there are some intersting hisrical notes that relate to Creole cooking.

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Marcelle Bienvenu also publishes/ed in the Times-Picayune each week. Perhaps the same column?

Tulane has an extensive collection of oral histories with New Orleans chefs. Some were transcribed and posted on the web site of Newcomb's library (site is down due to Katrina). The collection was on the second floor, so it should have survived.

Perhaps in the spring you could access these resources.

Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"

Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)

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The library where the cookbooks are housed did not flood at all. If you would like to get in touch with Susan, please shoot me a p.m. I can put you together. The library would be a great resource for you, and Susan would be an even better one. She's great.

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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  • 3 weeks later...

Have you looked at the readily available reprint of Lafcadio Hearn's Creole cookbook? Interesting b/c he was an outsider writing for profit, and the little book covers the waterfront of creole food. It includes home-style recipes (like cooking for invalids, etc), not just restaurant stuff.

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