Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Louisiana Purchase

New Orleans, Gem on the Gulf
When the United States purchased the Louisiana Territory in 1803, Thomas Jefferson had no idea what a treasure he’d bought for the country.  He sent out Lewis and Clark to explore the million square miles and asked them to bring back seeds and cuttings of any new plants they found.

While Natchitoches is the oldest town in what is now the state of Louisiana, it was the city of New Orleans that was the most profound results of the purchase. New Orleans, the colorful, bustling port city on the Gulf of Mexico, would now be American. Approximately 90,000 people lived in the territory and half of those lived in or near New Orleans. French, Negro, Spanish and Indian tribe remnants made up the population. Those who were of both Spanish and French descent were the Creoles. The French speaking refugees who came down from Nova Scotia were the ancestors of those we know as Cajun today.

This heterogeneous population along with the variety of excellent cooking ingredients available in the area produced a cuisine that is even today both delectable and unique. The French, Negro, and Indian populations all had their influence in the great cooking that is typical of the region. All types of food from gumbo to beignets to jambalaya to pecan pralines are associated with New Orleans and can be found on menus in top restaurants around the area.

Rice, fish and okra are the most frequent ingredients in the recipes and Tabasco sauce is a frequent additive to give that spicy flavor associated with Louisiana cooking. Shrimp and crayfish are frequent ingredients and are plentiful in the region.

Not only is the food unique, but the beverages have a reputation all their one. Coffee with chicory is one example as well as cafĂ© au lait (made with chicory coffee), and grand brule.  

One thing of note is the difference between Creole and Acadian cooking. The Creoles were accustomed to more luxury thus leaning toward the cooking of France with its subtle flavors and separate sauces. Acadian were poor and ate country-style food which was hearty, spicy and often cooked and served as one dish.

One dish, Red Beans and Rice, became so popular that it is now a tradition and served every Monday, even in some restaurants. A cup of coffee and a French doughnut or Beignet (shown on the left) are a must have on a visit to the French Quarter. 

Those who love spicy cuisine find dishes made with Tabasco just right for their palate. Originally used by only southern Louisiana cooks, Tabasco is produced 125 miles from New Orleans and now known all over the country.

No matter where you live, a visit to New Orleans will be an unforgettable experience, and a great history lesson.

Martha Rogers is a free-lance writer and the author of the Winds Across the Prairie and Seasons of the Heart series as well as the novella, Key to Her Heart in River Walk Christmas and Not on the Menu in Sugar and Grits. Love Stays True, the first book in her third series, The Homeward Journey, is now available. She was named Writer of the Year at the Texas Christian Writers Conference in 2009 and is a member of ACFW and writes the weekly Verse of the Week for the ACFW Loop. In addition to fiction, Martha has contributed to compilations by Wayne Holmes, Debra White-Smith and Karen O’ Connor as well as various devotion books. Martha is a frequent speaker for writing workshops and the Texas Christian Writers Conference. She is a retired teacher and lives in Houston with her husband, Rex. Their favorite pastime is spending time with their nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Thanks for stopping by.


  1. Hello Martha. Enjoyed reading this. Have read about a war in Louisiana before and have series about the Arcadians by Janette Oke. Very good. I know one thing, they sure drink strong coffee there. We traveled through there once a long time ago in late 40's. stopped to eat and Joe ordered coffee. They brought him this small cup and he looked at it and asked the waitress, is that al of the cups they had. She told him no, but she tho"t he should taste it first. Said he mjght strongest coffee he had ever drank.I said he could probably stand the spoon up and it would stay. LOL Maxie

  2. We certainly loved the Beignets were delicious when we visited the Cafe du Monde in New Orleans. We were there before Katrina and would love to go back some time. Enjoyed your post. sm wileygreen1(at)yahoo(dot)com

  3. Great post, Martha! We love New Orleans. The food is delicious and the atmosphere is unforgettable. No place like the French Quarter and a carriage ride around Jackson Square is such fun.

    mauback55 at gmail dot com

  4. My husband likes hot and spicy food, but I have to watch it...can't have it too spicy. Those Beignets look delicious! Definitely wouldn't mind having some of those about now. :)

  5. Thanks for stopping by. New Orleans has such a colorful history and garners a lot of curiosity from people who have never been there but want to go. My ancestors are from that part of Louisiana and my middle dil is from a town just north of Baton Rouge.