Sugar and Spice and Everything Rice
Updated: Aug 27
Learn more about New Orleans food history with me on a tour when you come to NOLA & let me introduce you to some of our best historic rice dishes like Jambalaya & Red Beans!
Rice is one of those staples that is really important to the Louisiana. Why rice is in everything in New Orleans? We're flat and have lots of water so it was an easy sell to early farmers; when cotton crops suffered boll weevils and the price of sugar crashed, more farmers turned to rice. Post Civil War, it really took off- familiarity with rice in African diets had spread it's popularity via the slave trade all over the South. It appeared on fancy French Quarter bone china and in tin pie plates used by farm hands. Here's some of the best ways we use rice...
Do you what it means to miss Red Beans? All over New Orleans we eat red beans & rice on Mondays. It's a Thing. Hung over from the days that women would spend all weekend entertaining and making big family meals on Sundays, Monday was a day to do the laundry and household chores with no one in the way. It was also a perfect time to let a pot of red beans simmer for 6 hours on the stove.
People outside of Louisiana may not realize jambalaya comes in two VERY contentious styles: Creole and Cajun. Creole is closer to jambalaya's New Orleans roots with the Spanish colonists and their passion for paella- it has seafood & tomatoes and is also called red jamablaya. In Cajun country it's all about the meat- whatever you could hunt and kill that week (or made into sausage) is caramelized in the pot, and NEVER tomatoes, making it brown jambalaya. The other sin is why you see photo-ready pics of jambalaya, instead of the traditionally ugly delicious dish you get when you do it right: you don't parboil the rice in advance- everything must cook together, like a paella.
I'm into this JT Meleck local rice vodka (Oryza also makes one that's pretty easy to find locally, but I prefer this one). The rice family behind the JT Meleck brand began experimenting in distilling rice vodka & whiskey because the price margin on rice is so low. Even though rice booze apparently pretty rare, we have at least these two brands in LA. I think it could be a REALLY good thing for vodka lovers and rice farmers alike.
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