The Louisiana Omnivore’s 100 (early 2012 edition)

Inspired by Andrew Wheeler’s Omnivore’s 100, I offer the following list of 100 items/food experiences I consider essential to Louisiana’s food culture.  How many have you tried?  How many do you eat regularly?  Did I leave out anything you think is important?

  1. cafe au lait made with coffee and chicory
  2. boiled crawfish
  3. New Orleans-style french bread
  4. Natchitoches meat pies
  5. gumbo (any kind)
  6. cornbread (sweet or salty)
  7. red beans and rice
  8. andouille
  9. venison
  10. rabbit
  11. fresh brown shrimp, purchased directly from the fisherman
  12. boiled crabs (if you caught ’em yourself, bonus points!)
  13. crawfish etouffee
  14. sweet potato pie & pecan pie
  15. softshell crab
  16. hot sausage (patty or link) po-boys (or poor boys, if you prefer)
  17. frogs’ legs
  18. Popeye’s spicy fried chicken (why is mild even sold at Popeyes?)
  19. plate lunches from a combination gas station/convenience store/restaurant
  20. jambalaya
  21. fried turkey
  22. fried wild catfish (not the farm-raised stuff)
  23. hogshead cheese
  24. muffalettas
  25. gratons (aka cracklings)
  26. cane syrup (and its cousin, sorghum syrup)
  27. pecans you gathered and cracked yourself (especially the small, oily variety)
  28. oreilles du cochon (pigs’ ear pastry, deep fried w/syrup)
  29. barbecued shrimp (which have nothing to do with barbecue at all)
  30. raw oysters on the half shell
  31. pigs’ tails (or feet)
  32. mustard, collard, or turnip greens
  33. mespelouses (American loquats, a/k/a Japanese plums)
  34. Hubig’s pies, or homemade foldover fried pies
  35. bread pudding
  36. drive-through daiquiris
  37. snowballs (with condensed milk or cream on top, or stuffed with ice cream or crushed, sweetened fruit)
  38. grillades & grits
  39. tasso
  40. rice and gravy
  41. satsumas or Louisiana Sweet oranges
  42. blackened redfish
  43. chitterlings
  44. delta-style hot tamales (small ones, filled with ground beef)
  45. boudin, white and red (or seafood or smoked, if you like it that way)
  46. chaudin/ponce
  47. popcorn rice
  48. mayhaw jelly
  49. blackberry dumplings (or peach, if you’re from Ruston)
  50. beignets
  51. shrimp creole
  52. ginger planks (aka stage planks)
  53. tarte a la bouillie (custard tart; see a custard recipe here)
  54. pralines
  55. fig preserves
  56. creole tomatoes
  57. oyster dressing
  58. roman candy
  59. Zapp’s “cajun craw-tator” potato chips
  60. homemade pepper vinegar
  61. your favorite LA-made hot sauce
  62. king cake
  63. alligator sauce piquante
  64. purple-stem chewing cane (sugarcane)
  65. cooperative boucheries (hog butchering)
  66. creole cream cheese
  67. macque choux
  68. fresh peas & beans, esp crowders, baby limas, and purple hulls
  69. homemade fruit wine (orange, blackberry, strawberry, fig)
  70. cherry bounce during the holidays
  71. mirlitons
  72. dirty rice
  73. Barq’s or Abita root beer
  74. turtle soup
  75. courtbouillion (LA’s tomato-based fish soup, not the french kind)
  76. speckled trout (aka spotted sea trout)
  77. dried shrimp
  78. biscuits
  79. cake bingos (bonus points if you ever won a “good neighbor” round, double bonus points if it was a sheet cake topped with Ancel grated, canned coconut in syrup, and triple bonus points if it was a yellow layer cake with chocolate frosting and sliced bananas between the layers)
  80. venison sausage
  81. wild ducks & geese
  82. quail and doves
  83. okra
  84. roast beef poboys
  85. italian fig cookies (cucciadata)
  86. file (gumbo thickener and flavoring made from dried, ground sassafras leaves)
  87. stuffed crabs
  88. Ponchatoula strawberries
  89. Ruston peaches
  90. muscadines
  91. cushaw (a gourd, like a pumpkin; usually candied like sweet potatoes or baked into pies)
  92. salted pork and pickled pork (aka “salt meat” and “pickle meat”, used much like tasso to flavor foods)
  93. stuffed pistolettes (small rolls filled with a thick, etouffee-like concoction, sometimes baked but usually fried)
  94. seafood pasta (in various forms like crawfish monica or shrimp fettucini; usually a creamy or cheesy sauce studded with seafood served over noodles)
  95. pecan pie (with or without bourbon, rum or chocolate)
  96. cochon de lait (the real thing, not just a fake name for pulled pork)
  97. fish balls or cakes, usually made with choupique, garfish, gaspergou, or other white-fleshed fish

Anthing missing?  Make a case for it….

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89 thoughts on “The Louisiana Omnivore’s 100 (early 2012 edition)

  1. Pingback: An omnivore’s hundred for Louisiana? « Bouillie

  2. Yes, boudin definitely needs to be added to the list—I just dashed off as many sprang to mind. I’m adding boudin right now, but root beer? I’d have to be convinced on that one.

    • Homemade rootbeer with the little bottle of concentrate, water and sugar. No fizz. In the old days, there wasn’t any ice either. In the family, Mom Bernadette in Catahoula made the best. She just followed the directions on the bottle, but for some reason it was the best. Might have been that Catahoula water.

      • In the “old days”, the rootbeer extract/concentrate contained actual sassafras root extract (safrole). At some point in the late 1960s, it was declared “unsafe for food” by the FDA, due to carcinogenic effects. (It is also a precursor compound to methamphetamine.) So the modern stuff doesn’t much taste like the old-fashioned extract.

  3. There aren’t too many drinks on the list, so I was trying to think of what you’d wash it all down with. Abita and root beer were the ones I came up with. And there’s the New Orleans/Barq’s connection.

    Muffaletas? I had a good one for lunch so they’re on my mind.

    Zapp’s.

  4. An admirable start on your list. I’m batting 57 of 71, though I would have to dissent on boiled peanuts as an essential La. foodstuff.

    Some more nominees:

    dirty rice
    calas
    kumquats
    spumoni from Brocato’s
    something off a St. Joseph’s Day altar
    Sazerac
    Ramos Gin Fizz
    Abita Amber
    Dixie Beer
    pork roast
    cush-cush (sp?)
    pecan pie
    pie from Lea’s
    ham from Lea’s
    praline bacon
    a freeze at Camellia Grill
    Chiesi ham
    Roast beef po-boy
    pho
    banh mi
    charbroiled oysters
    file (more an ingredient, but…)
    doberge cake

  5. How did I leave out mirlitons and dirty rice? Blech is what I have to say about Dixie beer, so it won’t be on MY list.

    And I’ll be happy to add pho and bahn mi to my list when you can get either in Houma, Thibodaux, Morgan City, Alexandria, etc. They’re still confined mostly to NOLA, BR, LC, S’port…

  6. OK, I’m like a fly on flypaper here:

    turtle soup.

    I’ll admit I was stretching on pho and bahn mi, though I think Vietnamese today is roughly analagous to where Italian cooking was 100 years ago in the Louisiana firmament.

    I am going to have to say that not all other products on your list are available statewide. As a child growing up in Harahan, I would have had no idea what macque choux and purple hull peas were if I hadn’t had a mama in Opelousas.

    Hope I’m not letting my disputatious nature show too much here, because I’m having too much fun to get banned.

  7. courtbouillon. {This may require an explanation for your readers not familiar with the South Louisiana version that this is not the poaching liquid of French recipies}

  8. Blackberry dumplings are blobs of sugary, doughy goodness. The cook drops very soft batter/dough into a simmering slurry of cooked, sugared fruit. The dough poaches/steams in the fruit syrup, soaking it up all the while. Blackberries ripen in the spring, and berries grow in all sorts of odd corners and thickets. Some of the sweetest berries are found growing along canals. You pole your pirogue along the banks, picking and eating, while keeping an eye out for snakes.

  9. Have you thought about listing choupique balls? Or for a really difficult one, robin gumbo. The last is also illegal. I met an old cajun from Bayou Lafouche who was up here deer hunting-we were sitting around the camp drinking and all his friends were kidding him about being put on federal probation for shooting robins to make a gumbo. He said they used to eat it when he was a child and that there was a lump of yellow fat between the breasts that was “just delicious” He also said he was not shooting any more robins since the federal judge had promised him jail time if he did. But he did not seem at all repenitant,his eyes lit up when he described the taste of the fat.

  10. Pedro, I grew up on tales of “little birds” cooked in various ways. My grandmother told me about the man who sold skinned blackbirds door-to-door during WWII, which were turned into jambalaya; my brother taught me to make a bird trap out of sticks & bait it with corn or dog chow kernels. And I really should list at least doves or quail, shouldn’t I? Fried quail; doves wrapped in bacon….now I’m getting hungry!

  11. But I still think mango freeze should make the list because if people tried it and connected it to their jazzfest time it would just make you think of LA: hot, humid and great music. Then remember what cools you off and then you think “where can I get mango freeze”. Jazzfest. It is almost like smelling burning cane. There just ain’t nothing like it.

  12. Okay – here’s 2 I didn’t see:
    Pain Perdu
    kushaw (?) – gourd family – my mama would cook it down in lots of brown sugar, butter, cinnamon, nutmeg and all spice – Our treat – she would make us up peanut butter crackers – then mash them on our plate and top w/ the kushaw. She would do the same w/ her fig preserves……

  13. How about
    Cooking Pear preserves,
    Praline parfait,
    wild huckleberry jam,
    huck a bucks? ( frozen lemon ice cups)
    and
    fried cinnamon gardenia blossoms?( I know its a stretch but its really good!)

    Thanks for the wild Cherry “bounce” on the list..

      • No- actually the scent is very delicate and they are best with sprinkle of cinnamon and sugar. they have the texture of dried apples fritters or eggplant , but the scent is very, very delicate and they fry quickly.

  14. Sweet dough pies?

    Syrup cake?

    Crawfish pistolettes?

    I think rabbit is eaten in other places, so maybe specifically smothered rabbit?

    • Okay, I’m adding that one, but on the same line as salt pork (aka salt meat). Like pickled pork, only not pickled, just salted.

    • Frogs’ legs: already on the list at #17. When you say “crawfish bisque”, do you mean the brown, stuffed-heads style, or the creamy version? I do need to add the brown, stuffed-heads kind to the list.

  15. Artichokes
    Camellia beans (to clarify #7)
    Cayenne pepper
    Cocoons
    Huck-a-bucks (I second this one; they’re called “zips” in my neck of the woods)
    Hush puppies
    Nutria
    Petit fours
    Steen’s cane syrup (to clarify #26)
    Tony Chachere’s creole seasoning
    Zatarain’s

    • I don’t know anyone who eats nutria. I don’t even know of a place where nutria meat can be purchased for human consumption.

        • What I see is a bunch of PR–various entities have tried to create a market for the meat, to no avail. We’ll have to agree to disagree: I would NOT characterize it as a common practice.

  16. How about “Graine a volers” aka Lotus Seeds???? We pick ’em every year in Lake Boeuf, boil them with Salt and/or seafood boil or just eat ’em raw.

    And Chardons, not sure about the shelling, aka Milk Thistle. We pick them from cow pastures in the spring, cut away the thorny exterior, slice and eat ’em with vinegar.

  17. Mulberries, eaten straight from the tree
    Fried chicken livers with jalapeno jelly
    Spicy pickled green beans in bloody marys
    Milk punch
    Wild chanterelles from the farmer’s market

  18. Just a few personal favorites :

    crab cakes, persimmons, couche couche, cigares de chou, tits gâteaux secs, la 31 grenade (kind of new to be making such a list, but it’s a close second for me when abita strawberry is out of season), yams, pickled watermelon rind, crawfish spinach boats (maybe just a Lafayette thing), japanese plums….and this one is maybe just a family thing —coca cola ham (my great grandmother use to make a glaze with the stuff)

    • Sadly, all sorts of faux “cochon de lait” are popping up around NOLA….practically every other roasted pork dish is masquerading as cochon de lait.

      • Ya know…. I tend agree about the Cochon de lait when I think about it…….You’re welcome about the correction….I found it quite by accident when I alphabetized the list….

    • I’m not familiar with the dish….would love to hear more about it. There’s a world of subtle difference between prairie cajun cooking and bayou cajun cooking…

    • Eating a poule d’eau gizzard: why not just eat fish instead? Lots less cleaning, and the taste is about the same….LOL.

    • Yes, some sort of fish balls or fish cakes should be on the list. I live closer to salt water, so the fish balls and fish cakes are often made with flaked sheepshead or large drum/redfish, boiled first with some crab boil before mixing w/seasonings.

  19. Fish Fry…used on catfish & shrimp fried! Of course some Tony’s & cayenne in the batter! Used to live in Slidell & the best roast beef poboy was at Pasquale’s with gravy dripping off your elbows. Shrimp poboy at Gambino’s Slidell.

    • Hey now, it’s the LOUISIANA Omnivore’s 100…Not the MS version. But I think everyone who grew up in the rural South has the same memories about blackberry scratches, snakes, wasps, and sweet fruit right off the vine. We didn’t like to pick the roadside berries ’cause they were always dusty. Better to get into a pirogue and pick from the bushes overhanging a canal or bayou, though this is prime snake habitat.

  20. How about fruit tarts; the ones filled and pinched over into a half-moon shape and fried? (Filled with blackberry, peach, cream, etc)

    • What you call fruit tarts, I call fried pies. And I expanded the Hubig’s entry to include homemade, fruit-filled, foldover fried pies.

  21. I am thinking a Louisiana Strawberry Pie! With all the states strawberry farmers, there is nothing like a strawberry pie. I live on the river and we always plant strawberries. You’ll throw rocks at those sold in the stores after growing your own. Makes a plum tasty distilled liqueur too (I read that somewhere, LOL).

    I don’t really care for them but there is also the N.O. famous Sazerac

  22. Grande of Ole ( swamp lotus flower pods, its seeds- you boil them with crab boil and eat ’em like boiled peanuts or edanomme. They can also be a meat substitute and can be put in stews and gravies these are also used by Cajuns for centuries on Fridays during lent instead of meat or to supplement seafood.

    • I wrote about graine a voler (American water lotus) back in ’08….read more here: https://bouillie.us/2008/08/06/island-of-the-lotus-eaters/ This is one food affected by coastal land loss. The freshwater marshes that hosted water lotus are becoming saltier each year, and the plants aren’t nearly as widespread as they were even 20 years ago in southeast Louisiana. You have to go farther inland/above the saltwater line to find them.

  23. Deep-fried hot water cornbread known around my hometown of Rayville as “hush puppies”. Add boiling water to yellow cornmeal w/ a pinch of salt, mix well, drop by spoonfuls into at least 2″ of hot cooking oil. Fry till brown. Serve hot or cold, with butter , pepper jelly, or syrup. Crunchy like Fritos on outside, soft like grits on inside. They should squeak when you bite into them. No matter how many you make, none will be left by the next day.

  24. North LA “gumbo”. Brown ground beef in black iron skillet, add coarsely chopped onion, fresh garden tomatoes, and okra. Season with salt, black pepper, and Tabasco, and “cook down”. Add a little water if necessary. Some people add “new potatoes”, bell pepper, eggplant, and/or garlic. Sometimes made with no meat at all, sometimes salt pork instead of ground beef. Key ingredients: onion, tomatoes, and okra. My grandmother made this often when the summer vegetable garden came in. We’d eat it with fresh sliced tangy tomatoes and black-bottomed, buttered North LA cornbread (not the sweet kind) and a tall glass of cold “sweet milk” , or rarely, iced tea with a spoonful of sugar and a lemon wedge. And peach cobbler with ice cream, if we were lucky!

  25. Fried green tomatoes!!! A summertime must! End of season tomatoes that are still unripe. Fried in an iron skillet, so good! Also, boiled peanuts. There’s nothing better than the ones from the roadside stands. Another one, fresh figs off the tree and fig preserves, the thick syrupy kind southerners make, with the figs left almost whole. Living out of the south I’ve never found any fig preserve or jam like what my relatives made!

  26. Here I am again, new to this site and love it! We always ate our day old cornbread with Steen’s cane syrup and butter, heated up a little. The best dessert ever! Sometimes even pour a bit of heavy cream over.

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