It’s easy for residents of Louisiana to take our local cuisine for granted. A couple of recent stories in the national media are timely reminders of how special Louisiana food can be.
In a recent issue of Parade magazine, food writers Jane and Michael Stern featured food from around the country in a feature called “What America Eats: Born in the USA.” Among the dishes mentioned was the muffuletta, a New Orleans sandwich now made across south Louisiana.
“This Italian sandwich, named for the round Sicilian loaf on which it is assembled, first took shape in 1906 at Central Grocery in New Orleans, where local grocer Salvatore Lupo decided to make life easier for truck farmers from the nearby French Market,” Parade readers learned. “They’d come to his place for lunch and order meats, cheeses and bread, then sit on barrels and try to juggle everything without spilling. So Lupo took their favorites — including salami, mortadella, capicola, and provolone — topped them with chopped olive salad, and piled it all into a sideways sliced muffuletta loaf.”
Meanwhile, readers of Smithsonian magazine’s June issue are getting a crash course in the essentials of Louisiana gumbo, thanks to a story on the classic dish by New Orleans native Lolis Eric Elie.
“Every south Louisiana boy is honor-bound to say that his mother makes the world’s best gumbo,” Elie tells readers. “I am distinguished from the rest of my tribe in that regard in this one particular: When I make that claim, I am telling the truth.”
We’re sure that quite a few men in south Louisiana would challenge Elie on that claim, but his reminiscence of gumbo preparations in his New Orleans childhood home might prompt nods of friendly agreement from many locals:
“Gumbo for me and my sister meant hours peeling shrimp or chopping seasoning a day or two before a major holiday. It meant the first course of Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. It meant an appetizer as filling, rich and complicated as the many courses that followed it. Gumbo meant that God was in His heaven and all was right with the universe.”
At this point, we’re feeling pretty hungry. And lucky, too, to live in a place where hunger can be satisfied with such singular flavors.