Friday, May 6, 2011

A Look At The Past: We Are Where We Came From...

A Portrait of Asher Moses Nathan and his son

 Circa New Orleans around 1845

Marie Thereze Carmelite Anty Metoyer, New Orleans Placee`

The Feasts Of All Saints

Free woman of Color
Woman of Placage, New Orleans

We have so much craziness in our political and social world as it relates to race. I think that we as Americans have forgotten our past and how it has affected our present,  who we are as a people. As Americans whether we like it or not we are a melting pot of people from all parts of the world. Immigrants came to America to have a better life and some were brought here not of their free will. We have to stop looking at each other as if we are not connected; we are connected because we are all Americans. A lot of the past is not so easy to accept, but it is what it is,  and we need to embrace it and move on. The food and wine culture is represented then and now as a testament to the past.

I have become fascinated with the past of New Orleans; this includes the system of Placage. Placage is a "left-handed marriage of a free woman of color to a Creole (white) man. This was accepted, but not legal in New Orleans. This concept is crucial in learning about the culture of people of color in New Orleans before the Civil War.  Being an African American woman from New Orleans I know some of the history of people of color,  and throughout my growing up I have witnessed the good and bad about being black in New Orleans. I thank God for not experiencing the barriers that people just a few years older than I experienced in the 1960's. By the time I started school, things had legally changed, but not socially.

The idea of me being an African American Oenophile is strange to some, even my peers. I looked at a movie The Feast f All Saints written by Anne Rice; the movie which had some fiction, but was a real look into how free women of color lived in the system of placage and had a life of privilege, also with a life of oppression. The privilege part is where I want to weigh in on, as it relates to food and wine.

I wish that I could go back in time and peek into those homes in the Faubourg Maringy and off of  Dumaine Street and the Treme` area and see the foods that the slaves prepared for the placee` and her wealthy Creole lover and children, and the imported French wines that they consumed. I am sure that the foods included local produce and of course lots of seafood. Many of the famous foods like gumbo and jambalaya were developed by slaves that were given bits and pieces of leftover food. They combined the leftovers and added their Caribbean and African influence and made foods that are indigenous to New Orleans and are foods we all have come to love. 
The wines would have been opened with corkscrews, which if they survived usage and time, now are antiques. I have one antique corkscrew that is good operating condition, which was purchased in New Orleans and I am looking to add more to my collection. 

I think the reason why so many people love to come to New Orleans is for the food, libations, culture and a look at the past. I cook like any New Orleanian with a little skill cooks, but all of it has to have flavor and I try to add a little flair. The food is a mixture of African, French, Spanish, Indian and love. My love of wine I think is inherit to where I came from, my ancestors. The only person in my immediate family who drinks wine with some form of appreciation is my younger brother, Keith. Keith works in the food industry, so he is always being exposed to new wines. My mother's brother, my uncle Donald was in the military and has been all around the world; he also has an appreciation for wine and food.

We are a product of our past, our ancestry; this also includes the methods and recipes that have been handed down by "mouth" or those that have been written down on slips of paper. I must admit, I do cheat and use some ready made products when cooking. I'm okay with that as long as it does not destroy the integrity of the final product.  I just love my oyster appetizers with Brut sparkling wine or champagne. In New Orleans we make an appetizer for special occasions like the holidays called Oyster Patties. The oyster mixture would be placed in oyster patty shells from a famous bakery called McKenzie's which no longer exist. The shells were mini puff pastry shells and they were wonderful. This recipe is a spin off of that recipe. Just open a bottle of Blanc de Blanc champagne and enjoy!

 Oyster Appetizers

  • (1) 16 oz. container of oysters, drained and chopped (I pulsed them about 7-
  • 8 times in the food processor)
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup of mixed seasoning (I used fresh Italian parsley, yellow onion, celery)
  • 1/4 teaspoon or more to taste of Creole Seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  • 2/3 cup of Italian bread crumbs (add up to 1/3 more if desired)
  • 1/2 can of cream of mushroom soup
  • (3) 2.1 oz. boxes of mini fillo shells, 15 to a box ( I used Athen’s brand)
Melt butter on low heat in a skillet. Then add the chopped seasoning and the creole seasoning,
cayenne pepper, and garlic powder. Let mixture cook for about 5-10 minutes on low flame. Stir
mixture. Then add chopped oysters. Stir. Cook 4-5 minutes. Then add 1/2 can of cream
of mushroom soup. Stir. Cook 2-3 minutes. Then add 2/3 to 1 cup if needed of the Italian
bread crumbs. Cook another 2-4 minutes. Stir. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Fill
mixture in mini fillo shells. I used a teaspoon and dinner knife, to fill the cups neatly. Place
on a cookie sheet and bake at fillo shells heating instructions, which are on the back of the box. About 30 minutes.

They can be frozen. Let them sit at
room temperature for about 30 minutes, then heat 10-15 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Bake at 350 degrees. This recipe makes 45 appetizers.

Wine Recommendation: Blanc de Blanc, which means white on white sparkling wine or champagne. I think Schramsberg Blanc de Blanc is a nice sparkling wine. 


  1. I truly enjoyed reading this, Lorrie! I look forward to reading stories of placage. The recipe sounds delish!

    1. Marilulu,

      Thanks for the wonderful comment!