I must say Kat, PhD (Professor of Hot Destinations, tied it all in on this Friday in the Crescent City. New Orleans is steeped in and so rich in Culture, Cuisine, History and Music. Our day started at the NEW ORLEANS SCHOOL OF COOKING, a short 7 mins walk from our hotel. The menu was Crawfish Etouffe (translated smothered), Shrimp and Artichoke Soup, King Cake Bread Pudding, and Pralines. We learned a few ways to make the infamous roux, the trinity, and that you can etouffe anything among so many other helpful cooking hints. Everything was so very tasty. My favorite was the soup. Our instructor for the day was a 75 yo retired school teacher who kept the class lively with her humor. After the class I picked up a few items in the General Store; Joe’s Stuff (a creole seasoning), Cajun Power Garlic Sauce and some Slap Ya Mama Pepper Sauce. Joe’s Stuff was on the tables and everybody was on it.
Next up was the FREE PEOPLE OF COLOR MUSEUM. Sitting at the corner of Esplanade and N. Rocheblave St. Is housed some of the most interesting historical facts. Our guide, Kim, a 28 yo historian who is working on her PhD in a single word is AWESOME. The museum takes visitors through the history of the F.P.C. beginning in 1708 with the arrival of Frenchman, Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville with 2 enslaved Africans named George and Marie. Bienville brought men and women from Senegal and Gambia to sell as slaves, and those people brought with them okra and rice as well as local customs, f.p.c. who made up 60% of the city before the Louisiana Purchase, left an indelible fingerprint on music, cuisine and architecture.
As late as 1840, these French speaking mixed race people made up 20% of the city’s population. They were largely the freed Descendants of enslaved women and their white owners or refugees from the Haitian slave revolts. Although they did not have all the rights of their white counterparts, many F.P.C. prospered in 19th century New Orleans. As of the 1850s Free People of Color owned more than 2 million dollars worth of property, mostly in the Faubourg Treme and Marigny. Some even owned slaves. By 1855 nearly 85% of black creoles were classified as doctors, clerks, teachers and skilled workers. They also thrived in trades like carpentry, masonry, and cigar making. Much of the ironwork on the balconies of French Quarter properties and in the old cemeteries is the work of those skilled artisans.
Owners, Beverly and Dr Dwight McKenna have amassed a number of paintings, artifacts and furniture in the museum —-even a 100 lb ball and chain from slavery times. Amongst the many documents is a reminder that these people were early civil Rights Activists. There is a petition signed by 1000 local free men of color and delivered to President Lincoln requesting the right to vote, over 100 years before the Voting Rights Act. In the petition which is so powerfully and beautifully worded, they say we pay taxes on 15 million dollars of property, we’ve fought in all your military battles, we are business people, we are educated but yet still 2nd class citizens. This museum visit was an emotionally charged experience I urge all visitors to this city to pay a visit.
Later in the evening we had a date at the Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro on the lively Frenchmen Street. Kattrax had reserved seating in this very intimate jazz venue for the 2nd set. We were treated to the stylings of Dr Michael White, a jazz clarinetist, bandleader, composer, jazz historian and musical instructor. He is instrumental in keeping alive the New Orleans jazz tradition. It rounded out a very full day in a most spectacular way.