American Indian, Black African, Spanish and French cultures all contibuted to these unique
Southern dishes

by Mary Eccher - page 1 of 3
    Creole and Acadian cooking from New Orleans and Louisiana's Bayou country is something else: a cuisine unto itself since the 18th century when it was based on "make-do with what we have" kitchen practicality.  Creole-Acadian is a synthesis of four cultures --- American Indian, Black African, Spanish and French.  It takes advantage of the immense harvest from the Gulf of Mexico, combining seafood with an array of spices and fresh vegetables.
    Gumbo, perhaps the most famous of all Louisiana's dishes, is a happy marriage of cooking techniques and ingredients used by white settlers, black slaves and American Indians.
It features Louisiana seafood thickened by an African vegetable, okra, and made with brown roux (a rich sauce base with French antecedents).  The finished dish is a savory stew, traditionally served with a mound of freshly cooked rice.
    Jambalaya, another stew, is composed of several combinations of seafood, meat, poultry and vegetables, and cooked with white rice.  The dish was brought to New Orleans by the Spaniards in the late 1700s, and the name is probably derived from the Spanish jamon, or "ham."  Originally made only with ham, it was later modified to include the variety of meats or shellfish used today.
     French doughnuts or Beignets  are a trademark of the coffeehouses of the French market.  Originally, the 18th century customers would end a shopping expedition at the famous Old Market with several sugar-coated doughnuts.  These doughnuts are traditionally served with Cafe au Lait, made from New Orleans' famous coffee with chicory.  Another age-old favorite confection is Les Oreilles de Cochon or Little Ears.  The dough for this elegant sweet pastry is rolled and cut in circles, then deep fried and drizzled with Praline sauce, which is made from dark corn syrup and chopped pecans.
     King's cake, like the French gateau des Rois  that inspired it, is traditionally served on Twelfth Night.  Made of rich yeast dough and citron, this regal ring is decorated in a variation of the classic carnival colors: green, purple, and yellow.
Photo by Mary Eccher
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Creole gumbo, jambalaya, French doughnuts, cafe au lait, little ears and King's cake are all regional foods that residents and visitors to the New Orleans-Bayou area cherish.
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