New Orleans Gumbo – A Six Part Series
To read the other parts of this series, click here.
This hearty and flavorful bowl of soup is one dish that hits near to the hearts of those who reside in New Orleans. Not only is this food item an important staple in many homes of Louisiana, it is one that epitomizes the state’s cuisine as a whole. This enduring dish serves as a time machine to transport an individual back to the beginning of the cuisine’s existence. Exhibiting many diverse cultural influences, this dish provides an excellent example of the cultural melting pot of New Orleans. Evident in almost all of the city’s cuisine, the cooking traditions of those that immigrated fused together with the creation of what is known as one of the unique cuisines in America – the Creole Cuisine. This five-part series will focus on the histories and influences of the French, African, Spanish and German cultures, as well as particular ingredients, on the celebrated evolution of the Creole cuisine.
In the fifth part, we explore the German influence on Creole cuisine.
Between the 1700s and 1800s, many individuals of different ethnic groups migrated to Louisiana. These people brought with them the traditions of their homelands. In 1721, a large number of Germans settled in the Louisiana territory neighboring New Orleans. With them, they brought their knowledge of agriculture, as well as the art of sausage-making. “Andouille,” although given a French name, is a heavily smoked and seasoned German pork sausage that is commonly used as a flavoring agent in many Creole dishes. This tasty foodstuff eventually evolved as a fundamental component of country gumbos.(35) Andouille sausage is a combination of pork, pork fat, salt, garlic, red pepper and black pepper, all packed into a sausage casing, which is smoked over sugar cane and pecan logs. When smoked, the sausage becomes very dark in color. It is distinctive from other smoked sausages because it has a larger diameter and is shorter in length (about two inches wide and six inches in length). It also contains a more coarsely ground stuffing, higher fat content and more seasonings than most other sausages.
There are two types of Andouille sausage. The first is a spicy, pork sausage with coarsely ground stuffing, of which is encased in a large hog intestine casing. This type of sausage is traditional of La Cte des Allemands, which is located between St. Charles and St. John the Baptist parishes. The second type of Andouille sausage is a large hog intestine casing stuffed with highly seasoned small intestines. This version is traditional of the western side of the Atchafalaya basin, particularly Acadia Parish.(36) Overall, there is little literature that describes the German influence on the Creole cuisine. Thus, it is very difficult to make specific associations between the two. However, this is not to say that there are none. Many of the links can be discovered through word of mouth or through the oral histories of traditional creoles.
35 Tucker, Susan, ed. New Orleans Cuisine: Fourteen Signature Dishes and Their Histories. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2009.
36 Southern Food and Beverage Museum, 2012.