Consider the cochon de lait poor boy. Geographically this should not be. Cochon de lait, the name of which derives from a suckling pig, is, when roasted, a delicacy mostly of rural central Louisiana. There is even an annual Cochon de Lait Festival held in the Avoyelles Parish town of Mansura, almost exactly in the geographic center of the state. Poor boys, on the other hand, we know are a New Orleans invention – a variation of hoagies and submarine sandwiches found in other places, but when done right – with true French bread and properly dressed – make the ultimate elongated sandwich.
Somewhere the two foods from two different cultures got merged. That somewhere was at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans during Jazz Fest. The cochon de lait poor boy is a prime example of a fusion food. Another is crawfish boudin. Both crawfish and boudin share Cajun roots, but true boudin is made with pork, a product of the Prairie Cajuns and other French settlers in southwest Louisiana. Crawfish is more indigenous to the Bayou Cajuns whose livelihood was along the Atchafalaya basin.
And the list continues: Could Antoine Alciatore ever have imagined that his creation of oysters Rockefeller would one day be served from a booth in bisque form? Also, just what is crawfish strudel?
Just as Jazz Fest has given music of all forms a stage, so too has it done with food. The common denominator is that all food and all music are ultimately fusions. Where blues and jazz mix, it isn’t too much of a stretch for someone to one day serve red beans with cracklins.
We celebrate the French Quarter in this issue, partially in acknowledgement of the French Quarter Festival, where fusions of various forms also enliven the weekend. Then there’s Jazz Fest, where creativity continues.
In a month of celebration let the imagination run free, but please – no boudin-flavored snowballs.