Take yourself back to a time where Pinterest and the ability to “just Google it” were not readily available. It’s springtime. Easter and Passover are quickly approaching. Your family and friends have decided to come to your house after church. You want to prepare a traditional meal for everyone. Where was a gal supposed to get ideas?
From August 1980 to July 2006, the Junior League of New Orleans (JLNO) published a cookbook called Jambalaya: A Collection of Cajun & Creole Favorites. Members would submit their personal family recipes, everything from appetizers to desserts and all things in between, which were then compiled to create the cookbook. Who knew JLNO was on the forefront of the crowdsourcing trend? Jambalaya saw twelve printings, a revised edition and two special editions to celebrate the 1984 Louisiana World’s Exposition. It became a staple in most homes across the city, if not the state. In all, 230,000 copies were printed before publication ceased in July of 2006.
Let’s not forget to mention that Jambalaya is an award-winning book, receiving the Walter S. McIlhenny Community Cookbook Hall of Fame award in 1990. This coveted honor is reserved only for those cookbooks that have sold over 100,000 copies. Only a precious few applicants have been admitted to this collection, which can be viewed by the public at the McIlhenny headquarters on Avery Island.
Active Elizabeth McDermott Ollinger has used the cookbook to find recipes for family Easter gatherings.
“While I never was the one to cook the ham, lamb or main dish, I used the Jambalaya cookbook on several occasions to make the Walnut Stuffing or the Cranberry Apple Salad,” says Elizabeth.
Side dishes, as we all know, are just as important as the main dish. Can you even imagine a plate with just one thing on it?
One can easily find timeless classics tucked into the pages of this culinary treasure trove. Unlike faddish recipes which often can’t withstand the test of time, Jambalaya’s Rack of Lamb recipe is seasoned with rosemary, thyme and parsley — all of which are still classics when cooking. The Saag Gosht recipe offers a lamb option with an Indian subcontinent flair for chefs wishing to add a bit of panache to their protein. The recipe options for baked ham also provide several tantalizing glaze options, including some expected ingredients like peach preserves and other surprising components like guava jelly.
As you can tell, JLNO members have been on their A-game when it comes to recipes and cooking for the past few decades. They were Pinteresters and foodies before these concepts were even conceived. If you rummage through your mother’s, sister’s or great aunt’s pantry, there’s a good chance you will stumble upon this handy epicurean encyclopedia, filled to the brim with delicious dishes that are sure to make a splash at your next dinner party. Bon appetit!