Tuesday, April 01, 2008
Look, Ma, I'm Cultcha!
photograph by Sara Roahen
A while back, our darling Sara Roahen interviewed my aunt Annou and I about our Creole* heritage and, specifically, about gumbo. It's part of the Southern Foodway Alliance's Southern Gumbo Trail, a collection of oral histories centered around the dish and the people who make it. Our interview is here:
My contribution was minimal, but Annou relates fascinating details on a broad range of subjects: gumbo, fried chicken, life in the old neighborhood, the nuanced meanings of "creole", complex racial intertwinings, crazy Napoleon-worshipping ancestors buried upright in full military regalia to be ready when the call to battle was sounded again...
I'm glad these stories are being documented. (Thank you, Sara.) Take a look and a listen.
* The word "Creole" causes a lot of confusion and is discussed at length in the interview, but I'll give my brief primer. It's sometimes used specifically to refer to the light-skinned black (or mixed-race) New Orleanians of French, Spanish, and African ancestry. This is a perfectly legitimate usage. But it also, more generally, describes all descendants, black and white, of New Orleans' original colonial settlers. My (white creole) family uses the word in this broader sense. And of course, white and black, we're all cousins. (Creoles are distinct from Cajuns, who didn't directly colonize the city, but migrated to the region from Canada later in the 18th Century and settled mostly in the rural parts of South Louisiana.)
** I'm mortified to discover that I talk like a stuttering valley boy. (Actually, I already knew I talk like a... like... valley boy. As for the stuttering, I confess, the interview made me shy. Not having grown up here, I was always something of an outsider to the Creole world. And though I could recount my memories of childhood visits, I couldn't speak of the old ways with any authority.)