I’ve confessed before that I enjoy picking through old cookbooks, especially Louisiana cookbooks. You can find some interesting old recipes in them, which is part of the reason that I like them, and they also tell us about the place and time in which they were written.
That’s why I was intrigued when I came across a curious little pocket-sized paperback of Creole Cooking Recipes, apparently given away by the Evangeline Pepper & Food Products Company of St. Martinsville, which made the modest pledge that just one drop of its Evangeline Hot Sauce “makes good food taste better.”
The book also makes the slightly more grandiose claim that the hot sauce “made Louisiana French cooking famous.”
The company, “operated and owned by Acadian – The Buillards,” made more than hot sauce. You could place an order direct to the factory for a 5½-ounce bottle of Steak Sauce (15 cents), a 5-ounce bottle of Worcestershire sauce (15 cents), a 10½-ounce jar of Home Made Chili Sauce (25 cents), an 8-ounce jar of Creole Mustard (10 cents) a 12½-ounce jar of Salad Mustard (15 cents), or a 2½-ounce jar of Powdered Red Pepper (15 cents). The company also offered Sausage Seasoning, Cut Okra in cans, Okra & Tomatoes in cans, Distilled Vinegar, Home Made Okra Soup, and Old Tom Open Kettle Pure Ribbon Cane Syrup, “made the old fashion way with direct fire under the kettles.”
There’s no date on the booklet, but, judging from the typography, I think it was probably printed in the late 1940s or early 1950s.
It contains recipes that we might recognize – Chicken a la Sauce Piquant, Crab Gumbo a la Creole, Cannards Smothered with Turnips, Ail-Au-Lie Mayonnaise (probably coming from the Aioli Club in which local chefs tried to outdo each other in gourmet meals), Creole Rabbit, Creole Cabbage, Creole Cereal or “Kush Kush,” a half-dozen things to do with yams, all interspersed among “facts” about St. Martinville and the Evangeline Country.
It describes the Evangeline Oak as “America’s most famous tree” and St. Martinville as “America’s most interesting town,” and it also contains the amazing claim that the first women’s hats to be worn in the United States were created because of an accident that didn’t happen in St. Martinville in 1795.
“The originator was a belle of the olden days and a member of one of the oldest and distinguished families, the DeBlancs,” we are told. “Tonton DeBlanc was known for her beauty. Her complexion was unsurpassed. As was the custom for many centuries, she wore a sunbonnet. The hat was unknown in those days.
“It seems strange that such a well known fashion as women’s hats should be founded by accident, but that it how it originated. Tonton DeBlanc, who founded the fad, heard a commotion outside her door. Upon inquiry she was told that a child was crushed by a vehicle. Searching for her sunbonnet, she was unable to find it, so she took her brother’s hat and put it on her head.
“The accident proved to be a false alarm, but the little belle had found the hat becoming, so she entered a millinery shop and ordered a hat for her. She paid $5.00 for the hat, and before too long everyone was wearing hats. This is how ... the hat began in the historical old town of St. Martinville.”
The little book also lists St. Martinville area sights to be seen by visitors, including the Catholic Cemetery, where, it says, there are “more people buried in the cemetery than are alive in the town.”
That’s probably true of a lot of little towns with long histories.
You can also contact Jim Bradshaw by mail at P.O. Box 1121, Washington LA 70589.