Gulf Coast Foodways Renaissance

Gulf Coast Foodways Renaissance Project: An Oral History Initiative

The Southern Foodways Alliance is collaborating with, among other entities, the Ruth U. Fertel Foundation and the Southern Food and Beverage Museum, on The Gulf Coast Foodways Renaissance Project. This initiative chronicles the impact of Hurricane Katrina on the foodways of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, while concurrently tracking the rebirth of the New Orleans restaurant industry. The interviews featured here are from the first phase of the project. A film and other media explorations are posted at www.southernfood.org.

In November 2005 Laura Westbrook, director of the Louisiana Regional Folklife Program at the University of New Orleans, volunteered to begin collecting interviews. She visited with bakers, vintners, cheese makers, and fishermen, gathering the stories of the purveyors of the unique foodstuffs that are the base of Gulf Coast cuisine. Together, these oral histories offer a portrait of Louisiana’s unique foodways and underscore our responsibility to support the people behind them.

For more information on the Ruth U. Fertel Foundation visit www.fertel.com. For more information on the Southern Food and Beverage Museum visit www.southernfood.org.


Interviews and photographs by Laura Westbrook, director, Louisiana Regional Folklife Program.

Interviews

Frances Chauvin

Francis Chauvin

We lived in Hammond and we had this land, and the sewage backed up, and we had to move in with seven kids to the Holiday Inn after being on a two-week vacation, and a fellow came and said, “Well, when are y’all going to start your house?” I said, “Tomorrow!” I drew up the floor plan that night. And we didn’t know what the rest would look like; it took us a while to get that. But we had a place for all of our furniture, and all that we had in the other house, so that’s how—and no architect, so—and here’s a picture of me putting a roof on and all our children helping us—helping. We had carpeting and family and friends did a lot of the work. It was fun.

Henry Amato

Henry Amato

Well it depends on where you’re at. [Laughs] Now, if you’re in Ponchatoula it’s the strawberry wine; New Orleans is heavier on the blackberry and the muscadine; Belle Chasse, up in there, they were hitting the orange wine. In fact, we made the orange wine for the Festival Board.

Kathia Duran

Kathia Duran

Well I am from San Jose, Costa Rica and all my family is from there and everybody is there except my mother who I brought about five years ago. And I just—it was one of those love connections—stories in which you meet an American there and you fall in love and we had a long distant relationship and you know finally after dating for a couple—about a year he came back to Costa Rica so we can continue in this long-distant relationship; we’re spending a lot of money on—on telephone and he was almost finished with his—his career in—studies at Tulane so he brought me here to study English and you know we got married and—you know I stayed. [Laughs] I stayed in New Orleans; so that’s how I ended up originally in—in New Orleans and I found a lot of similarities that is—believe it or not but for—it’s a lot of Spanish and French influence so you know I’ve—what shocked me at the beginning quite frankly was the large black American community, which we don’t have.

Paul Arceneaux

Paul Arceneaux

It’s like the Wizard of Oz in reverse. When you cross the 17th Street Canal you go through Technicolor to monochrome, and then the quiet too is just—it is surreal; it’s like every bad science fiction novel I’ve ever read.

Pete and Clara Gerica

Pete and Clara Gerica

Oh, before the storms, to me this was heaven; that’s what I tell everybody. I’d go home and lock my gate and shut the rest of the world out. Right now, you can see the pelicans are starting. We’re going to get about fourty to fifty pelicans on our back pylons. We have a pet egret that comes all year long. She’s been looking for us ’cause she’s hungry. Blue heron sit on the back pole; it’s just—it’s beautiful—it was beautiful out here and it still is. I’d say probably seventy to eighty percent of the people out here is going to rebuild, because it’s so beautiful here.

Wayne Schexnayder

Wayne Shexnayder

Well, I remember some things my grandfather and grandmother told me about; they worked so hard they didn’t live long. They died in their mid-50s you know—they worked real hard. The elements—the mosquitoes, the wild animals, the Indians—it was a hard life.