New Orleans is like your first raw oyster. You must suspend your squeamishness and take it on its own terms to enjoy it. If you keep your distance, you’ll never get it. If you go for it, though, you will be rewarded with the fulfillment of lust. Lust is an urge you need to have to live in this city successfully. Without lust, you’re probably better off living somewhere else.
– from the opening paragraph of HUNGRY TOWN by Tom Fitzmorris
…and there’s a lot to lust over. The music. The traditions. The culture. And of course, the food!
I started this blog to share my passion for New Orleans. It started out as just sharing a recipe that I made, but the more I wrote about the recipe, the more I needed to add about the tradition and culture of the meal. Then came the music and some history. I’ve always loved learning about New Orleans, and now I love sharing what I learned about it, and from it.
By no means am I an expert here. I’m not a chef. I don’t work for a restaurant and I am not trained in any other way than by reading and cooking in my own kitchen – my New Orleans kitchen in my Detroit home. I work full-time in a warehouse by day, and by evening I cook for my family. The one tradition we have is on Sunday’s, I cook a New Orleans meal for my family.
It’s a tradition I started, from a culture I love, from the food of a great American city, beating to a music of its own… if you give New Orleans a chance, you’ll be rewarded. I can tell you firsthand that that statement is true.
As Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints said, “If you love New Orleans, New Orleans will love you back!”
So please follow along and if you ever have any questions or helpful suggestions please leave them in the comments below.
From time to time I do get questions about why I do what I do, write what I write, and talk so much about New Orleans and red beans and rice. Here are some of the common questions I receive:
It’s total comfort food. Having red beans and rice is something that was way different from what I grew up on in the Midwest, but once I started making it, smelling it as it cooked, and eating it, it just became something I craved.
I chose “Red Beans and Eric” because, in my name, you can spell “rice”. In the beginning, I couldn’t make a pot of decent RB&R for anything. But as I was determined to master the Monday meal, I learned how important it is to the culture of New Orleans and not to add salt at the beginning of cooking. But seriously, how many meals out there can you name that is cooked by practically everyone in a region, on the same day, and it’s not a holiday?
Red beans and rice is that quiet meal in the background of New Orleans. Everyone knows it’s there but it’s not the one everyone rushes to. Everyone wants the gumbo, po’boy, jambalaya, Shrimp Creole, Oyster Rockefeller. And that’s something I can relate to.
I moved away from my mom. My wife moved away from her mom. We needed to eat. In my late teens, I was a short order cook for a couple of years so I knew very little. However, it was a little more than my wife knew. Needless to say, we ate out a lot. But when my first son was born, I wanted him to grow up eating meals prepared by either me or my wife – not relying on fast food.
To do this, since I liked cooking basic meals and my wife didn’t, I learned to broaden my cooking horizon past hot dogs with mac ‘n’ cheese. I had some basic cookbooks and just started cooking. The more I did it, the more I liked it.
Then there was that first trip to New Orleans…
I first learned Creole and Cajun cooking by making the recipes in cookbooks exactly as written. By doing this I learned what each recipe needs to have, what is interchangeable, and what can still be added. Once you know the rules, you can adapt and change them without totally breaking them. And in some recipes, I broke the rules, ordered a pizza, then started discovering what different ingredients can do together.
Many times I’ll take one dish. Find two or more recipes on it, and start mashing it all into one recipe. It’s fun.
To get the real flavors of Creole and Cajun cooking, you have to be in Louisiana. I’m sorry to say that but it’s true. If you can’t find Creole seasoning, you can make a homemade blend. Can’t find Camellia red beans at the store? You can order them online along with other Creole and Cajun products. But to get the real flavors, you have to go there. There’s something in the water I think… or as my friend Panderina Soumas says, “it’s all in the history!”
I truly do! Tell me. Tell the world. Write me your tips, guidelines, the recipe if you want, and send it in with a picture of your red beans. If you really want me to put you on the website, put a written sign in the photo that says, “This is how I red bean!”
I’m not. It’s only me. I like to compare my writing style to New Orleans – it’s not perfect. I just hope I don’t have as many writing mistakes as New Orleans has potholes. If you do find something, and it’s bothering you, please send me an email and I can correct it.
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