A new friend, Melanie Hanley, recently shared with me an old - well, relatively old - treasure. It’s a cookbook called “Bicentennial Louisiana: Historic Sketches and Regional Recipes from the Parishes,” and it was published by the Louisiana Extension Homemakers Council 35 years ago during the country’s bicentennial year.
It’s hard to believe it has been 35 years since this country celebrated its bicentennial. It’s also hard to fathom how much life and society have changed since there was such a thing as a Louisiana Extension Homemakers Council.
For those who, like me, are unfamiliar with the council, it was the arm of the LSU College of Agriculture’s Extension Service that worked with homemakers throughout the state, bringing to them practical, usable information based on the research findings from the college. (The extension service still does this today but in such a different way).
Back then, each parish had Extension Homemakers Clubs, headed by representatives who would meet with the homemakers, usually in their homes, to teach them about crops, livestock, cooking, sewing, nutrition and health.
On the occasion of the bicentennial, the Cultural Arts Committee of the Louisiana Extension Homemakers Council compiled recipes from all 64 parishes and published them, along with a brief write-up about each parish in the state.
The recipes are classic Louisiana fare and, in keeping with a 1970s cookbook, aren’t low-fat, low-carb, dairy-free or gluten-free. They also lack calorie counts and have no nutritional information.
Still, they’re a celebration of the way our mothers, grandmothers and great grandmothers grew up cooking, and they’re fun to read.
Melanie lent me the book that was given to her in 1977 when she was newly married as a gift from her aunt, Dot Aucoin.
On her suggestion, I’d like to run some of the recipes from the book from time to time in recognition of who we are and where our culinary traditions are rooted.
It would make sense to run the recipes from East Baton Rouge Parish first. However, they’re all, coincidentally, cool-weather dishes. So I’ve selected two more seasonally appropriate dishes from nearby Iberville Parish, which the book notes is, “one of the largest producers of sugar in the state.”
None of the recipes in the book are attributed to individuals, but were contributed, the introduction says, by “the 16,500 Louisiana women who belong to the Extension Homemakers’ Clubs and willingly share their knowledge?with the hope of providing a keepsake that will have practical value for all.”