New Orleans lives by the rhythm of its food. Red beans and rice on Monday. Seafood on Fridays. Family dinners on Sundays. King cake only during Carnival.
Unlike most areas of the country, New Orleans has nurtured these food traditions.
Long ago, red beans were cooked over the fire while laundry was being done on Mondays. Cooking the beans while laundry was being done was an efficient use of fuel, says Liz Williams, founder of the Southern Food & Beverage Museum. The tradition continued even when fuel wasn’t an issue, and spread to schools and restaurants. Today the humble food is revered in all corners of the city.
Seafood is also elevated in New Orleans, refined by Catholics who had to abstain from eating meat on Fridays. Though that restriction now just applies to Fridays during Lent, the New Orleans art of delicious seafood on Fridays spread throughout the city.
Another tradition that continues is midnight eating. The original Reveillon dinners, first held at home in the 1800s after Midnight mass on Christmas Eve, were reinvented in the 1990s as a special dinner anytime during the Christmas season. But the tradition of midnight eating has continued with Queen’s suppers after Mardi Gras balls, Williams says.