food

The Sweet Success Of Bananas Foster Has An Unsavory Past

Sep 30, 2016

There's more to the story of Bananas Foster than flambeed fruit. While the enticing dessert is a sweet legacy of New Orleans' once-booming banana trade, there's also a less savory one: banana republics.

Today, the banana is America's favorite fruit, but it was once considered exotic. The fruit only became commonplace in the United States starting in the 1870s, thanks to improvements in shipping and botany. By the turn of the century, the banana trade was a million-dollar industry.

One night recently at Commander's Palace the two reigning queens of New Orleans cuisine shared a table and, for a moment, the spotlight. It got me thinking about the long game, one so long we can't even see it amid the hubbub of what's new, who's ranked where, and which spot is getting all the attention. It got me thinking about the future, and who’s next.

Perhaps nothing tells the story of a kitchen better than the objects that live in it. On this week’s show, we’re bringing in a panel of experts for an education on culinary antiques and collectibles.

Fried chicken from McHardy's Chicken & Fixin' in New Orleans.
Ian McNulty

Fried chicken gets people fired up, and I don’t just mean hungry. But why? I’ve done some digging, and some digging in, and I’ve found a few reasons, beyond the simple fact that it’s delicious.

The timing is important. Fried chicken is top of mind in New Orleans right now because this Sunday, Sept. 25, the new Fried Chicken Festival debuts downtown, in Lafayette Square. 

A smoked brisket sandwich from the butcher shop Cleaver & Co. in New Orleans.
Ian McNulty

Back in the day, neighborhoods had their own butcher, their own baker and, well, maybe not their own candlestick maker, but at least other purveyors who were masters of their trades. You get the point.           

Today, butcher shops are making a comeback in New Orleans. But while the old butcher shop techniques are often the same, the way this next generation courts customers has changed. They’re finding new ways to introduce the prospect of a full butcher’s case to a clientele that may have been raised on supermarket staples and processed products.

Out to Lunch, with Peter Ricchiuti.
Alison Moon / It's New Orleans

For a long time in New Orleans, if you wanted to eat healthy, you could eat at home. Although that sounds like a joke, it was pretty close to the truth. If you were eating out and wanted a salad, you’d be lucky to find anything other than a pedestrian appetizer.

Today, things are looking brighter for the healthy eater.

On this week's show, we celebrate Commander's Palace and its visionary matriarch Ella Brennan, whose highly-anticipated memoir is coming out next week.

A spread of charcuterie made from seafood at Kingfish, a Cajun restaurant in the French Quarter.
Ian McNulty

Prosciutto and salami, pate and terrines, tasso and jerky and cracklin’. These are the staples of meat boards and charcuterie platters now so popular in the restaurant world. But lately, we're also finding seafood versions of all of this, often presented together as creative seafood charcuterie spreads.

Jerk chicken from Coco Hut, a Caribbean restaurant in New Orleans with a bold way with spice.
Ian McNulty

Keeping some semblance of cool as our summer heat rages on can take some strategy. We park the car under oak limbs and walk on the shady side of the street. We keep ice water handy and, when it's time to eat, something cool and light sounds like just the thing.

But across the spectrum, there is another way, and it’s to embrace the heat, to own it. Revel in fiery foods and you may just beat the heat at its own game.

The little Red Hen finds a seed to plant
Florence White Williams - The Little Red Hen: An Old English Folk Tale / Project Gutenberg

With the proliferation of kid’s cookbooks and cooking shows these days, it’s evident that the kitchen is increasingly becoming the favorite playground of many a child. This week’s show is dedicated to the budding chefs of tomorrow and everyone who is young at heart.

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