Wednesday, June 5, 2024

The Emergence of New Orleans Cuisine

“America has only three cities: New York, San Francisco, and 
New Orleans. Everywhere else is Cleveland.” 
– Tennessee Williams 

In the late nineteenth century, the burgeoning wealth of the upper classes fueled a social revolution in eating well when away from home. Culinary tourism got a jump-start in New Orleans during the World’s Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition in 1884-85. Visitors were introduced to Creole dishes that blended French, Spanish, West African, and Choctaw influences, among others. Seemingly overnight, the unique cuisine and signature cocktails of New Orleans became major tourist draws, marking a pivotal moment in the city’s gastronomic history. The first Creole cookbooks were published the year the fair ended; and eventually one of the finest French restaurants in New Orleans would create new French-Creole dishes to lure the well-heeled visitors back.1,2 Eighteen menus between 1905 and 1917 reveal the extent to which regionalism was expressed in public dining spaces at various levels of society in the years leading up to Prohibition.