Donald: Rice, rice, rice, everything had rice in it.
Howard: You meant, a meal wasn’t complete without rice, right?
Donald: Yeah, from the rice farming community, Yes – -all meals had rice in it.
Howard: On this episode our Nourish. We’re talking: Rice. Starting with the traditional delicacies associated with Cajun culture featuring two of my favorite ingredients: Rice and Pork. and there’s no better person to talk to there James Beard award-winning chef Donald Lee Donald :Hey, how’s it going?
Howard: Hey, how ya doing? Okay, so Donald, in Cajun cultures: rice and pork is very prevalent And for me, I need you to help me understand what it’s Cajun culture particularly. Donald: In particular, you know Cajun food starts out as kind of a subsection of Creole in a lot of ways. You know and but what you have are these different areas of Cajun culture where you have the French influence, you have the German influence. There’s a direct line; if you look at like when the French owned Louisiana before 1700 they weren’t cooking French food – – okay, that’s a misnomer this whole process here, you know. The French influence comes from the Cajuns from Canada and French Caribbean islands.
Howard: In the mid 1700s thousands of French Acadians were forced out of Nova Scotia by the British. They eventually settled in Louisiana: a Spanish territory at the time. Many came by, with other British colonies and French Caribbean colonies But then you have this huge influx of Germans that come in in the mid to late 1800s So the the German influence is a lot of the sausage-making and a lot of the rice farming You know, Boudin, in particular from France was this emulsified veal chicken sausage?
Donald: And then you’ve got these French names and With their sausage making and then those sized sausages begin to transform to a German style sausage but they keep that French name! So then you’ve got the Germans like my great-great-grandfather Nicholas Zaunbrecher Started farming rice in Cajun country in the 1880s and started to commercialize that business. So it just grew – Exponentially, you know sometime around that point So that’s when you start seeing rice show up in Boudin, you know – You take all the off cuts the livers and the tough meats and you stew those down mix it with the rice And stuffing into a casing. My family’s huge. My dad has a hundred first cousins on his mom’s side And then I have 48 first cousins. So there’s a huge settlement. I couldn’t I think that the history was 1881 41 German families showed up in Rayne, Louisiana. My grandparents grew up a half a mile from each other So I’d go to my granddad’s house and we’d have the rabbit and dumplings collard greens and pigs feed the black-eyed peas cream corn We got a Granny’s house the German/Cajun side and that was a lot of rice dressing Smother pork and gravy over rice.
Howard: The term “Cajun” can be misunderstood. In the late 1800s at early 1900s the abbreviated name for Acadian: “Cadien” became Cajun and aside from culture described a form of cooking heavily dependent on fish and wildlife along with whatever they could farm and raised. By the 1960’s, the term Cajun had been transformed into a brand and rice had become central to South Louisiana food traditions as it was on many southern tables. David Shields: Like most great crops it came down to flavor. Everything is in terms of texture and flavor, which is mild hazelnutty. It provided an absolutely splendid base for the mingling of flavors. You have that rice serving as a palette on which mingle an extraordinary memory of flavor. Characteristic southern dishes Evolved to incorporate diverse cultural food waves and locally available ingredients like vegetables, game, pork and seafood rice stretch 10 provisions But the tiny grain that formed the basis of regional cuisines across the south is not the rice you buy in stores today Legendary varieties were nearly lost for a century Until determined food detectives from around the world began working to put it back on local tables. Shileds: It’s originally known as gold seed rice. There’s a wonderful golden color during the harvest season We don’t know where it’s from. It’s a South Asian rice. It might’ve come from West Africa? It might have come from Asia in previous episodes we detail how South Carolina’s pre-civil war rice economy based on the Expertise and labor of enslaved Africans at the time made the region the best-known rice producer in America Carolina gold long ray rice was king and it was this long grain version for the rice that in 1851 Won the London medal as the best grain in the world and the 1853 Parisian Medal. And – It was at that point that Carolina gold Was the rice variety that commanded the highest prices on the world Weis market in Paris Howard: In the years following the Civil War the rice economy collapsed and the famed seed was assumed to be lost. Until, a Georgia surgeon and duck hunter looking to reestablish to succulent rice with a feeding ground for migrating waterfowl Tracked Carolina gold to a government seized bank. Decades of work ensued to reestablish Carolina goal with the help of dedicated growers and supporters like Blair Roberts with: The Carolina Gold Foundation and Agricultural Researchers.
Shields: The greatest rice in the world in its most magnificent form It’s going to be available again.
Howard: This work also led to the rediscovery of another famed rice that once dominated across the south. Shields: And – It became grown under the name Red-Bearded rice in Georgia Throughout the south all the way to Louisiana all the way north to Kentucky and this upland rice was grown Garden style.
Howard: At the turn of the 20th century, other varieties have become cheaper and more productive to grow commercial and market forces drove Red-bearded rice into obscurity and pursue extinction a till it was rediscovered growing on a hillside in Trinidad with a rich history sparked by the war of 1812 Shields: This group of people Many of them who came from the Sea Islands of Georgia accepted that invitation by the British Army to fight as Royal Marines in the British Army against their former masters and the promise was Liberation and land.
Howard: The enslaved Africans who didn’t necessarily agree with the British, But they said freedom was more important than being a slave And so they fought with the British they got their freedom And then they were the Britain and then, they sent them to Trinidad. And It didn’t work out and they took a lot of their products with them Shields: That’s exactly the story.
Howard: Known there as Americans, these people preserve this rice known locally as Muruga Hill rice as a staple of their diet and cuisine I was fortunate enough to see this heritage grain for myself recently, with grower and ethnobotanist Frances Marina And it is now being marketed in the States. Where rice is harvested its first mill to clean it and remove the shaft or out of fusty The end product is brown rice where the outer brand is preserved along with Rice’s nutrients and protein. In the Lowcountry rice form Pirlo’s, bogs, red rice, and hoppin’ John. In Louisiana, these turned into Ettoufees, Turtle sauce piquant, dirty rice, jambalaya, red beans and rice and an essential part to Gumbo’s And that brings us back to Boudin. How did your family prepare rice and where do your traditions come from? Please share below! This Program is made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting