|Origins of New Orleans Words and
words and traditions have quite hazy origins. In the list below we offer
single versions for the origins of each individual work or tradition.
More often than not there will be other explanations available. The
serious researcher should consult additional sources in the Louisiana
Division and/or in other local history/folklore collections].
- The City That Care Forgot
Read Steve Ingersoll's report on a preliminary investigation of the origin of this and other nicknames for the City of New Orleans.
- Carnival colors--according to Arthur Hardy's Mardi Gras
Guide (1988), the
colors purple, green and gold were chosen by Rex for its inaugural parade in 1872 because the
colors looked good together. In 1892, the Rex parade theme was "Symbolism of Colors" and the
organization identified purple with justice, green with faith, and gold with power. Over
the years the colors have come to be associated with carnival in general.
Cake--from page 142 of the classic local cookbook, Recipes and
Reminiscences of New Orleans (1971):
"...among the Creole desserts that are with us still is
the Gateau des Rois or "King's Cake," which is inseparably connected with the
Mardi Gras and with the development of the city's now-famous carnival balls. The
whole complex evolved out of the Creole custom of choosing a king and queen on
Twelfth Night, January 6, called Le Jour des Rois. This feast day
commemorates the visit of the three Wise Men of the East to the Christ Child in
Bethlehem. It was much stressed by the Spanish and even today is considered the
Spanish Christmas, at which time gifts are presented to family and friends recalling the
gifts of the Wise Kings. With the Creoles the day became Le Petit Noel, or
Little Christmas, and following the Spanish custom there were always grand balls. A
King and a Queen were chosen for the occasion, and a new royal pair every week
thereafter until Mardi Gras. Ever since those early days the period between January 6
and Mardi Gras Day has been the accepted carnival season, with the calendar of
activities becoming more and more crowded as each year rolls around.
The method of choosing the first king was by cutting the King's Cake ... made of
brioche batter, shaped into an enormous ring and decorated with bon bons, dragees
and colored sugars. Generally some good mansion was chosen for the ball. At the
stroke of midnight the guests were invited to be seated around the spacious dining
room table and each was served a piece of the cake with a glass of champagne.
Hidden cleverly within the cake was a bean or a pecan. Excitement would be at a
high pitch until the bean was found, embedded within the slice of cake by one of the
guests. If the finder were a lady, she chose her king by presenting him with a bunch
of violets provided along with the cake. If the finder were a gentleman, he would
choose his queen by offering her the flower in his lapel... ."
A Good King Cake Recipe
- Sazerac Cocktail--according to Deirdre Stanforth, The New Orleans Restaurant
Cookbook (Doubleday, 1967), pp. 86-87, the Sazerac began as a mixture of sugar, cognac,
absinthe and bitters (the variety formulated by a local pharmacist named Peychaud). The drink was
served at the Sazerac Coffee House, which took its name from the French firm of Sazerac Forge et
Fils, which produced the brandy used to make the coffee house's version of the cocktail. Eventually
the absinthe was replaced by one of the available substitutes for that now-outlawed liquor and the
brandy itself gave way to rye whiskey. The Sazerac name remains despite the fact that brandy is no
longer used in preparing the drink. Perhaps the most famous dispenser of the cocktail was the
Sazerac Bar, located at 300 Carondelet St., but rights to the name later became the property of the
Magnolia Liquor Co. Magnolia still bottles the Sazerac cocktail and has also franchised the use of the
name to the Fairmont Hotel where the latest incarnation of the Sazerac Bar operates alongside the
hotel's elegant Sazerac Restaurant.
- The Big Easy--according to an article by Daniel Carey in the
August 27, 1987 Times-Picayune, the Big Easy was the name of one or
more dance halls or other music establishments in New Orleans during the
early 1900s. He implies that when traveling musicians talked about
playing "The Big Easy," listeners associated the name of the club with the
city and that, over time, the phrase was added to the list of popular
nicknames for the city. In Carey's words
Eventually, the nickname transferred to the city as a whole,
referring to the gentle pace of life and somewhat lax morals for which New
Orleans is known.
Later, in the early 1970s, local "gossip columnist" Betty Gillaud brought
the term into new popularity through a column in which she used the Big
Easy as a
metaphor for the laid back quality of life in New Orleans as contrasted
the hectic nature of existence in New York--the Big Apple.
- Pralines--According to Jennifer Quayle in the
(May 2, 1976):
"It's said that pralines were named after Cesar du
Plessis Praslin (pronounced "pralin") a grand marshal of
pre-Napoleonic France. According to legend, it was Praslin's
valet who suggestd his master's almonds be cooked with sugar to
prevent indigestion.... When Praslin came here with his candy,
..., the natives tried to copy it (since almonds weren't readily
available, Louisiana pecans were substituted." Ms. Quayle goes on to
house servants learned to make the candies from their mistresses and
soon began to sell pralines on the streets of the Crescent City. For at
the last 50 years pralines have been manufactured by commercial firms,
although many families still make their own using old family formulas or
recipes from a variety of local cookbooks.
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