Red Beans And Rice
Red Beans And Rice
Red Beans and Rice: A New Orleans Staple
New Orleans is a gastronomic heaven, renowned for its authentic, unparalleled Creole cuisine. Eating is a favorite pastime of the locals. A New Orleans staple dish is, of course, red beans and rice, a culinary delight central to New Orleans’ identity. It is nearly impossible to find a New Orleans resident who is not familiar with red beans and rice, as well as the tradition that goes along with it.
Red beans and rice is traditionally served on Mondays. According to local legend, this custom originated from women of color, who prepared red beans and rice for their families on Monday. Since Monday was the day when the clothes were washed(by hand of course), the women would be too tired to prepare dinner after such a grueling chore. They would leave the red kidney beans to cook while they did the laundry, since the simmering beans do not need to be watched carefully. After finishing with the washing, the women serve the beans, along with ham leftovers from Sunday dinner, over steaming hot rice. Creole sausage is sometimes added to the bean mixture, giving it a meaty, protein-rich kick. This tradition carries on to this day. Since I was not native to New Orleans, I was ignorant to the fact that restaurants and the school cafeteria staff dished it out in hearty portions on Mondays only. I view it as an unusual tradition, but nonetheless interesting and unique.
This quintessential dish is relatively simple to prepare and is kept simple by food lovers and cooks who stress the importance of maintaining its subtle flavor. Chefs who utilize its popularity amongst locals to experiment and spawn various “gourmet masterpieces” by manipulating the traditional recipe for red beans and rice are often criticized. Parsley, garlic, thyme and bay leaves are the essential red beans and rice seasonings, and to venture beyond the recommended amounts and types of spice during the preparation of this dish could be disastrous for the outcome of the dish.
The popularity of red beans and rice is so large in scale that it can be compared to chilli, an extremely popular bean-based dish in Texas. This savory dish does more than appeal to the taste buds of New Orleans’ locals. Along with the dish comes a unique Creole tradition. Certain hunger pangs and cravings in the past have dictated that I scarf down a serving of hot kidney beans, Creole sausage and white rice. It is a refreshing alternative to greasy, nutritionally-unsound fast foods. What could be better than enjoying red beans and rice, followed by beignets and coffee on a sidewalk cafй in the French Quarter, basking in the sights of the colorful streets, wrought iron balconies on weathered old houses, and flower filled courtyards. It is not a complicated, gourmet delight, but rather, a simple, yet delectable dish, which has found its way into the hearts of the Big Easy locals.