Thursday, March 31, 2011

Swamp Floor Pantry

‘John Folse, born in St James Parish in 1946, learned early that the secrets of Cajun cooking lay in the unique ingredients of Louisiana’s swamp floor pantry. Folse seasoned these raw ingredients with his passion for Louisiana culture and cuisine, and from his cast iron pots emerged Chef John Folse & Company.’

The above comes from the 2004 book by Folse & Company, The Encyclopedia of Cajun & Creole Cuisine, a huge collection of Louisiana history and culture and hundreds of recipes from the world famous chef and restauranteur, John D. Folse, CEC, AAC. The book has had nine printings since 2004, the most recent June of 2010.

Raised in Louisiana, I am a big fan of Cajun-Creole cuisine but only now beginning to test the waters of preparing it myself. Having read by now only a handful of pages in the 9.5 pound 852 page ‘Encyclopedia’ my understanding and appreciation of Louisiana’s native cuisine is not yet very deep. The book’s first 125 pages are a history of Louisiana and the origins of people, ideas, and culture that so heavily influenced the region’s development of a unique cuisine.

But why not just open the book to one of many ‘delicious-looking’ recipes and jump into preparing it? I expect there are many who do just that, but my guess is it leaves the cook with little to say about the recipe other than a recitation of ingredients and method of preparation. In all probability, if the ingredients and cooking are accurate the dish will turn out good, but there’s a chance that a deeper appreciation of Mr Folse’s recipe will be difficult without an understanding of the origins and culture that produced it. A more thorough reading of the book’s early pages will give the cook a certain degree of fluency in Creole-Cajun history and opportunity for interesting mealtime conversation.

With this thought in mind, I will skip including here one of Chef Folse’s recipes until I can comment more knowledgeably on its background. But there’s little problem in offering a drink recipe from the book’s beverage section, one that has long been famous in New Orleans. One of my lasting memories of visits to the Crescent City’s French Quarter is the sight of so many people wandering the streets with the familiar large tulip glass from Pat O’Brien’s containing the bar’s renowned Hurricane cocktail.

From the book…

‘Everyone who visits New Orleans eventually goes to Pat O’Brien’s for one of the bar’s famous Hurricanes. The drink, with its fruit punch taste, has packed a wallop on many unsuspecting parties. To my knowledge, this is the original recipe and not quite the same as the one served at Pat O’Brien’s today.’


1 ounce lemon juice

4 ounces dark rum

4 ounces red passion fruit cocktail mix

crushed ice

orange slice for garnish

cherry for garnish


Pour lemon juice, rum and cocktail mix into a cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously 1-2 minutes. Pack crushed ice into a 10-ounce highball glass. Pour drink mixture over crushed ice. Garnish with an orange slice and cherry.

Cheers! Salud! Prost! Santé! Saluté! (and Campai! to those in Japan)


  1. Makes me thirsty for a strong drink but not necessarily a Hurricane. In youthful days of wandering French Quarter streets, it was always a cold can of beer. (And no problem ever--even now--with any open-container laws.) But, yes, a first time trip to NOLA calls for at least one Hurricane--preferably sipped on the enclosed patio at Pat O'Brien's or at a stool or table at the bars on each side of the central walkway. Then a taste of Cajun food is called for. Louisiana may lead the nation in the poorest educational system and the number of politicians in jail, but we do know how to eat and drink like royalty.

  2. Laissez le bon temp roulee - Let the good times roll. The book in your post is wonderful in every way. For a history buff, it gives a detailed history of how and who settled the area that became Louisiana and what influences those settlers left. For the one who enjoys the cooking and the taste of Louisiana, it can't be beat. It is a big book but it's big time great!


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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America