Jan 10, 2011


It amazes me that two places, only about 160 miles apart, can be so different.  Normally I find similarities—especially through food.  But in this case it’s the differences.  Because New Orleans is different.

For the New Year, I left my current home in Cajun country to visit my parents for about a week in New Orleans.  I never think about it until I’m actually there—how much the Mississippi defines the city.  I mean, it’s nicknamed “The Crescent City” because of the way the city rests in a crook of the Mississippi River.

In Cajun country, I wake up to the sound of a crop duster engine as it prepares to pass over a rice field.  Or to the whistle of a train as it chugs through the prairie.  Or to a flock of geese honking overhead.

Growing up, I lived just blocks from the river.  Although they live in a different house now, my parents still only live blocks away.  Close enough to wake up to the clanging metal of ships docking or unloading or being loaded.  (amazing how that sound carries across the wide river.)  Or I wake up hearing the ships’ horns.  A guttural, soulful, sad sound.  As a child, I always pictured the ships sounding a mournful moan because they were sad to leave.

The Mississippi and the Gulf affect the climate differently than my Cajun prairie does.  On New Year’s Eve afternoon, my dad, The Boy, and I went down to the river to get our Huck Finn on...to walk through the black willows on the batcher (the area between the levee and the river), climb on rocks, survey what the river washed up, and watch ships and paddle wheelers pass by. 

Now, it's gets humid where I live in little Eunice, LA.  And even though I grew up in NO, I'm always struck at just how humid it gets there.  My hair is never so curly and bouncy as it is when I’m in NO.  And fog at 3:15 in the afternoon!
Chalmette Terminal, Port of St. Bernard
low New Year's Eve fog on the river
There’s also the way people tend to rise late and stay up past my bedtime (although maybe that’s just my relatives).  The country people I’m now used to rise early so they can get their work done and buy a link of boudin before it sells out.

But every now and then good ole NOLA shows herself in my Cajun town.  Especially since Katrina (so I'm told--I moved here after all that).  It might be that I hear a voice in a crowd or on the next aisle in the store.  The accent and sometimes even the word choice make me say, “I hear New Orleans.”  My best friend and her family are Katrina evacuees.  I think most people around here think she’s a little crazy, a little loud, maybe shares a little too much.  But she is New Orleans.  And she felt like family the first second I walked into her house.

With Katrina evacuees came New Orleans food.  And I think that’s pretty darn cool.  NO people dig food.  But mostly they dig their food.  Mr. Ricky, who owns a small corner grocery where I live, told me that he had to add a few items to his inventory because “all those New Orleans people were so desperate for this that and the other.”  One of those items is “pickle meat.”  Even though it's spelled "pickled meat," no one says it that way.  It's "pickle meat."  And it’s a common seasoning for red beans and rice.

I got my hands on some and used it for white beans and rice, my brother’s favorite.  He adds so much hot sauce to his bowl that the white beans turn pink!

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Mise en place for White Beans & Rice:
white beans (Camellia brand is what New Orleanians use),oil,
onions, bell pepper, and celery (the trinity),
garlic--which IMO should be part of the trinity if trinity didn't mean 3,
salt, black pepper, Tony's, dried thyme (b/c my mama loves some thyme with white beans), bay, pickle meat, smoked sausage, hot sauce, cooked white rice 
Optional: green onions and/or parsley for garnish

Start by soaking your beans.  There's the "fast soak" way of bringing the beans to a boil, covering, taking them off the heat, and letting them be for about an hour.  But you know me, I like to take it slow--soaking my beans overnight.  Truthfully, I always have better results with the overnight soak.  And I have sweet dreams about a pot of beans in my future while they soak.

As usual saute the trinity and garlic in hot oil until tender.  Add the pickle meat, sausage, and seasonings.

Stir in your soaked, happy, plump beans.  Add enough water to cover by about an inch or two.  Simmer until beans are tender.

Notes, Tips, Tricks:
* Old beans will take longer to cook.  If your grocery store doesn't have a high turnover of dried beans, keep this in mind.

* This dish freezes well, but just like freezing gumbo, keep the rice separate.
* For a creamy texture, mash some of the beans with the back of a spoon or a potato masher.  My great-grandma always mashed her beans against the side of the pot with her wooden spoon.  I'm really not sure why I find the need to dirty another dish.

Stir your bean mash back into the pot.
Have some cooked rice ready.
Go wild and have some green onions and/or parsley chopped for the top.
Go insane and pass the hot sauce at the table.

Printer Friendly Recipe

White Beans & Rice
from Ms. enPlace

1 lb white beans, soaked and ready to go*
olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped (including leaves)
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2-3/4 lb pickle meat
14-16 oz smoked sausage cut in half moons, coins, or diced
1 tsp salt, or to taste

1/2 tsp black pepper, or to taste
1/2-1 tsp Tony's
1 tsp dried thyme
1-2 bay leaves
few dashes of hot sauce
water to cover beans
cooked white rice
chopped green onion and/or parsley for garnish

Heat oil in a Dutch oven.  Saute the onion, bell pepper, celery, and garlic until tender.  Add the pickle meat and smoked sausage along with the seasonings and hot sauce.  Mix together.  Add the drained soaked beans and stir gently to combine.  Pour in enough water to cover the beans by 1-2 inches.  Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer.  Continue simmering until beans are tender, adding water if needed.  Before serving, taste for seasoning and adjust.  Mash about a cup of the beans for texture.  Serve over white rice and garnish with green onions and/or parsley.  Pass more hot sauce at the table.

*To soak beans, either soak in room temperature tap water overnight, or bring beans in a pot of water to a boil, cover, cut off heat, and soak for about 1 hour.

A recipe for making your own pickle meat can be found at New Orleans Cuisine.

Here's my recipe for red beans & rice, which can also be made with pickle meat.


  1. LOL. The garlic can be "The Blessed Virgin Mary" in the "Trinity." Not really a part of it, but you better not forget it! : )

  2. I wish I could find some "pickle meat"!

  3. Your story made me feel good. I love the way you write. :~)
    It's a good start to my morning.

  4. Those white beans sound delicious! I definitely haven't had much cajun/creole food in my days, which seems tragic. I know I would love those big bold flavors!

  5. I'm glad you got the chance to go home over the holidays. I can tell that it makes your heart happy to be in NO. I feel the same way about the little town I'm from in Ohio.

    Love the beans and rice, but then again you know how I love my beans! I'm like your brother when it comes to the hot sauce. I say make it pink!

  6. Hi Michelle! I wanted to welcome you personally to the hearth and soul hop! I am now following your blog. I have to tell you that this post is amazing! I really FEEL the people and places you are speaking about and I would like to share it on my hearth and soul hop highlights at a moderate life this friday because the recipe looks lovely and the read is divine! Thanks so much for linking to the hearth and soul hop and I hope to see loads more lovely stories and recipes from you! All the best! Alex@amoderatelife

  7. Paige-LOL! I like that.

    Pam-if you can't find it, I included a link for making your own (bottom of post).

    Thanks, Debbie. Although I had a lot of trouble writing this. I wore out my backspace button!

    Joanne-haven't had a lot of Cajun or Creole food? Watcha waitin' for, cher? Get to it!

    Thanks, Kim. You are always so sweet.

    Alex-thanks for following. And for featuring me! That's exciting. I decided to join Hearth and Soul b/c I'm trying to use fewer processed foods and I figured this would motivate me.

  8. Hi this is Nicole from Colie’s Kitchen I just discovered your blog on and wanted to drop by and say hi. I am now a new follower. I would love to have you stop by Colie’s Kitchen if you get a chance. www.colieskitchen.com

  9. Stephen...2/06/2011

    Now THIS.....is my kinda recipe....one with a great backstory! Thanks for taking the time to make this so wonderful for all the rest of us. PAM...there are many guides on the net for preparing your own pickle meat as I'm quite sure you have discovered by now.


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