For Mardi Gras, Big Jones recreated Louisiana food as it existed shortly before the interstate highway system reached Louisiana, bringing the rest of the country to its door. Of course, when Fat Tuesday is done, Lent begins, and so for Lent, chef Paul Fehribach again looks to Louisiana (logically enough given its Catholic population) but to an earlier point in time. Big Jones’ Creole Lenten Dinner, ca. 1900, draws on three fin de siècle books about Louisiana food— La Cuisine Creole by Lafcadio Hearn, who before he went to Japan was one of the first mythologizers of the New Orleans mystique; Creole Cookery by the Christian Women’s Exchange of New Orleans; and The Picayune’s Creole Cook Book. And as with the Mardi Gras meal and the Kentucky Bourbon dinner, in a city that’s consumed with Next’s historical and imaginative recreations, here’s another chef doing his own version of the same idea, much more under the radar (and thus much easier to get into).
The meal is built in accordance with the intended austerity of Lent, simple dishes of seafood and vegetables, but as Fehribach explains, in The Big Easy there’s always wiggle room:
Fasting days were often called by the Catholic church and Lent was especially significant when it came to fasting, and in ancient and medieval times the fasting was quite severe. By the dawn of the 20th century however, much of fasting was restricted to Fridays though people were encouraged to “give up” something meaningful for the full forty days as a penance. In Creole New New Orleans, however, fasting took on a much more liberal definition, with such a ubiquitous Lenten fasting dish as Gumbo z’Herbes that was ostensibly meat-free being nonetheless flavored with a ham bone. As funny as that naturally is, it speaks volumes about Creole life in New Orleans, where even during a time of fasting they found ways for extra relish.
The menu runs every night through April 10; reservations are recommended. You can find out more about the individual dishes at Big Jones’ blog, here.
A Creole Lenten Dinner, ca 1900
$25 per person, family style * Children up to age 12, $1 per year * Available 5-9 p.m. February 29-April 10
Winter Fast Day Soup, with croutons
Sally Lunn with honey marmalade
Clam fritters sauce flamande
Trout courtbouillon with boiled rice and butter beans