Amelia Durand, originally from Mansura (and I’m pretty sure now the communications director with a winery in California) is featured on the Food Network series Barefoot Contessa.

Ina, “The Barefoot Contessa”

The episode entitled “Cooking with Rice” features Durand’s family recipe for Jambalaya.  It’s nice to see the Central Louisiana version of this Louisiana favorite getting some good press.   Durand is the daughter of the former Mayor of Mansura and her family owns and operates Durand’s Food Center (by the way, if you’ve never explored on a short road trip, probably the best hog’s head cheese and boudin can be found around Mansura — I recommend Lonas Kelong’s (Kelong’s Grocery on Main Street), Juneau’s Specialty meats (expensive but good – across from the Casino), and T-Jin’s in Cottonport (especially for Hog’s Head Cheese — but call first before making the drive as they don’t make it everyday).

In case you didn’t know, the CenLa versions of most traditional Louisiana foods are quite different from the South Louisiana and New Orleans versions.  There are a couple of reasons for this.  First is the type of terrain.  When it comes to a combination of growing vegetables, grazing livestock, and fishing and hunting, Central Louisiana has about the best land and weather in the entire state.  This means the people who settled here had access to considerably more ingredients than their cousins in the swamp.  Also, even though various Louisiana staples can be traced to either Cajun or Creole or Isleño (look it up) roots, the versions we know today are rarely the original pure forms.  Also, many of them like Gumbo and Jambalaya were sort of accidental to begin with.  You actually find Jambalaya in many cultures (as fried rice in Asia, as Paella in Spain and Latin America, and as various regional varieties in France).  It was simply a way to stretch leftovers and the various bits and pieces left in the pantry.  Poor food.  Interestingly, the word boudin in much of France actually refers to any food (often in a casing like ours) in which leftovers are mixed with rice and recooked.

Our native Central Louisiana versions of things like Jambalaya, Gumbo, e’touffe (it means ‘of the pot’ basically Cajun French for stew), creole, boudin, etc are really about the earliest example of ‘Fusion Cuisine’ you can find.  We were a hundred years ahead of the popularity curve on this one (sorry Emeril).  CenLa food is like CenLa culture and CenLa highways.  It’s a mix of everything that makes Louisiana great.  Our cuisine has its roots in the Prairie Cajun traditions of northern Acadiana, the Appalachian country food of North Louisiana (remember the area above Alexandria and Natchitoches was settled almost entirely by free land programs the US government instituted to bring in “Americans” from Kentucky and Tennessee to balance out the French/Spanish/Catholic established population of the state whom they feared would rebel), traditional planter cuisine from Mississippi, a bit of Texas, some traditional New Orleans Bourbon cooking (especially around Alexandria and remember New Orleans french settlers (many of whom first came our way) were not Cajuns and were in fact from an entirely different region of France), and of course some good local soul food from our black residents.  It’s a big mix, a lot of people and cultures, and a lot of flavors.  But that, is what CenLA is all about, and that’s wonderful fusion that is our Louisiana Cuisine.

Certainly the differences aren’t huge.  The main thing is we use more and usually better (perhaps I should say, more expensive or what would have been considered better way back when simply due to the higher availability of culinary resources in the region) ingredients.  And, it’s usually spicy (as in having lots of spices in it) yet not overwhelmingly hot and peppery (which tends to be the predominant spice in the Lafayette and Baton Rouge versions because pepper was a sturdy cheaper spice that everyone could keep back then).  The New Orleans influence usually means more vegetables and a more neutral roux or butter base.  And, our African influences generally mean that you’ll find considerably more okra (Gumbo actually is Senegalese for ‘okra’, so gumbo was originally any soup with okra in it), and more usage of meats like chicken livers and other organ meats from cattle and swine (the biggest difference between CenLa boudin and South Louisiana versions is the presence of liver in ours).

Well, check out the show if you see it.  Head down Highway 1 and taste your way around Avoyelles, and stop by Durand’s (I’m going to next time I get the chance. I’ve never had anything from there.).  Amelia’s recipe is in the link below:

9 thoughts

  1. Gumbo and Jambalaya can’t be nobody’s accident. They can’t be accidental, heavenly, and divine. Wonderful piece. I love the background information on the treasure of yall’s good food and such.

  2. That jambalaya recipe sure looks tasty. I may make some, but will use some garlic & green onion sausage that I got from Chadeaux’s in Kinder. That’ll be better than kielbasa, but a nationwide audience can’t get their hands the variety of quality smoked meats that we have down here. Too bad for them.

    Great article Lamar. I like the analysis on ingredient and locale variety. Never had thought about the why.

    1. meh…team effort.

      Mung have you tried the Richard’s green onion? Also had some of the Mac’s store brand last weekend. It’s a really good taste for a breakfast sausage.

  3. Haven’t tried Richard’s Green onion; have tried the Mac’s. Good stuff. I will use Richards/Savoie’s/Mandas in a pinch, but I usually have some trip thru South La where I keep myself stocked with quality meat from small butcher shops. e.g. I always have some Rabideaux’s andouille in the freezer for gumbo. Too hot to think about that now, but some duck & andouille gumbo is excellent when the temperature falls.

  4. See aside from what you find in Rapides and Avoyelles, I don’t tend to like most boudin. The stuff around Lafayette and Opelousas is mostly just pulled meat, rice, and pepper to me. And once you cross the Atchafalaya almost everything is Richard’s (don’t care for their boudin) versus homemade.

    I tell ya though, believe it or not the very best boudin I’ve ever had is from the Relay Station truckstop at the Frierson exit on I-49 just south of Shreveport. I’d love to find out where they actually get that stuff from. If anybody is ever going through there try it!

    And if you know who makes it PLEASE post on here!

  5. I’m so excited to see this episode of Barefoot Contessa!! My dad was from Mansura and I used to go grocery shopping at Durand’s with my grandmother Agnes LaBorde.

  6. I cherished as much as you will receive carried out proper here. The cartoon is tasteful, your authored subject matter stylish. however, you command get got an impatience over that you would like be delivering the following. unwell surely come more in the past again as exactly the same nearly very frequently inside case you defend this hike.

  7. This is for Amelia, not sure if this is correct address for her. Hey Amelia, it’s Ginger Gremillion from Bunkie. I was watching Ina today and saw you on tv and said “omg, that’s Amelia Durand from Mansura”. How r you girl? Looks like you are doing well, please text or email me if you have a moment. Would love to hear from you!

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