Jambalaya posted for Donald Tucker

Jambalaya: “The word is said to be a compound word of Jambon from the French meaning ham, and Aya meaning rice in Africa, as there were many slaves in the Louisiana at the time. Common belief is that it originated from the Spanish Paella, which has also transformed in the United States to a dish called Spanish rice.” (Kitchen Project)  Although the exact origins of the dish are not known for sure, the most commonly held belief is that it was the result of a variety of ethnicities mixing in the port of New Orleans.  Stanley Dry noted that the earliest known recipes were found in two cookbooks from the city published in 1885. Unfortunately it was not common for cooks to add a place and date to recipes during this era, so it is impossible to know if any pre-dated these recipes. (Veetee Blog UK)

New Orleans is famous for many different one-pot meals such as etouffee and gumbo; and jambalaya is one of the main ones that come to mine.  It is primarily a rice dish with a variety of smoked meats, (ham, chicken, sausage and seafood) seasonings and spices usually to the liking of the one preparing the dish.  Some versions of the recipe for jambalaya have even used boar, turkey, venison, oysters, duck and alligator.  It was created by those living in the Creole and Cajun regions of Louisiana with a variety of versions based on the region.  The region also played a part in the color of the jambalaya where the Creoles made it with a red hue and Cajuns would have a brown-earthy color. There can be as many versions of Jambalaya as there are cooks that prepare it.  Jambalaya like gumbo came about through necessity of having something to eat.  Whatever ingredient was readily available for a meal it was thrown in the pot and became jambalaya in this instance?  Many living in the lower bayou areas used game from those waters.

To get simple idea of what it takes to make the basic recipe for jambalaya it starts with a cast-iron pot, the tool of choice for most cooks preparing this dish.  “We don’t know when cast-iron was first used, but it has held a revered place in household kitchens for centuries” especially for a one-pot meal like jambalaya. (Hobby Farms Johnson)   The “trinity” stock was prepared which are celery, onion and bell pepper.  The choice of meat for the jambalaya is prepared and lastly the rice is added.

Jambalaya today is still a favorite in the state of Louisiana and a big part of family and social gatherings.  There are annual contests, cook-offs and a festival in many parts of Louisiana celebrating this dish.  The festival is held in the city of Gonzales, which was proclaimed as the “Jambalaya capital of the world” by the governor of the state in 1968.  This cheap, filling and delicious dish called Jambalaya is a unique and uniting dish that is likely to be enjoyed by generations to come. (Veetee)

In my house jambalaya is a happy dish, a dish that is not on the table every week like chicken and mashed potatoes.  Jambalaya is a dish that is rarely made, maybe 3 or 4 times per year if that.  I like preparing it for house parties.  If you told folks you were preparing jambalaya or gumbo you can guarantee that they would show up for the party.  So with all that said I hope that after tasting jambalaya it will make its way into your homes and kitchen tables. Enjoy!

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