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The Legend of The Petticoat Rebellion

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Madame Langlois' Legacy



There is on the globe one single spot, the possessor of which is our natural and habitual enemy. It is New Orleans …”

Letter of Thomas Jefferson to Robert R. Livingston (the U.S. Minister to France), April 18, 1802.
On the necessity of acquiring New Orleans from France.

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Madame Langlois' Legacy
A Culinary History

1718 - 1803

In 1704, the Bishop of Quebec dispatched 23 young women to the Mobile colony to provide wives for its men. The colonists were exultant, but the women quickly showed a distaste for Indian maize, or corn, and threatened to leave the colony unless they could have French bread. Bienville's gifted housekeeper, Madame Langlois, took the lady rebels aside and introduced them to the secrets of grinding meal for cornbread and preparing hominy and grits and succotash, and the rebellion was soon abandoned. (Leavitt, p.17)

In 1722, eighty-eight women of varying virtue were shipped to New Orleans to marry the male settlers and explorers. They arrived on John Laws promise of a land of plenty to set up households and raise families. After a few years of dealing with the terrible food resources of the colony . . .

A group of about fifty young wives marched on {Bienvilles} mansion, carrying the weapons of their craft in their hands. They vigorously pounded frying pans with metal spoons and caused quite a hubbub. They protested to the governor that they were tired of a diet of corn meal mush and that something had to be done to improve the food situation. Fortunately the governor had the solution to the problem right under his own roof. His housekeeper, a Madame Langlois, had been among the Choctaw Indians and had learned from their squaws many of their cooking secrets: how to make lye hominy and grits; how to use powdered sassafras (file) and make gumbo; how to make corn bread, cook rice, and make jambalaya; how to cook fish, crabs, shrimp, crawfish, and wild game. Bienville put the petticoat rebels under the charge of Madame Langlois, who opened a cooking class and taught them all these bright new ideas. Creole cookery was off to a rousing start.

Howard Mitcham. Creole Gumbo andAll That Jazz, 1978, p. 4.