The French first colonized New Orleans in the early 1700’s. The area was first used as a shipping port, and to this day remains the third largest port in the United States. The French built the very first cathedral on the continent nearly 300 years ago in New Orleans. When Napoleon got into financial strife, he sold the whole territory to the Spanish. Not many people realize the Spanish have had a tremendous impact on the culture. For instance, the so-called “French Quarter” was burned to the ground, for the most part, and was rebuilt by the Spanish. Consequently, what most people take for granted as French architecture is really Spanish. Of course, Spain ran into money trouble, and sold it all back to the French, who ran into more money problems, and sold it to the new and expanding United States of America. New Orleans is synonymous with a few things. Food is a religion there. Music is another. Both of these are lubricated by copious amounts of booze. C’mon, New Orleans is Mardi Gras, Bourbon Street, Jazz Fest, The Big Easy itself. There simply isn’t anywhere else like it in the whole world. Reading about it could never give you the real impression. It must be experienced first hand. The river boats and ships plying the mighty Mississippi, a Hurricane at Pat O’Brien’s, eating decadently and often, the vibe, the music…
New Orleans IS the “Birthplace of Jazz“. Louis Armstrong was born in New Orleans in 1901, and grew up in the city. His early career, as a young teen, was playing in the many bordellos around town. Jazz, basically, began in whorehouses, and at the time was considered the devils music. New Orleans, Louisiana, is on the Mississippi river. Mississippi Delta Blues began and developed a mere 45 minute drive from the Big Easy, and has certainly played a part in the musical culture of the city since the early days. The state of Louisiana, having been settled by both French colonist, and French outcasts from Nova Scotia fleeing the British developed a unique culture – Acadian or “Cajun” as it is known now. Zydeco music, a French patois lyric accompanied by piano accordion, washboard and spoon, fiddle, and other homemade instruments, developed over years and years. It is unique, and although it’s style is rarely emulated, it’s origins are uniquely and truly Louisiana. With the Spanish influence mentioned previously, it is easy to understand that Latin music is often heard as well. It is not a very well known fact that New Orleans enjoys a rather interesting, if not geographically accurate title, as the “Northernmost city of the Caribbean”. This is due to the fact that as a major port during the slave trade, a great many African men, women, and children were brought to New Orleans. The Mardi Gras tradition that exist in New Orleans also exist all over the Caribbean, and in Brazil. Reggae is a music type that you will encounter, as well as Soul and Funk if you wander New Orleans long enough. Although New Orleans itself is mainly Catholic, the good feeling, old time religion of the Black population of the south has not been lost. Gospel is a powerful spiritual influence in the New Orleans music scene ( the “Gospel Brunch” being INCREDIBLY popular). With all of this blending going on, we should not forget that New Orleans has formed its very own musical style over the years. This New Orleans Original Music includes artist such as Professor Long Hair, the Meters, Ernie K-Doe, Dr. John, Fats Domino, Ellis, Branford, and Wynton Marsalis, The Neville Brothers, Harry Connick jr. , and many, many more.
And that’s just the music – the food is another story!
As mentioned earlier, food is tantamount to religion in New Orleans. People will discuss, over dinner, where they should dine for breakfast or lunch the following day. Chefs are revered at the same level as any other celebrity. And if the Chef is the pope, and the restaurants the temples of worship, then the bartender is the priest at the confessional, dispensing absolution on the rocks, with a twist. Cajun and Creole cuisine is unique in all the world. Cajun food is the result of French provincial cooking making use of the local ingredients to be found in the marshes, bayous, and swamps of rural Louisiana. Creole cuisine is a result of first French, and then Spanish cooking styles, being “tweaked” by the Negro slaves, who did most of the cooking. It too was influenced greatly by the readily available produce, and fish and game.