About two years ago on this blog, I did a rhyming French food alphabet post for Bastille Day.
It was a lot of fun, and I knew I had to follow up with a “French Colonies” edition, with a focus on North America and surrounding islands: Haiti (H), Louisiana (L), and Quebec (Q). Each line is followed by the appropriate letter so you know which state, or country, created what food.
In Haiti, French foodways met African, Taíno, Spanish, and Middle Eastern ones.
In Louisiana, French foodways met West African, Spanish, Caribbean, Amerindian, German, Italian, and Irish.
In Quebec, French foodways met Irish, English, and Indigenous ones. Because Quebec has a cold climate, its signature foods have a ‘wintry’ personality: rich soups, smoked meats, and meat pies, all things you eat to stay satiated and warm in the snow when nothing is growing.
French has lots of B, C, D, G, L, and M words, and its relatives in North America and in the Caribbean are very similar. I was hard pressed to find K, N, U, W, and X food words, so I went with nearby foods or food regions for this alphabet.
A is for Andouille. It’s a spicy smoked pork sausage that’s chewy. (L)
B is for Beignets. They are fried dough squares. Once you’ve tried them, it’s hard to stay away. (L)
B is also for Bananes Foster. This sautéed banana, sugar and rum dessert gets lots of fanfare. (L)
C is for Cipalle. It’s a hearty meat pie. So try some, don’t be shy. (Q)
C is also for Callaloo. It’s a dark leafy vegetable used in side dishes for flavor, not frou frou. (H)
D is for Dieu du Ciel. It’s a brewer known for distinctive beers. (Q)
D is also for DjonDjon. It’s a black mushroom lending color and flavor to rice–‘quite a phenomenon! (H)
E is for Étouffée. It’s a seafood soup surrounding piled rice that’s great anyday. (L)
F is for Filé. It’s ground sassafras tree leaves used as an herb, without delay. (L)
G is for Gumbo. It’s an okra and seafood stew. It’s so tasty, order yours “jumbo.” (L)
G is for Gibelotte. It’s a fish and vegetable stew once tasted, cannot be forgot. (Q)
H is for Holy Trinity. It means a Cajun flavor base of green pepper, onion, and celery. What are roughly chopped flavor bases called in françoise? Why, “mirepoix!” (L)
H is for Hoppin’ John. Legend has it, it’s corruption of “pois pigeon.” It’s Lowcountry* black eyed peas, bacon, and rice gobbled up before NYD is gone. (L; South)
I is for Ivè. It means winter, a time for savoring cinnamon and anise spiced hot chocolate, or Chokola Peyi. (H)
J is for Jambalaya. It’s a spicy mixed meat, vegetable, and rice dish that can set your mouth on fire. (L)
J is for Joumou. It means pumpkin or squash, an excellent soup base, who knew? (H)
K is for Kelowna. It’s town amongst vineyards and orchards in western Canada. (C)
K is for Kenep***. It’s a green cousin of a lychee fruit, eaten sunset and sun-up. (H)
L is for Lagniappe. It’s something extra, given sans flap. (L)
L is also for Labrapen. It’s a seeded breadfruit to be enjoyed again and again. (H)
M is for Maque Chou. It’s corn kernels, tomatoes, and spices, isn’t that cool? (Q)
M is also for Mayi Moulen. It’s a cornmeal dish that isn’t fooling. (H)
N is for Natchitoches. It’s a handheld meat, vegetable and spice turnover for snacking, if you wish. (L)
O is for Oysters. It’s fried shellfish in a po’ boy sandwich. Have an Abita to quench your thirst. (it’s “ersters” in L; Harry Connick Jr. showcased his NOLA roots in his version of “Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off.”)
O is also for Oysters Bienville. These shellfish are cooked with shrimp, sherry, garlic, and bechamel sauce on top, if you will.
P is for Poutine. Eating too many french fries smothered in gravy and cheese won’t keep you lean. (Q)
P is for Pistolettes. It’s a beignet stuffed with seafood casserole you won’t forget. (L)
P is for Pickliz. They are fermented vegetables made ahead and served with ease. (H)
Q is for Québécois. It means food of Quebec, in all its je ne sais quoi. (Q)
Q is also for Queues de Castor (“Beaver Tail”). It’s a flat wide pastry with cinnamon and sugar allure. (Q)
R is for Roux. It’s a fat and flour base for sauces, enhancing flavor right on cue.
R is for Remoulade**. It’s a spicy sauce offered for your applause. (Q)
R is for Riz DjonDjon. It’s a rice and black mushroom dish that doesn’t last long. (H)
S is for Soupe aux Pois. It’s a yellow pea soup flavored with ham hock. Vóila! (Q)
T is for Tourtière. It’s a meat pie with spicy flair. (Q)
T is also for Tassot. It’s spicy fried strips of meat; it could be seasoned with cayenne sauce, like Tabasco. (H)
U is for the UGLI. It’s a large, teardrop citrus fruit from Jamaica, which neighbors Haiti. Could they grow these tangelos in Haiti? I would think so, but you might not agree. (H)
V is for Viande. It means smoked meats that blow expectations and beyond. (Q)
W is for Watercress. It’s a leafy vegetable fixture in salads and soups, that adds finesse. (H)
X is for Xavier. This consommé soup blends simple ingredients (stock, eggs, and herbs) with flair.
Y is for Yogout. It means yogurt, which is often blended with fruit. (H)
Z is for Zaboca. It means avocado, a vegetable with fresh aroma. (H)
*Lowcountry means coastal South Carolina and Georgia in the USA, not to be confused with Europe’s “Low Countries” = Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg (Benelux) in Europe. “Hoppin’ John” has many interpretations around the South and the Caribbean, changing out the beans used to suit tastes or availability. Hoppin’ John is eaten with collards on New Years Day for luck and good fortune the rest of the year.
***=keneps are also called ginips and chennets around the world.
Uncornered Market blog, From Pwason to Pikliz (a post on Haitian food)