Uncommon Cuisine On the Mississippi

Cooking in the Illinois country was region-specific and thus unique, and has been described as the art form of the Frenchwomen of the Illinois. Beef, pork and domestic fowl were the meats of choice, while Ste. Genevieve hams also became famous. Wheat bread was preferred over corn bread. Creoles grew a variety of vegetables and their orchards produced apples and pears which brought great profits when shipped downriver to New Orleans. Brackenridge wrote that “[T]he table was provided in a very different manner from that of the generality of Americans. With the poorest French peasant, cookery is an art well understood. They make great use of vegetables, and prepared in a manner to be wholesome and palatable. Instead of roast and fried, they had soups and fricassees, and gumbos (a dish supposed to be derived from Africans), and a variety of other dishes.” The unique cuisine of the region was based on the availability of certain types of food, and absorbed African and American Indian influences.

Ste. Geneviève National Historical Park

Last updated: February 19, 2020