Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Treme Culinary Online Exhibit, Coming Soon!

On cold Chicago winter nights, where I am originally from, former New Orleanians in my Southside neighborhood would cook up a pot of gumbo and talk about days gone by in their native land and complain about the quality of seafood in Chicago. To make gumbo, with all its ingredients was hard in itself, coming from a red meat packing industrialized city as Chicago. New Orleanians could only find a fishery way out in the boondocks where they had to buy overpriced, unsatisfying seafood and frozen andouille sausage. But what were their options?, not much. For us Chicagoans, especially those of us who grew up around New Orleanians who fled Storyville and then later Katrina, frozen gumbo in a bag was a treat but to them it was a saddening reality that they were far away from home. We would watch them with envy, wishing that they would take us into their kitchens to teach us their Creole & Cajun food majic while we smelled their warm spicy food as it traveled from door to door.

Some time later, I was accepted as a 3 month intern at the Southern Food & Beverage Museum where I am currently interning while I pursue my Master's degree in Museum Studies at the University of Toronto. I jumped at the offer. So when the director, Liz Williams, gave me one of my first assignments; to help collect and plan an online exhibit of the culinary memories and traditions of the Treme neighborhood, I was thrilled to be able to work with a community that embodies so much history and culinary feats and probably have family in my Southside Chicago neighborhood.

So far, I have reached out to various members of the Treme community but I am hoping that as many as possible communicate with me so I can make sure that their culinary memories become part of what I know will be an amazing online exhibit to celebrate the culinary history of Treme. We do have some previous research done by Bethany Bultman where she researched and interviewed Italians and African-American former residents of Treme. However, we still need more to contribute. So, if you are a former resident or resident of Treme and have any culinary memories, family recipes, and/or would like to be recorded please contact me. Also, if you are a scholar or writer on Treme your participation in this project would be greatly appreciated.

*Tremé is one of the oldest neighborhoods in New Orleans. It was a Mecca for free people of color, Creoles, African-Americans, Sicilians, Caribbeans and Caucasians. It is also the home of the historical Congo Square, Storyville red-light district and Jazz. For more information on the history and culture of the Treme neighborhood, watch a film documentary called Fauborg Tremé: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans which was produced by Dawn Logsdon & Lolis Elie and look for an upcoming HBO series called Treme which will be based on Post-Katrina and the residents who live there.