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Entry from March 12, 2007
Jambalaya

Jambalaya is a Louisiana dish that is sometimes brought into Texas by the citizens of that state. Jambalaya features meat, vegetables, and lots of rice.

The origin (and the spelling) of the word “jambalaya” is in dispute, but see the citations below.


Wikipedia: Jambalaya
Jambalaya (pronounced /dʒɑmbəˈlaɪə/) or or , is a Louisiana Cajun or Creole dish.

Jambalaya is traditionally made in one pot, with meats and vegetables, and is completed by adding rice. There are two primary methods of making jambalaya.

The first and most common is Creole jambalaya (also called “red jambalaya"). First add the meat, usually chicken and sausage (such as Andouille or chorizo), then add vegetables and tomatoes to cook, then add seafood, adding rice and stock in equal proportions at the very end. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 30-60 minutes, stirring infrequently.

The second style is Cajun jambalaya which contains no tomatoes. The meat is browned in a cast-iron pot. The bits that stick to the bottom of the pot are what give a true Cajun jambalaya its brown color. Next, add a little vegetable oil, if there is not enough fat in the pot, and the trinity (onions, celery, and green bell pepper). Sauté until soft and then add stock, seasonings, and return the chicken or pork and sausage to the pot. Simmer, covered, for at least an hour. Bring to a boil, add rice to the pot, cover, and let simmer over very low heat for at least 1/2 hour. Resist the urge to remove the lid and stir. After a minimum of 1/2 hour, check if rice is cooked.

There is also a third method which is less common. Cook all ingredients separately from the rice, adding rice cooked in a savory stock, then blending the ingredients to serve. This is called “white Jambalaya.”

Jambalaya is considered somewhat similar to a simple-to-prepare, yet filling, casserole by most Louisianans, while gumbos, étouffées and creoles are considered dishes more difficult to perfect.

Most often, a long grain white rice is used in making jambalaya, which is mixed with the vegetables and meat, with numerous variations upon that central theme.

Jambalaya is differentiated from other traditional ethnic Louisiana dishes such as gumbo, étouffée, and creoles by the way in which the rice is included. In the latter dishes, the rice is cooked separatedly and is served as a bed upon which the main dish is presented. In the usual method for preparing Jambalaya, a rich stock is created from vegetables, meat, and seafood. Raw rice is then added to the broth and the flavor is aborbed by the grains as the rice cooks.

History
Jambalaya originates from Louisiana’s rural, low-lying swamp country where crawfish, shrimp, oysters, alligator, duck, turtle, boar, venison and other wild meats were readily available. Any variety or combination of meats, including chicken or turkey may be used to make jambalaya. The Gulf Coast area’s geographical basin (including Mississippi, Texas, Alabama, and Louisiana) also provided an exceptionally nutritive soil and conducive environment in which rice flourished. Thus the combination of the two foods was quite natural.

The first printed reference to “jambalaya” occurred in 1872, and the 1900 edition of “The Picayune’s Creole Cook Book” called it a “Spanish-Creole dish.” Jambalaya is also very similar to the Spanish dish Paella.

The origin of the name “jambalaya” is uncertain, and there are many theories surrounding its etymology. Prominent among them is the combination of the French “jambon” meaning ham, the French article “à la” meaning “in the style of” and “ya”, thought by some to be of West African origin meaning rice, though “ya-ya” is also an old Creole patois phrase meaning “everybody’s talking at once.”

(Oxford English Dictionary)
jambalaya
orig. U.S.
[Louisiana Fr., f. Provençal jambalaia.]
A dish composed of rice together with shrimps, chicken, turkey, etc. Also fig.
1872 New Orleans Times 28 June, Those who brought victuals, such as gumbo, jambalaya, etc., all began eating and drinking

May 1849, The American Agriculturalist, pg. 161, col. 1:
Louisiana Muffin Bread.—Take two pints of flour and one and a half of sifted corn meal, two spoonfuls of butter, one spoonful of yeast, and two eggs, and mix and bake for breakfast. It is good.
Hopping Johnny (jambalaya).—Take a dressed chicken, or full-grown fowl, if not old, and cut all the flesh into small pieces, with a sharp knife. Put this into an iron pot, with a large spoonful of butter and one onion chopped fine; step and stir it till it is brown; then add water enough to cover it, and put in some parsley, spices, and red pepper pods, chopped fine, and let it boil till you think it is barely done, taking care to stir it often, so as not to burn it; then stir in as much rice, when cooked, as will absorb all the water; stir and boil it a minute or so, and then let it stand and simmer until the rice is cooked, and you will have a most delicious dish of palatable, digestible food.
(...)
SOLON ROBINSON.
Alabama, March 25th, 1849.

Chronicling America
14 September 1851, Le Pionnier de l’Assomption (Napoleonville, LA), pg. 2, col. 1:
Oui, mon jambalaya est un fi dei commis!

5 August 1852, The Daily Picayune (New Orleans, LA), “City Intelligence,” pg. 2, col. 5:
A JAMBALAYA.—A police jambalaya at that! In the Creole culinary dictionary, a jambalaya is a very pleasant dish, concocted of any quantity of rice, a smaller quantity of red beans, specimens of the sausage manufacturer’s art, and a small ocean of boiling lard, in which this mixture is cooked. The police dish, of the kinds we treat of in a fanciful way, is as follows: ...

Google Books
The New Household Receipt-Book
By Sarah Josepha Hale
London, UK: T. Nelson and Sons
1854
Pg. 515:
Jambalaya.—Cut up, and stew till half done, a fowl, brown or white; then add rice, and a piece of ham well minced; this must be left on the fire till the rice has taken up the liquid; the roundness of the grain must be preserved, yet the dish must not be hard and dry. It is served in a heap, on a flat dish. Pepper and salt the only seasoning.

Chronicling America
8 January 1870, Le Louisianais (Convent, LA), pg. 1, col. 6:
Nui mieux qu’eux ne sait preparer un “jambalaya.”

14 January 1874, The Daily Picayune (New Orleans, LA), [g. 1, col. 6:
JAMBOLAYA.
A Journey Among Objects Sentimental and Otherwise.
All Sorts of Things.


Chronicling America
12 August 1874, The Louisiana Democrat (Alexandria, LA), pg. 2, col. 3:
Dave Young, the big buck nigger, beat Cicero, the muck negro, for temporary chairman of the Jambolaya Convention, in New Orleans.

4 July 1875, New-Orleans (LA) Times, supplement, pg. 2:
Jam-ba-la-yah.
—NOTE.—“Jam-ba-laya” is a favorite dish of the regular old Creole cuisine. It is composed first, of rice; then, large red beans; then, rice again; then, smoked sausages; then more rice; then, ham; then, red peppers; rice again; then chicken; more rice; then oysters; condiments a discretion; boil all together—and eat. You’ll be happy.

Maj. Wharton, of the Orleanian, has adopted the above title for his column of odd paragraphs, and has given the recipe to indicate the characters of the literary dish to be served up as an olla prodrida (sic).

We have seen it spelled in French jumbliade; but the dish is of Indian origin; nearly all of the old travelers describe it. It was originally made of zizania aquatica, or wild rice, one of the native cereals of America, and of several varieties of beans or frijoles as the Mexican Indians call them.

The above spelling is a bold effort in the phonetic direction, but does not quite come up to the popular pronunciation; we would spell it Jom-ba-ly-ee-yah.

To show that the Orleanian’s recipe is not a fixed one, but that it is variable to suit circumstances we will give our first introduction to this noted dish.

In January, 1844, a party of twelve or fourteen of us had camped on Grand River for several weeks hunting in the swamps of Western Louisiana; one half the party were Creoles, the other Americans with two mulattos who though slaves, stood on their hunter’s rights and social equality and would cook only when it came to their turns in regular rotation.

it came out turn to cook and jombalyeeyah was voted as the next dish. It was night, and the dish must be ready before the day light. Under the instruction of an experienced creole, we began preparations at once, to make a dish we had never heard of before.

A half gallon of washed rice was put into the largest camp kittle, and with sufficient water to set to boiling, after a while, slices of fat pickled pork were put in, at intervals, half fried pieces of bear meat, venison and ham were dropped in and well stirred; then a loggerhead turtle, and by and by three owls, tow wild ducks, a half dozen squirrels and five or six small cat fish with broken biscuit were put in, with an abundance of garlic onions, rd and bleck pepper, salt and leaves of sweet bay, for a high seasoning. A piece of alligator tail had been subscribed by one of the party but was indignantly rejected.

After thorough cooking the dish was served at early dawn, just as three visitors, who came down the river in a skiff, were called in to take breakfast. We have received many compliments in our day, but none were ever more deserved or more grateful to our feelings, than the manner in which our first jam-ba-ly-ee-yah was gobbled up and praised by those hungry hunters, without regard to race, color or previous conditions.

As the host of the day, we served all to their hearts’ or stomachs’ contents, and then thought to try our own teeth on some owl, but found that it had all disappeared--not a vestige of three owls left.

Google Books
22 July 1875, The Cultivator & Country Gentleman, pg. 455, col. 2:
Jombalyeeyah.—The Orleanian gives the following receipt for this favorite Louisiana Creole dish:

It is composed first, of rice; then large red (Col. 3—ed.) beans; then rice again; then smoked sausages; then more rice; then ham; then red peppers; rice again; then chicken; more rice; then oysters; condiments a discretion; boil all together. You’ll be happy.

The New-Orleans Cooperative News makes the dish as follows:

A half gallon of washed rice is put into a large camp kettle, and with sufficient water set to boiling. After a while slices of fat pickled pork are put in; at intervals, half fried pieces of bear meat, venison and ham are dropped in and well stirred; then a loggerhead turtle, and by and by three owls, two wild ducks, a half dozen squirrels, and five or six small cat fish with broken biscuit, are put in, with an abundance of garlic onions, red and black pepper, salt and leaves of sweet bay, for a high seasoning; the whole thoroughly cooked and eaten cold.

30 September 1975, New-Orleans (LA) Times, “An Olla Padrida,” pg. 8, col. 6:
All these dishes resemble the celebrated Louisiana Jombalyeah.

Making of America
Louisiana As It Is
by Daniel Dennett
New Orleans: “Eureka” Press
1876
Pg. 236: 
We found them preparing their dinner, which invariably consists of water hens, or poule d’eaux, and boiled rice, highly seasoned and called jombalyeeah, and a pot of boiled....
Pg. 238:
Then comes the jombalyeeyah and the coffee....

Making of America
January 1893, Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, “The Old Way to Dixie” by Julian Ralph, pg. 171:
“It’s jambullade. Dey done make it ob rice, tomatoes, and brekfus’ bacon or ham; but ef dey put in oysters place obde ham, it’s de fines’ in de lan’.”

Making of America
New Orleans As It Was: Episodes of Louisiana Life
by Henry C. Castellanos
New Orleans: L. Graham Co.
1905 [c1895]
Pg. 156:
A plate of gombo file, a dish of jambalaya, of sagamite, a peculiar preparation of corn, a chunk of salted meat, flanked by a salad, constituted their usual day’s meal.

Google Books
Creolization in the Americas
Edited by David Buisseret and Steven G. Reinhardt
College Station: Texas A&M Press
2000
Pg. 46:
The elusive origins of another spicy, rice-based dish, jambalaya, have led one folklorist to suggest that a creolization of the French jambon, “ham,” and the Choctaw falaya, “long,” went into naming this meat- stretching meal.

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • Monday, March 12, 2007 • Permalink


Thank you for this excellent research, and congrats on discovering previously unknown early references to Jambalaya. Your work was invaluable to me in writing my article on Jambalaya which appeared in Petits Propos Culinaires #84.

In the spirit of your page, I have uncovered many additional early references, and produced a web page with a full chronology of jambalaya sources. You and your readers may find it useful. It can be found at http://www.sigal.org/CulinaryHistory/Jambalaya/Jambalaya.htm.

Andrew

Posted by Andrew Sigal  on  05/16  at  06:45 PM

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