Steaming the Mississippi Aboard the Natchez
SUNDAY WAS A BEAUTIFUL DAY to take a riverboat cruise on the Mississippi River. We boarded an authentic steam-driven paddlewheel boat.
Onboard we were served brunch with authentic New Orleans cuisine.
~ Chicken and Sausage Gumbo, made with a traditional Louisiana roux and served with rice
~ Grillades and Grits, pronounced “Gree-yahds,” a traditional Creole dish with braised beef and homemade brown gravy over stone-ground “corn” cooked to a smooth texture
~ Pain Perdu is made with thick cut bread, soaked in sweet custard mix, cinnamon swirl, and whipped cream topping, the French cuisine of America’s “French Toast.”
~ Creole Creamed Spinach with mozzarella, parmesan, and cream cheese
~ Bananas Foster is a New Orleans original! Freshly sliced bananas sauteed in butter, brown sugar, vanilla,cinnamon, and rum. Served warm atop vanilla ice cream. Yum!
~ White Chocolate Bread Pudding is a soufflé of local Leidenheimer French bread in a rich custard with a decadent white chocolate sauce. Delish!
More About the Riverboat Natchez
SHE’S THE NINTH STEAMER to bear the name NATCHEZ. Her predecessor, Natchez VI, raced the ROBERT E. LEE in the most famous steamboat race of all time. Even today, the Natchez is proudly the undisputed champion of the Mississippi, never having been beaten in a race. In many ways, she’s the best of her line.
It’s a line that follows the course of river history, from the placid antebellum plantation era through the turbulence of the Civil War to the Gay Nineties and, ultimately, the new millennium.
When the New Orleans Steamboat Company launched the Natchez in 1975, they revived more than a famous name. They created one of only two true steam-powered sternwheelers plying the Mississippi today. The NATCHEZ combines the best of contemporary construction, safety, and comfort standards with all the authenticity and style of her classic steamboat gothic predecessors.
The Natchez resembles the old sternwheelers VIRGINIA and HUDSON in her profile and layout. Her powerful steam engines were built for US Steel Corporation’s sternwheeler Clairton in 1925. Her genuine copper and steel steam whistle is a treasured antique. Her copper bell, smelted from 250 silver dollars to produce a purer tone, once graced the SS JD AYRES. Her thirty-two-note steam calliope was custom crafted and modeled after the music makers of the Gilded Age.
True to tradition in every detail, boarding the Natchez makes you feel as if you have entered another era. The captain barks his orders through an old-time hand-held megaphone. The calliope trills a melody into the air while the great wheel, 25 tons of white oak, churns the heavy waters of the Mississippi. You soon find yourself slipping into a sense of the old, vast, and timeless river.
As the Natchez glides past the French Quarter and through one of the world’s most active ports, you begin to understand the magic of the experience. For all its history and romance, the excitement of riding a steamboat is as accurate and rich and genuine now as it was a century ago.
Present-day Steamboat Races on the Mississippi River
STEAMBOAT RACES are as old as steamboats themselves. The history of the Natchez boats from the first to the ninth in the lineage includes many steamboat races. The latest race took place on Valentine’s Day 2003, with the Natchez paired against the American Queen Steamboat, one of the fleets of the Delta Queen Steamboat Company. It was a charity race with proceeds going toward the renovation of St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans.
At this time, there is not a date set for the next race, but please check for updates later in the year!
New Orleans Remedy for an Upset Stomach
“I CAN’T BELIEVE I ATE THE WHOLE THING.” After indulging in all of these new foods historic to New Orleans, I developed an upset stomach. Our server said she had just the remedy for it.
A bar is probably the last place you’d think to look for relief from nausea. Still, many people swear by five or six drops of cocktail bitters mixed into a cold glass of tonic, club soda, or ginger ale.
Most common bitters brands contain a blend of herbs such as cinnamon, fennel, mint, and ginger. These ingredients may be why bitters help ease nausea in some people.
She brought me a Sazerac made with New Orleans’ Peychaud Bitters in seltzer. She told me to sip it slowly. And, it worked! Not only was it a pleasant flavor but it cured my nausea. I found it for sale on Amazon so the next time I’m nauseated, I’m going to try a Sazerac.
Peychaud’s Bitters, The Original Formula
THE CREATION OF SAZERAC has been credited to Antoine Amédée Peychaud, a Creole who owned an apothecary. He emigrated to New Orleans from the West Indies and set up shop in the French Quarter in the early 19th century. He was known to dispense a proprietary mix of aromatic bitters from an old family recipe. Peychaud used it for stomach upset.
Later he served his bitters in seltzer to sell as a soft drink. But eventually, Peychaud’s bitters became the base of the Sazerac cocktail.
The Sazerac is a local variation of a cognac or whiskey cocktail initially from New Orleans. It is named for the Sazerac de Forge et Fils brand of cognac brandy that served as its original main ingredient. The drink is traditionally a combination of cognac or rye whiskey, absinthe, Peychaud’s Bitters, and sugar. However, bourbon whiskey is sometimes substituted for the rye, and Herbsaint is sometimes substituted for the absinthe.
Some claim it is the oldest American cocktail dating back to pre–Civil War New Orleans. American instances of published usage of the word cocktail to describe a mixture of spirits, bitters, and sugar traced to the dawn of the 19th century.
According to legend, the drink was served in the large end of an egg cup called a coquetier in French. The Americanized mispronunciation resulted in the name cocktail.
How to Make a Sazerac Cocktail
A RECIPE FOR THE SAZERAC COCKTAIL from the Sazerac Bar in The Roosevelt New Orleans Hotel.
- Base alcohol: Cognac
- Served straight up; without ice
- Garnished with lemon peel
- Served in an old fashioned glass
- Ingredients: 5 cl cognac, 1 cl absinthe, 1 sugar cuber, 2 dashed Peychaud’s Bitters
- Rinse an old-fashioned chilled glass with absinthe, add crushed ice, and set it aside. Stir in the remaining ingredients over ice and set it aside. Discard the ice and any absinthe from the glass, and strain the drink into the glass. Add the lemon peel for garnish.
- Typically served after dinner.
- Note: The original recipe changed in the latter part of the 19th century. Rye whiskey was substituted when cognac became difficult to obtain.
Tabasco Sauce Originates in Louisiana
THE STORY OF TABASCO dates back to the pre-Civil War era with a New Orleans plantation owner named Maunsel White. Mr. White was famous for the food served at his sumptuous dinner parties. Mr. White’s table drew inspiration from European, Caribbean, and Cajun sources. But one of his favorite sauces was of his own devising, made from a pepper named for its origins in the Mexican state of Tabasco. White added it to various dishes and bottled it for his guests.
To distribute his sauce, Edmund McIlhenny initially obtained unused cologne bottles from a New Orleans glass supplier. On his death in 1890, McIlhenny was succeeded by his eldest son, John Avery McIlhenny. He resigned after only after a few years to join Theodore Roosevelt’s 1st US Volunteer Cavalry Regiment, better known as, the Rough Riders.
I’VE PROBABLY OVERWHELMED you with history today, but if you know me, then you know I love history. That’s enough history for today. Tomorrow I’ll share more with you.
Debora Ragland Buerk
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