Red Beans & Rice Chez Pableaux

This story has been written before, but I never read it. I just know it exists. But that’s OK. I am of the firm opinion that you can never have enough written about something so beautiful as red beans and rice. The lore is that the dish became popular as a wash day meal and that wash day was usually Monday and that’s how traditions are made. It’s economical and feeds a crowd and is pretty darned easy to procure, ingredient wise, and cook, culinary wise. It’s a staple that has shaped a culture, and that culture comes back to rest on it’s timelessness every week. I spent a lot of time in New Orleans during the month of June and a friend, Pableaux Johnson, invited me over to his Monday night meal of red beans & rice, which it soon became evident was the most sought after invite in town. I was honored to go with a bottle of bourbon in hand as a house warmer, and a notebook to write some observations. Except none of the Mondays were working for my strange schedule and I inquired the heretic’s inquiry: “Can we do it on Sunday?” Pableaux made it so, but I felt like it was a little sacrosanct, this shifting of days, this bending of solid tradition. So I left my hotel on foot, bourbon in backpack, to walk through the city. I have a thing for urban hiking and this was a relatively short jaunt, and it wasn’t raining cats and dogs like the day prior where I had stood in a torrential downpour in a park, under an oak tree, wondering how wet my computer in my backpack had gotten seeing as my shirt was soaked and my socks soggy. From my hotel, the one that looks like the Deathstar near the Superdome, I meandered my way nodding to folks on front porches, stepping over cracks so as to not break my mother’s back, and finally arrived at Pableaux’s house early. Arriving early at a party is always awkward. If you hang back and wait you look like someone who the cops should be called about. If you knock early you risk finding a host in their underwear not ready for social activity. I knocked early because underwear and social awkwardness are kind of my specialty. Pableaux is a food writer. A great one. He is also a gem of a host and answered my knocks, fully clothed. We went back into his shotgun house to the kitchen, where the pressure cooker was cooling on the side porch and the rice was in a modern rice cooker. Even classic recipes can benefit from technology. We had a snort of bourbon, even at the early time that it was, it just seemed apt. We talked about food culture, NOLA, rice, cookbooks, and more specifically rice & beans. The guests arrived, and it was a wonderfully eclectic New Orleans group: 2 chefs, a musician, a librarian, a writer,…

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