|Praline Sellers of Old New Orleans
|Pralinieres of old New Orleans.
|Left: In the early 1800's, Rose Nicaud
became the first coffee vendor in New
Orleans. She was a slave and
eventually bought her freedom with the
money she earned at her coffee stand
near St. Louis Cathedral. Today, in New
Orleans, there is a coffee shop named
in her honor, the Cafe Rose Nicaud. It's
located in the Faubourg Marigny area.
|Above: Seller carries basket of
products on top of her head as she
walks about selling merchandise.
|The idea for the confection that eventually became the praline traveled
with French immigrants to New Orleans well over 200 years ago. In their
original incarnation, pralines were almonds coated with boiled sugar, a
treat first concocted in the home of 17th century French diplomat Cesar du
Plessis Praslin by one of his chefs. The name "Praslin" eventually evolved
into "praline." ~ Almonds weren't generally available in Louisiana, so
pecans were substituted and cream was added (no surprise there, in New
Orleans, a recipe without either cream or butter is eyed with a certain
amount of suspicion). And, so, a delicious New Orleans tradition was born.
~ Long before the Civil War, pralines became an early entrepreneurial
endeavor for free women of color in New Orleans. An article in a 1900 Daily
Picayune paper described the pralinieres of the olden days as older black
women, who "sold pralines about the streets of the Old French Quarter,
frequently seen in Jackson Square and on Canal Street." ~ Author Lyle
Saxon in his book, "Gumbo Ya-Ya," wrote about the praline sellers
"...garbed in gingham and starched white aprons and tignons [head wraps],
fanning their candies with palmetto leaves to keep them cool and singing
out 'belles pralines' to people who passed by." ~ The "Picayune Creole
Cookbook," first published in 1901, mentions "...an old French rhyme which
has become incorporated in the banquette games of the Creole children of
New Orleans, and which runs thus: 'Soeur Rosalie au retour de matines,
Plus d'une fois lui porta, des pralines.' It referred to any sugar-coated nut,
but it was reserved for the gentle descendants of these old French
ancestral homes to evolve, from the suggestiveness of the word 'praline,'
dainty and delightful confections that have, for upwards of one hundred
and fifty years, delighted many generations in New Orleans." ~ And, now, it's
closer to 250 years...and the praline lives on!
|Sculpture of a street vendor rests,
on bench in the French Quarter.