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Bernadette Troxclair

Taken by Ray Baker of Roving Photography

In honor of Mother’s Day, this post will be about a certain mother, Bernadette Troxclair, who inspired one of our restaurants here in Gonzales, LA: Bernadette’s Restaurant. This post features an excerpt from The Cabin Cook Book. Bernadette’s was inspired by the famous cooking of Bernadette Troxclair, Al Robert’s godfather’s mother, the greatest gourmet chef that Joel Robert (Al’s son) has ever known. Bernadette’s the fine-dining establishment on the grounds of The Cabin Restaurant. Enjoy!

On this Christmas Day of 2010 I make a gift to you of a precious possession; the story of my life in rural Louisiana as told by the recipes handed down through the generations from the Troxclair and Robert families.

All of this begins about 200 years ago when they left the area around Strasbourg in Alsace, France and after several weeks aboard sailing ships arrived in Louisiana. They were herded up river about 20 or 30 miles above New Orleans and left to survive by their own ingenuity. This area along the
Mississippi River is still known as the German coast.

Both family groups arrived in Louisiana about 1720-1730, as best we can determine. In the early years they had no help to fall back upon, just their own brawn because they were in small family groups and had no draft animals. Most did have a dairy cow or two and some swine and chickens. All work; felling trees, digging drainage ditches, plowing and seeding and harvesting was done by hand, with saw, pick, axe, hoe, and shovel.

My mother, Bernadette, was born in 1895 on the German Coast, as was her mother, Estelle, born in 1869. They both had the advantage of spending their schooling years in the City of New Orleans where my Grandmother’s brother had a butcher shop.

So they live with his family while they were in school. They both finished high school, which was most unusual for young rural girls at this time.

They learned how to slaughter the animals, and prepare the meat and how to make the various cuts of meat while helping out in the butcher shop.

They both returned to the family farm after finishing school and undertook the normal work load of a young woman, for as it had been for countless generations, the mothers taught the young girls all that was expected of them as part of the family group.

The fathers taught their sons how to farm and how to provide and how to survive, but the women did all of the rest, and I do mean ALL.

The women brought with them their old-world knowledge of foods and food preparation for cooking and for preservation. Now, they had to adapt to some new foods and changes in the preparation and storage in this new world.

As they mixed the old with the new and added the influence of the Indians, the Blacks, the Canary Islanders, and most important the later influx of the Acadians, a unique cuisine evolved, highlights of which are given on the following pages.

Presented with much love, and best wishes for culinary success.

Thomas Robert