PANDERINA SOUMAS: How Do You Red Bean?
With Panderina Soumas, it’s all about history and about her family heritage. In fact, in her company’s tagline for Soumas Heritage Creole Creations, she points out that, ‘It’s ALL in the history.’ It’s been a quest for her to not only promote and cook the Creole ways that are her family heritage but to also educate others about the unique culture.
Soumas started Soumas Heritage Creole Creations as a way to honor her ancestors. The company produces prepackaged Creole food mixes with a nod to the past and influenced by African and Caribbean flavors. The name of the mixes reflects what is unique with the Creole culture and that of south Louisiana. For instance, there’s the “Hoodoo You Wanna Voodoo” dip, “Jumpin’ da Broom” jambalaya, “Knock Knock, WHO DAT” dip and the “Creole Gombo” to name a few. The gumbo is spelled after the African term for okra, ki ngombo, while the jambalaya is named after slave wedding ceremonies.
Soumas loves to spread the word of her heritage. So much so that she has a lecture program called, Roux ‘n Roots. With this “creative and universal learning through unique resources and education” system, she shares what is unique and diverse about the Creole culture through stories about the cuisine, food, legends, and of course, the history. She intends to have fun while raising interest in what is the gumbo pot of culture in Louisiana.
To go along with the lectures and a way to further share her family’s history and Creole heritage, she wrote a cookbook to honor her ancestors. The book is filled with historical folklore that is weaved from stories from Soumas family bloodline, highlighting the humor of the patois/dialect and culminating with the culture, food, and family.
And if that’s not enough, Soumas also caters. She’ll bring the Creole culture right to your kitchen – as long as you’re within an appropriate distance. She’s located in northern Louisiana. You’ve probably seen her infectious smile as part of the Shreveport-Bossier Louisiana ads in print magazines and online (see below). She is one of the great ambassadors to Louisiana and takes great pride in her family, her heritage, her work. She’s not just cooking from her own culinary experiences, she is also pulling from her mother’s, grandmother’s, and great-grandmother’s experiences – remember, it’s ALL in the history!
Where’s your favorite place to order red beans and rice?
I reside in North Louisiana now, unfortunately, I have not found a place yet that has that south Louisiana, cultural Creole kick with red beans and rice here. In this area, some, if not most, and certainly not all, will have red beans and rice on their menu, but it’s actually pinto beans! I STILL CAN’T GET OVER THAT! Anyway, I’ve had them, most were tasty and well prepared, but’s it’s a cultural thang!
There’s a corner store name The Brown Derby, Uptown around Claiborne Ave and also a place called Dunbar’s. There’s an older/mature lady who cooks the food there. I’d say she has the best red beans and rice in New Orleans. According to my cousin, Chef Edwardo Soumas, if he’s not cooking them himself, he prefers hers. “I think she put her feet on the pot or somethin’.”
It’s the Mom~n~Pop places that have the best cultural cuisine. The big name, tourist marketed attractions are okay, but they are focused on “gourmet”, making it fancy and charging an arm, a leg, and a couple of toes for that tourism dollar.
Do you put any unique ingredients in your pot of red beans?
Dried beans mostly. On quick/lazy occasions, I’ll pray and ask forgiveness from the Red Bean Gods and use a good canned version and doctor them up so much you really can’t tell. I just put the can way at the bottom of the trash can!
I use a lot of garlic and onions, especially garlic! When putting in my bell pepper, I use it all – seeds and stem. The stem can be taken out before eating, the seeds will just cook in the stock, you won’t even see them but they’re packed with flavor! I also use a lot of celery, all the leaves and that bottom part that most people throw away. Wash it well, chop it up and throw it in.
I use several bay leaves. Most folks just use 1 or 2, I use 4 or 5. Also, some time to enhance the flavor, I’ll sprinkle a small amount of File’ powder and maybe a “careful drop” of liquid crab boil. But know with those ingredients, use just a bit, they’re both very strong condiments. If used too much, it can ruin the red beans.
What do you eat with red beans and rice?
Mostly just sausage. On rare occasions, I may have a few fried chicken wings with it!
Do you only eat red beans and rice on traditional Mondays or any day of the week?
I eat them any day of the week, I LOVE `EM! But mostly prepare a fresh pot on Mondays!
What do red beans and rice mean to you?
Oh, my. A TREAUX remembrance of my New Orleans Creole Heritage! I remember hearing my great-grandmother in the kitchen early on Monday mornings sorting them out, choppin’ and dicin’ all the Trinity, washin’ her pickled meat. Maybe cleaning off a ham bone from Sunday dinna’ and maybe dicin’ some sausage. My grandfather loved fried or smothered pork chops with his. All this as well as with my own mother cooking red beans in our family kitchen.
For more information on Panderina Soumas, Soumas Heritage Creole Creations products, her cookbook, and information on her catering service visit her website at http://www.soumasheritagecreole.com. Be sure to follow her on Facebook and Instagram @chefpansou.
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