What is Andouille?

and why would people dedicate a festival to a sausage?

It isn’t easy to spell or pronounce. Yet it is really not surprising that Andouille was chosen as the single – and now shining – star of its own festival.  In Colonial days the recipe for an Andouille made the trip to Louisiana safely tucked away in the memories of the new colonists. Being a smoked product that kept well, it is safe to assume that quite a few Andouille’s also made the trip with those first Europeans.

Andouille today is nearly a product of this area as anything to be found – a true representative of the nationalities that first settled here.  When it got to this country it retained its foreign flavor, just as the generation of people who brought it over were to keep their homeland accents. And Andouille would, just as they did, change as time went on.  A sausage that could be called Andouille can be eaten in the homes of both Germans and French in practically any area where they settled to this day. So it was something made by both, although most assuredly differently seasoned.

In Louisiana the Germans and French were to live in close proximity with each other. In this immediate area of the state the Germans by far outnumber the French, and still do today. As the Germans have always been renowned sausage-makers, the fact that they settled here certainly did not hurt the evolution of Andouille as it is now.  Living cheek and jowl, the new settlers of several nationalities (there were Swiss, English and Canadians too), each tried out their own recipes. Then, in the camaraderie of this new land, sent samples on to their neighbors.

In this country were new woods to try, new herbs and spices. Many times old trusted recipes simply had to be changed because the correct ingredients just were not available. As often as not the new seasonings became the preferred ones.  Tastes changed as subtly as the people themselves. Sons inherited recipes from their fathers, and were given new ideas from their wives, who might be of another nationality.  There was no good community pot into which all ingredients were dumped – no communal smokehouse where the different kinds of wood were regulated. Andouille, and its specialized making, became as varied as the people who intermarried and formed this new state.

So it is today. One fine product that has evolved along with its makers over the years – a cherished part of family life, its recipes jealously guarded and defended.  People here can point with pride to Andouille, and this pride is justified by the product’s excellence. It is part of the “great melting pot” of America, and very especially an integral part of South Louisiana and its people. If it could speak it would do so in the local parlance – in unique English richly flavored with German, French, Acadian and Spanish accents.

Now Andouille, this “of the people” sausage, has its chance to prove it is as everybody around here claims – just about the best good eating to be found anywhere.

Originally published in L’Observateur, October 26, 1972

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