Why Cajuns ate red beans and rice on Mondays

Illustration for article titled Why Cajuns ate red beans and rice on Mondays
Photo: Cyrus McCrimmon (Getty Images)

It’s Monday, which means that it’s a good day to eat some red beans and rice. Not just because it’s meatless—although some preparations contain andouille sausage—but also because that’s the day Louisiana housewives traditionally prepared it.

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In southern Louisiana in days of yore, this article from Daily Advertiser explains, Monday was traditionally washday. This did not mean gathering up stray socks and tossing them in the washing machine. This meant gathering up stray socks and scrubbing them in hot water by hand. It sounds like loads of fun. Anyway, after a solid day of this, the women were not really in the mood to stand over a hot stove and cook dinner. Would you be? And so in the morning, they got in the habit of tossing beans and water in a pot and then letting them simmer all day.

“With minimal stirring needed from the occupied women,” Daily Advertiser explains, “the beans — along with a bone leftover from Sunday dinner, vegetables — bell pepper, onion and celery — and spices — thyme, cayenne pepper and bay leaf — were added to produce an easily prepared one-pot meal served on a bed of cooked rice.”

Daily Advertiser estimates that Louisianans have been eating red beans and rice on Mondays for at least 200 years. No one knows who first came up with the idea, but historians believe that the dish of red beans and rice itself was imported through Spanish Caribbean migration. The Louisiana style of red beans and rice was commercialized in the 20th century through the efforts of three white businesswomen: Evelyn Falcon of Falcon Rice Mill and Cajun Country Rice, Elizabeth Hayward of Camellia Brand beans, and Eula Morris Savoie of Savoie’s Grocery, makers of a popular andouille sausage. And so, even though everybody does their laundry by machines now (except for delicates!), the tradition endures. But tell me, Louisianans, do you really eat red beans and rice on Mondays, or have you spread it out throughout the week?

Associate editor of The Takeout. Chicagoan. Owned by dog.

DISCUSSION

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Damone's Five-Point Plan

In 1970s New Orleans, the public school cafeterias served red beans and rice pretty much every Monday, and Monday only. Don’t know if that’s still the case though. We used to have every Nov 1st off as a holiday, so Halloween was a late night out, but they apparently ended that a while back.