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Arts & Culture

Deutsch NOLA: New Orleans’ German Heritage

In this episode of GoNOLA Radio, New Orleans author and historian Ed Branley talks about New Orleans’ rich German heritage in honor of Oktoberfest 2012.

Suit up in your best dirndls and lederhosens – it’s Oktoberfest in New Orleans! In honor of the German holiday, New Orleans celebrates its own German heritage, which it has in spades. The influx of German immigrants into the city began in the 1720s and again in the 1820s, and as a result came a wealth of contributions and culture to New Orleans, including business, food and music.

GoNOLA RadioGoNOLA writer, historian and author Ed Branley joins GoNOLA Radio hosts Lorin Gaudin, George Ingmire and Mikko to talk about the fascinating German influence in New Orleans, including bakeries like Hubig’s and Haydel’s, breweries, the accordion and food from Bavarian restaurateur, Elizabeth Kettering who opened Tujague’s in the French Quarter. But we’ve only just scratched the surface – listen to the full episode to discover all the German gems in New Orleans of which there are probably more than you thought.

Pay tribute to New Orleans’ German culture at Oktoberfest this October 12, 13, 19, 20, 26 and 27 at Deutsches Haus where there will be plenty of brautwurst, beer and dancing along to traditional music.

Read Ed’s GoNOLA posts about the three churches of the Irish Channel that were built by German immigrants, as well as other major German accomplishments in New Orleans to learn more!

GoNOLA Radio is a free New Orleans podcast hosted by Sunpie Barnes, Lorin Gaudin, George Ingmire and Mikko about the food, music and culture of the Crescent City. Subscribe to GoNOLA Radio on iTunes or download to your mobile device on Stitcher. GoNOLA Radio features music by Cale Pellick.

Podcast Transcript:

Sanpa: Welcome to GoNOLA Radio. My name is Sanpa Barnes; I will be
your host of hosts as we explore New Orleans to learn about the
city’s rich cultural heritage, food, and music. We bring you
experts, real deal experts, who will talk with you about the
people who make New Orleans such a wonderful place to live and
visit. It is GoNOLA Radio.

Miko: Back in the 1720s, John Law put over this financial scam that sent a
lot of people scurrying to America to make a lot of money, and
some of those people were Germans that came to New Orleans. I
will tell you what, are we not glad they are here. We are going
to talk all about the German influence in New Orleans.

Hello. My name is Miko. Today we have Lauren, the food goddess,
Goden, and George, the world travelling wonder music boy Ingmire.
Hello kids, welcome.

Lauren: Hello.

George: Hello.
Miko: We are really excited today to have an expert on not just New Orleans
history, but specifically German history. He is an author and
former history teacher, now he is an internet whizz, Ed Branley.
Ed, welcome to the show.

Ed: Hello. Thank you.

Lauren: Hello, Ed.

Miko: Today it is all about Germany. Is it safe to say that the German
influence on New Orleans is something that we are only now coming
to realize the importance of?

Ed: Very much so. One of the big, well, there are really two big things
here. The Germans get overlooked in a big way because of the
Irish; it is always St. Patrick’s Day and that whole thing. There
is nothing like that, for the Germans. The other big thing that
people forget is that most of the Jews that came to New Orleans
were Germans. These days, we do not put that connection together
for 20th Century reasons, but it is like a lot of . . .

Lauren: My maiden name is Diengott.

Ed: There you go you know. See, that is exactly the thing. There are
three Masonic lodges in the New Orleans area that were all founded by Germans. It is that kind of thing where there are a
lot of people and a lot of stuff that happened, and you are
right, it all started with John Law.

Miko: Tell us a little bit about that. I was a little smarmy with my
description.

Ed: No, you pretty much hit the nail on the head with John Law. That goes
back to the 1720s, and Law was a Scott who, like a lot of
Scotsman, did not approve of the English, at all, he did a lot of
wheeling and dealing in France. In the 1720s, he formed what he
called the Mississippi Company, and the Mississippi Company was
designed to bring colonists to what was called ‘New France.’ He
started with a colony in Biloxi, and then a lot of the Germans
actually got fed-up with Law because he was a conman, basically.
A lot of the Germans got fed-up with him and decided, ‘We are
going to pack up and move to New Orleans.’ Of course, by the
1720s the French, the Creoles were fairly well established by
then, that is 20 to 30 years of trappers turning into planters,
and turning into the city. By then, the best thing for the
Germans to do was to move up the river, so they moved up to now
what is basically Destrehan to Laplace. Destrehan Plantation is
the beginning of what we now call ‘The German Coast,’ in that
area. That is where it really gets started.

Of course, like most planters, people start moving back to the
city, and that started happening. That is basically what you see,
in terms of German influence through the 1700s, is just
developing, the plantation owners, and that kind of thing, and
that is basically it. You talk about German immigrants, and that
is where you fast-forward to 1820s almost a 100 years after John
Law. You start getting to the 1820s to 1840s, that is the big
influx of both Irish and Germans into the US, and New Orleans
being the second largest port in the US, we picked up a lot of
Germans.

Miko: Now it starts to get fun. When you research the German influence in
New Orleans, it is like reading every famous store sign that you
grew up with in New Orleans. I want you to talk about a lot of
them, but everything from Schwegmann’s, to Werlein’s, to
Hubig’s, and on and on. I am sure you are going to speak of
some. That is where these families were coming from, right?

Ed: That is exactly right. It is one of those things; again, there are
two connections there. The stereotype of the Jewish retailer is
not a stereotype, it is quite real. Of course, German Jews came
over in large numbers, and that is where you start getting a
banking influence. Everybody thinks Isidore Newman and Maison
Blanche, but he was a banker. It is actually his son-in-law,
Simon Schwartz, who actually started Maison Blanche. Abraham
Schwartz, who was his daddy, was a dry goods dealer on Canal
Street, and again, you get the whole Irish/German thing going,
because of a little guy named Daniel Henry Holmes who was across
the street from Abraham Schwartz and that whole bit. Then Simon
started the Maison Blanche, which he basically financed with
Newman’s money. And the Germans just kept . . .

Miko: The Adler’s.

Ed: The Adler’s. Oh gosh, the Adler’s, the Schwegmann’s.

Miko: Philip Werlein.

Ed: The Grunewald’s, because of the Roosevelt Hotel. The breweries, Regal
Beer, the Fobochers, what became Jackson Beer. That is really, it
is just incredible and of course

Miko: Bultman’s Funeral Home.

Ed: Bultman, the Breedy’s.

Lauren: The Leidenheimer’s.

Ed: Yes, the bakeries. First, yes, Leidenheimer’s, and do not forget the
Reising’s, as well.

Lauren: Absolutely.

Miko: The Binder’s and the Heidells.

Ed: Yes, it just keeps going on and on, there is this incredible influx.

Miko: The other things that Germans introduced, musically, was the
accordion.

Ed: That is right.

Miko: We have, where would Zydeco music night be without beer and an
accordion?

George: The accordion was great because it actually was loud enough to
cut through the crowd without any amplification, so it was a loud
instrument. It was mobile; you could march around with it, as
well. It found its way more into music outside of New Orleans
initially, I would say, but definitely, it is big here.

You talked about Werlein’s, and that is a history unto itself. A
lot of German musicians were publishers of music, as well.
Werlein’s was the building where they housed their compositions
so they could be sold off to people, to use. The German
songwriters whet to Werlein’s, with their music.

Miko: Another great light of German history in New Orleans was Fritz
Junker, and he was shipping and all that stuff, but he had this
cement supply.

Ed: It was the concrete business.

Miko: It was the concrete business, and he basically is known for . . .
well, go ahead.

Ed: Yes. As my mother would say, ‘The easiest way to eliminate your lawn
problems was to lay down Junker grass,’ and that is it, just pave
it all over. Junker Concrete is now Lafarge Concrete, through
mergers and everything else. It is basically the same
infrastructure, the same company.

Miko: They paved the streets of New Orleans.

Ed: They paved absolutely everything here.

Lauren: I love all this history talk. We have to dial it back, and I
want to do a little girl power, because the Bavarians that were
in the French Market were a lot of the butchers. There was a
famous woman, Elizabeth Kettering, who began Madame [inaudible:
08:09] Madame Begue, and began what we really now call a brunch,
second breakfast, I do not care what you call it, but she was the
really the one who started all of that. I am going to give a
shout out to the girl power in the Bavarian world, Elizabeth
Kettering, for really being one of the main three ladies who was
instrumental in cooking in New Orleans. That was of course back
in the, Ed, 1850s. Am I right?

Ed: 1850s yes.

Lauren: It is fascinating. We think of the Creole cream cheese, many of
us think of that as a French thing, in fact, the Germans settled,
did dairy farming in like [inaudible: 08:45] area, that is where
a lot of their German dairy farming was. The German style of
eating Creole cream cheese is to put it on a little round of
French bread with a little salt and pepper versus to have it with
your sugar and your fruit, which is more the style that the
French ate Creole cream cheese. We have all kinds of new things:
You have the whole smoked meat tradition and all of these
beautiful sausages. In the German coast, that Ed spoke about, you
would have, their Boudin does not have rice in it because rice is
not a crop that grew in that area, so they add . . .

Miko: Sacrebleu.

Lauren: Right. It does not. It is a very beautiful thing to eat that
Boudin, and to check the differences and taste the history.

Miko: Sure.

Lauren: The cultural shifts that merge and emerge right from the French
and the German, and all of those beautiful smoked meat traditions
and all of the butchery, all of that has some foundation in our
German culture and heritage.

Miko: Maybe not for illegal foodstuffs, but where can we find . . .

Lauren: Legal.

Miko: Legal, and maybe with a ‘wink-wink’ to someone’s grandma, you can
find the good stuff. What is going on today?

Lauren: Today is really interesting because Cobs, of course, has gone.
What happened is that in its place, John Besh did a very clever
thing and he opened Luke which is very evocative of Cobs in its
way and style, and yet, it really has its own vibration, because
it is also very similar to Balthazar, in New York. What they do
at Luke is, obviously, spells Luke in the German fashion, with
the umlaut over the u. There you can get Schnitzel. John,
himself, was trained in Germany, so this is not something that
just fell upon him out of nowhere, he really has a strong
background in German cookery. If you have ever been lucky enough
to have his Schnitzel, it is dynamite. Luke is one of the places.
You got Jagerhausen, in the French quarter, which again, also
does German-style food. They blend it a bit, it is a little bit
of a mish mash of things, but the essence of it is indeed German
and you got . . .

Miko: By the way when you say Schnitzel, too, give us the proper New
Orleans term for Schnitzel.

Lauren: Oh, panneed meat.

Miko: Thank you. Come on. Everyone says, ‘Schnitzel,’ and they think it is
some weird foreign thing. No, it is panneed veal, for goodness
sake.

Lauren: I just said panneed meat in case anybody eats red versus fancy-
pansy. I think it is great. Then you also have Brusard’s. How can
you possibly, between Gunter [inaudible: 11:10] and you have
Willy [inaudible: 11:11], and you had all these magical guys.
Brusard’s, still to this day, does a full-on German menu, I love
it, during Revillon, which is, of course, in December, for
holiday time. There are often dishes on the menu all the time
that are German-inspired. I love it there and Chef Gunter is
amazing.

Miko: Speaking of holidays, I am going to do something very dangerous
because we got three very in-the-know people at this table, so I
am going to throw it right out there; first one to hit the hand
on the buzzer, let us talk about Octoberfest. This is the
Octoberfest episode. What are we going to do for Octoberfest?
What have we got going on?

Lauren: Are we going to Deutscher’s House, you and me?

George: I guess we are going to Deutscher’s House. I want to drink
beer, yes.

Miko: Crazy, you are a wild man.

Lauren: Traditionally, Octoberfest really takes place in September, but
. . .

Miko: Because of New Orleans, we got started in August.

Lauren: And do it in October. Deutscher’s House has moved themselves to
the river town in [inaudible: 12:06], and they are doing a
fantastic spread. Their usual festival that they do is for three
weekends in October, the 12th and the 13th, the 19th and the
20th, the 26th and the 27th. Getting there is simple as it can
be, and it is so much fun with the Oomph band, German sausages,
pretzel, beer conviviality, lots of fun, and it is really nice.

Miko: I love the way you describe things; the conviviality. George tells us
something Germanic and musical.

George: This game named Martin Krusche, who is was a horn player. He
also fixes saxophones, and does great plaster work as well, who
cooks curry for his audience.

Lauren: That’s awesome.

George: He is in a band called Magnetic Ear.

Miko: The first song I heard from them was on either OZ or TUL, and it was
called the Tasty Doughnut Disaster Drive.

George: That is them.

Miko: It is an incredible, oh, what is the . . . it is a tuba thing . .
.Polyphonics.

George: Pocket brass is the name if it. They do pocket brass, a scaled
down brass band, but very powerful.

Miko: It is just incredible, yes.

George: He is an interesting guy, though. He grew up in Munich, but
then he spent time in New York, and then came down here, but he
grew up eating a lot of food, like spicy Indian food. He cooks
for his audience, which is a big New Orleans thing anyway,
preparing food.

Miko: That is awesome.

Lauren: [inaudible: 13:22] right?

George: I spent 4 hours with him the night before his show, cooking dal
and curry, and when he went out there and he served it before
the, it gets the people at the door.

Lauren: That is awesome.

George: They eat, and then they listen to music. He has got a very
Germanic sense of humor [inaudible: 13:37].

Miko: Anybody that would name a song after tasty doughnuts it my kind of
hero.

George: That is him. Martin Krusche. Be on the lookout.

Miko: Tasty doughnuts and totality of Teutonic things here we have
discussed today, but not all of it.

Lauren: That made me thinks of Madeline Con.

Miko: Let us face it I am pooped.

Lauren: I am tired.

Miko: I am tired. Thank you so much, Ed Branley, for coming with us. I did
not mention the names of your books. You can find them, of
course, at Amazon. You did, ‘New Orleans: The Canal Streetcar
Line,’ ‘Brothers of the Sacred Heart in New Orleans,’ and you
have a third book.

Lauren: Maison Blanche

Miko: Maison Blanche.

George: Maison Blanche department stores.

Lauren: I loved it.

Miko: You have a new book coming out in a month or so, right?

Ed: ‘Legendary Locals of New Orleans,’ will be out in January.

Miko: Look for the link on that. Lauren, you always make me hungry.

Lauren: Thank you.

Miko: I do not know if that is a good thing.

Lauren: I hope so. That is what I do.

Miko: George, you are always the curry, no. I do not know curry to our dal,
the dal to our curry.

George: Yes, of course.

Miko: That is it. Alright everybody. Auf Wiedersehen.

Lauren: Auf Wiedersehen.

George: Auf Wiedersehen.

Sanpas: GoNOLA Radio is a production of New Orleans Tourism and
Marketing Corporation, in conjunction with FSC Interactive. Music
by Kale Pellet. My name is Sanpas. Tune in next week by
subscribing to GoNOLA Radio on iTunes, or GoNOLA.com.

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