The History of Jambalaya With My Father

By  Joe Williams

My father started teaching me how to cook when I was eight years old.

The first thing I learned to cook was scrambled eggs. I like to cook because I like to eat my own food. I don’t like to cook for other people because they will complain about my food.

My favorite thing to cook is pancakes. Another one of my favorite things to cook is jambalaya.Jambalaya dates back to before slavery, my father says. In the 1800s, African slaves, French settlers and Spanish settlers created dishes together. Jambalaya is a Louisiana original dish of Spanish and French influence, consisting mainly of meat and vegetables mixed in rice. Traditional jambalaya often includes a smoked sausage such as andouille, along with crawfish or shrimp if you live in New Orleans.

My father taught me how to make jambalaya when I was nine years old, the same age he was when he learned the recipe from my grandmother. The ingredients include chicken breast, sausage, diced tomatoes, chopped onion, chopped celery stalk, 1 cup chicken broth, and two teaspoons dried oregano. What makes this Jambalaya unique, he says, is the addition of Tony’s sauce and fresh shrimp.

When I cook jambalaya, I add my own unique ingredients to the recipe my family has passed down. I like to add crawfish and shrimp, and twice the cayenne pepper.

Everyone has their own flavor.

Joe Williams is a student at the Youth Empowerment Project.