Bring Your Appetite To The Deep South
As well as being the longest river in North America, the Mississippi is also the most popular waterway on the continent for river cruisers to explore. Paddle steamers have plied the river for decades, taking people to some of the USA’s most diverse and vibrant cities, and now guests are travelling from all over the world to enjoy the sights and sounds of places like New Orleans and Memphis.
One thing you don’t want to leave behind when you embark on a Lower Mississippi River cruise is your appetite. Along with the American Civil War and some beautiful scenery, the culinary delights of the Deep South are a key highlight. Here are some mouth-watering dishes you may want to look out for.
The waters along the Mississippi Gulf Coast are teaming with fantastic seafood and so the cities on the shoreline are the perfect places to try produce caught fresh and expertly cooked. Blue crab, crayfish (or crawfish as it’s called here), shrimp, catfish and oysters are just some of the delicious options that are prepared in a variety of different ways. One of the most flavourful is Shrimp Étouffée, a beautiful concoction of onions, peppers, celery, paprika, Cajun seasoning and, of course, giant Gulf shrimp.
Created in Louisiana, the name refers to the fact that these sandwiches were originally given to the ‘poor boys’ who were striking against the streetcar company. Over the years, this has been shortened to po’ boy and the messy but tasty snack has become amazingly popular.
In essence, they simply feature whatever protein is most plentiful at the time between two sides of a French baguette and are topped with lettuce, tomato, onion and mayonnaise. Traditionally, beef and turkey are the fillings of choice for the Louisiana version, whereas the Mississippi version is bursting at the seams with fried shrimp or crawfish.
Whether it’s the shrimp in your po’ boy or a bag of crispy beignets, much of the food you’ll find along the Mississippi is deep-fried – and all the better for it. Fried chicken is one of the best dishes of this kind and is sure to surpass any ‘KFC comparisons’ you have in your mind. Okra also gets the deep-fried treatment, as do simple green tomatoes and those fresh blue crabs.
A Sampling Of Soul
Whilst po’ boys and beignets (or at least parts of them) are influenced by this region’s connection to France, soul food showcases the African and Native American influences. This cuisine grew out of the need to use cheap and easy-to-come-by ingredients and has grown into the staple offering here and something that many tourists go in search of.
All the dishes have a home-cooked feel and are the very definition of comfort food. One-pot wonders like gumbo and jambalaya lead the way, but collard greens, biscuits and gravy, grits, black-eyed peas and cornbread are never far behind. The best thing to do is find yourself a well-rated soul food restaurant (Mambo’s in New Orleans, for example) and order a feast for your group.
Just as the scenery changes as you travel up the Mississippi River, the opinions and traditions involved in barbecue cooking follow suit. People are very much into cooking on the grill here and there are no gas BBQs in sight. Instead, low and slow is the method of choice, whilst dry rubs and sumptuous marinades are put to great use to create some drool-worthy dishes.
The food is so good that you’ll struggle to find a bad BBQ restaurant in Memphis or New Orleans. There are so many menu choices to decide between too. Your eyes are sure to light up at the thought of pulled pork, smoked ribs and BBQ chicken.
If you’ve not already maxed out your calorific intake for the day on fried food and BBQ delights, then there may just be room for dessert. And the choices are equally as decadent. Exhibit A is the eponymous Mississippi mud pie, a chocolate-filled cake that supposedly gets its name from the muddy banks of the waterway you’ll be sailing down. Layers of mousse, cake and pie crust converge and are usually topped with a generous scoop of ice cream.
Other great desserts include the aforementioned beignets, butter cake, pecan pie and sweet potato pie. The latter is a lot more subtle than some of the heavier options and is a must if you happen to visit around Thanksgiving or Christmas.
If you would like to try any of the dishes mentioned above, we have a variety of Lower Mississippi River cruises for you to choose from. Call us on 0800 954 0064 for more information or to book today. You can also sign up to our mailing list to be one of the first to know about new deals, ships, itineraries and more.