More than 8,000 farmers gathered last week in New Orleans for America’s largest farmer-led, farmer-focused trade show and convention. Open to all “friends of corn, soybeans, wheat and sorghum—from growers to member associations to agribusiness to farm media,” the 2016 Commodity Classic boasted an impressive schedule of presentations and events designed to get attendees jazzed about agriculture.
There was so much to get jazzed about from the seeing state-of-the-art planting and fertility equipment to presentations by yield guru Dr. Fred Below and UAV guru Chad Colby. I enjoyed walking around the tradeshow, catching up with old friends and meeting new acquaintances. I stopped by booths to learn more about what our industry partners are doing to advocate for the next generation. I talked with farm broadcaster Duane Murley of KWMT in Fort Dodge about exciting projects that Latham Hi-Tech Seeds has underway with the Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Food & Family Project. (You can bet I’ll be blogging about those soon!)
There was simply more to see and do that I could squeeze into four very full days because I also needed to get outside the convention hall to enjoy the beautiful weather, see a few sights and eat a lot of great food. One highlight of my week in the South was a visit to the New Orleans School of Cooking. (Thanks to Carol Coleman for the invitation to join her and several other Iowans for this fun time!)
Our cooking instructor, a former kindergarten teacher and certified tour guide, was a walking encyclopedia of Louisiana history plus a colorful storyteller. We learned how Spanish explorers, French settlers, Canadian immigrants and African slaves influenced the Cajun and Creole dishes for which New Orleans is famous.
What’s not to love about a history lesson that takes place over a four-course meal? As our class began, we were served hot buttermilk biscuits with cane syrup. (Before I made this trip, I assumed everyone ate maple syrup. We know what we grow, right? It only makes sense that cane would be the syrup of choice in Louisiana.)
The Southern menu demonstrated during our cooking class included:
- Corn & Crab Bisque – Oh. My. Yum. This is one dish Iwill make at home! (Even though it wasn’t on our menu, I’m linking to gumbo because it’s a signature dish in New Orleans.)
- Shrimp Creole – This is another southern specialty that’s oh so good! Be sure to mix it all together before taking a bite. (Our instructor said she can always tell the northerners in the class because they leave the gravy on top of the rice. “Mix it up, y’all!”)
- Bananas Foster and Pralines (pronounced here as praa-leens) – Talk about indulgent! We were treated to both desserts plus ice cream.
Did you know that New Orleans (#NOLA) is the birth of Bananas Foster? I found it fascinating to learn this dessert was born out necessity. Here’s why… New Orleans was the major port of entry in the 1950s for bananas shipped from Central and South America. Owen Brennan, owner of Brennan’s Restaurant, challenged Chef Paul Blange to find a use for surplus or ripe bananas. Decadent Bananas Foster was created and named for Owen’s friend, Richard Foster, a local civic and business leader. Each year, Brennan’s flames 35,000 pounds of bananas for the famous dessert.
Get a taste of the French Quarter at home by recreating these classic recipes at home!