Eating Well: New Orleans - #116

BURT WOLF: What we eat and drink can increase or decrease the amount of stress that we live with. Let's take a look at how we can use food to help control that stress. We'll see what television host Regis Philbin does about it, we'll cook up a great anti-stress recipe for chicken and pungent sauce. We'll discover how to use food to prepare for a stressful situation, and what keeps Sid Caesar laughing. Join me, Burt Wolf, eating well to reduce stress. 

These days almost everywhere we turn we come face to face with stressful situations. Money, personal relationships, work, family responsibilities, health and physical well-being, eating properly, staying fit, the ever-increasing rate of change in our lives and our environment all add up to the incredible pressure of everyday life. As the modern world becomes more and more complex, so do our own worries and anxieties. Considering what we are all confronted with every day it is amazing that we can handle as much stress as most of us do. Ah, but we pay a big price for dealing with all of that stress. Whenever we are confronted by a traumatic or fearful situation, our bodies change their chemistry and we change our behavior in order to try and adapt to that situation. Some of those adaptations are wonderful and healthy, and some of them are a disaster. A while back I was sitting in my doctor's office. He told me that I had high-blood pressure on a level that would be dangerous to my life. That was a stressful situation. I adapted to it by taking his advice, losing twenty pounds, and starting an exercise program where I exercised four days out of each week. That was a healthful adaptation. A bad adaptation can lead to disease and death. Stress can be reduced by a number of things. Exercise, increasing the amount of sleep, taking the time to catch your breath a bit and put your problems into the correct perspective. A well-deserved vacation, and, of course, eating properly. Scientists are finding out that stress can affect your body's ability to process the nutrients in the foods you eat. Digestive disturbances that often come along with emotional distress can interfere with your body's absorption of very important nutrients that are essential to your good health. The pressure of added stress can rob your body of the following nutrients: vitamins A, C, and E, calcium, manganese, magnesium, zinc, and protein. Three of the vitamins that are being talked about in connection with an anti-stress diet are Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and Vitamin E. Always remember them because they spell "ACE," which is what I'm trying so hard to become. One of the reasons that doctors are so interested in Vitamin A is because Vitamin A is critical to boosting our immune system and protecting us from disease. The theory runs that if you're under stress you may lose Vitamin A. If you lose A, your immune system is impaired, you're more susceptible to disease, and that may very well be the mechanism behind the fact that so many people get ill more often when they're under stress. The way to protect yourself against the problem, or at least try to protect yourself against the problem, is to increase your intake of foods rich in Vitamin A. Skim milk products like low-fat cheeses which should also be low-sodium, skim milk itself to which Vitamin A has been added, and chicken. One of my favorite low-fat chicken recipes is chicken in pungent sauce which I learned in Stowe, Vermont. In addition to the fact that this recipe is loaded with Vitamin A which can help to combat stress, Vermont itself provides the perfect remedy to the pressures of civilization. Vermont, the Green Mountain State, is also the ideal place if you're seeking a soothing state of mind. (MUSIC) The Top-Notch Resort in Stowe, Vermont is a top-notch facility with all of the vacation comforts that you would expect. Not the least of which is Anton Florey, a master chef with a real talent for straightforward, good-tasting food. Here's his recipe for chicken breast in a pungent sauce. Minced garlic and minced fresh ginger root are sauteed in a few tablespoons of sesame oil. A little sherry, a little rice-wine vinegar are added and boiled for a minute. And a half-cup of ketchup and a half-cup of pineapple juice are poured in. That's simmered for about five minutes, then it's strained and added back to the pan. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are sauteed in a little oil and added into the pan with the sauce. The chicken is covered and cooked for five minutes more. Walnuts and chunks of pineapple are added for a minute of heating, and the chicken is served surrounded by the nuts and the pineapple with the sauce on top. These days chicken is an inexpensive dish but it wasn't always that way. In the 1500s King Francis IV of France promised his people that someday he hoped to have a chicken in every pot, and for hundreds of years chicken was kind of expensive and you only had it on Sundays as part of a big family dinner. Fortunately that has changed. Beneath the statue of the Greek god Prometheus who brought fire to man, making these chicken recipes possible, is the Sea Grill Restaurant where chef Seppe Regley prepares a warm chicken salad. The chicken is boiled in soup stock and the skin is removed. The chicken meat is pulled into bite-sized strips and mixed with a little mustard and a little horseradish. A few sliced mushrooms and some diced celery. A dish of olive oil and about half as much of vinegar. Let that marinate together for about twenty minutes. Meanwhile take a skewer and thread it with some slices of pineapple, plum, peaches, kiwi, orange, or whatever fruit you like. Roll the fruit for a moment, put a few greens on the plate, then the chicken, the grilled fruit, and a red-pepper garnish. They say that American cooking is like a melting pot where cuisines come from all over the world and are blended together. I disagree; I think American cooking is like a tossed salad where elements come from all over the world and are mixed together but you can clearly see each ingredient. Italian cooking in America is a perfect example. The restaurant Il Nido in New York City under the direction of Addy Giovanetti produces dishes that are as authentic as anything in Italy. This is chicken Nicola named after Nicola the chef. You've got to figure it's gonna be a good dish if he puts his name on it. Skinless and boneless pieces of chicken are sauteed until brown. Then they're cooked in a three hundred and fifty degree oven for ten minutes. Meanwhile garlic and jalapeno peppers are cooked together in a little olive oil. Jalapeno peppers contain something called capscam, which can easily burn your eyes. So after you slice one of these little babies, wash your hands before you continue the recipe. The cooked chicken is added, and a little chicken stock. Everything cooks on high to thicken the sauce. Finally chunks of pecorino romano cheese on top. Amazing, the cheese really brings up the flavor. And all these chicken dishes contain the Vitamin A that scientists believe can help reduce the effects of stress. Vitamin C may turn out to be a really great stress-buster. It's important to your immune system and it helps wounds heal, which is pretty critical when you're under stress. You'll find lots of Vitamin C in citrus juice, citrus fruits, strawberries, green peppers, green leafy vegetables, and melons. I like to get a lot of C into my diet every day, by taking a mixture of half-orange juice and half-water and sipping it through the whole day. Another vitamin that you have to take a really good look at if you're interested in an anti-stress diet is Vitamin E. It's known as an anti-oxidant and therefore performs a whole series of functions that help protect you against disease You'll find lots of Vitamin E in vegetable oil, nuts, whole grains and green leafy vegetables. I like to get Vitamin E into my diet with a green leafy salad that I learned on the island of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. (MUSIC) Now the U.S. Virgin Islands have a pretty stress-free environment to begin with. The only knots that get tied around here are the ones made by the sailors. This is the spot where you just sit back, kick off your shoes, and find out what relaxation is all about. And just to play it safe, you can stop into the Hotel 1829, ease your way along their flower-filled paths, and down into their courtyard dining room. A truly laid-back corner of the world where you can sit and watch the table-side preparation of their wilted spinach salad. A little mustard is heated in a pan, a vinagrette dressing is added -- the vegetable oil base in the dressing is packed with Vitamin E -- mushrooms, onions, and a little grated low-fat cheese go on the spinach leaves. The hot dressing and the mustard is fully blended together so it's nice and smooth, and then poured on. The pan is used as a cover to keep in the heat so the spinach will wilt. That takes about two minutes, and it warms up all of the other ingredients too and blends the flavors around. A couple of tosses, a few turns, and you're ready to serve. Besides the Vitamin E in the vegetable oil, the spinach is packed with Vitamin A and Vitamin C. This is a real "ace" of a recipe. Hey, it could give me a new leaf on life. When you're dealing with stress it's important to remember to eat. Don't let a stressful situation place you in a spot where you forget to have your meals. The first thing that will happen is that you will be hungry, and that will increase your stress. Then you will find yourself in a spot where you have lots of food for a short period of time, and no food for a long period of time. And that will cause your blood-sugar to fluctuate. Fluctuating blood sugar leads to mood swings and they are not fun when you're under stress. Speaking of moods, our next guest is a man who has a positive effect on the moods of millions of people. He also balances stress in a way that makes it look easy. The unstoppable Regis Philbin. For millions of viewers, a morning without "Live with Regis and Kathie Lee" just wouldn't be morning. Five days a week this dynamic duo has perked us up like a good cup of morning coffee. And although they make their work look easy, performing live every day in front of millions can lead to some unpredictable and stressful situations.

REGIS PHILBIN: What I've done for women, just in this business!


PHILBIN: Well, you never know how a guest is gonna be, you know. You're always worried about how they are, we had Roseanne Barr on just this week and, with her husband, and you know, you keep hearing these horror stories about Roseanne Barr, at least keep reading them, tabloids have beaten up on her pretty good, she turned out to be a wonderful guest and a terrific lady, you know. I can't see that anything major has happened because the way I do the show is that, if there is a calamity or a disaster that is incorporated into the framework of the show and becomes part of what we're doing.

WOLF: How do you deal with the stress of being on live every day?

PHILBIN: Well, I used to think there was no stress involved, you know, because I was live, there was a little added element of excitement, in other words like throwing that tightrope out and daring myself and my co-host to walk across it every day. And you know the first fourteen minutes has always been just ad-libbed. She doesn't know what I'm gonna say, don't know where she's been, we find out on the air. But lately, maybe through working out I've come to realize that maybe I am taking a toll on myself by doing it that way, not that I'm gonna change it, but to reduce that stress I've included certain exercises to build up my stamina, you know, the bicycling and all of those endurance exercises, which I think relieves stress and also gives you more energy.

WOLF: Regis is certainly filled with positive energy, makes a great case for a regular exercise program. No doubt about it, the world is becoming more and more stressful. But we're seeing an interesting thing: in our industrialized societies, the more stress we have, the more people are turning to exercise. And there appears to be a scientific relationship between the two. When we exercise, our brain secretes an enzyme that makes us feel less stressed. Nice relationship there. They also say if you exercise enough you'll get enough of that enzyme to give you an exercise high point when you feel just wonderful. Well, just between you and me, I have been exercising for forty-five years, I have yet to feel that exercise high point; I just seem to feel a sense of enormous exhaustion. But my doctors say it's all good for me, and that I am in excellent cardiovascular shape as a result of that exercise, and I think my lucky stars for that. And speaking of lucky stars, here's a man whose program for reducing stress is as simple and positive as you're likely to find. A legendary figure in comedy who's an inspiration to all of us, Mr. Sid Caesar. (MUSIC) Sid Caesar became a superstar of comedy over forty years ago with television's "Your Show of Shows." (MUSIC) Caesar, Imogene Coca and Carl Reiner often used food as the basis for their jokes.

SID CAESAR: Is there anything wrong with me bringing home Chinese food?



CAESAR: He absconded with the whole meal. (LAUGHTER)

Tell you about the secret of staying young, I mean your attitude is what makes you stay young. It's really, it's a, it's a wonderful life, it truly is, I mean to think I used to drag myself out of bed and go, God, another day, what am I gonna do, how am I gonna get there, why am I doing, who is, no, he didn't, did he call or, everything was a pain, you know, everything. He's gonna, oh no, he's gonna, they're gonna give me an award, oh gee, I gotta stay, I gotta, everything was down, you know, everything was down. Now it's like, hey it's rainy outside, I can stay inside and read, you know, I'll work out and I'll feel good. It's all attitude. How you approach life, that's the whole thing, I mean it sounds like it's, you know, Alice in Wonderland, but it works out, it works for me.

WOLF: But life wasn't always laughs for the king of comedy. Twelve years ago Sid Caesar took a good look at the direction his life was going, and made the most important decision of his life.

CAESAR: Well, that happened when I was, when I finally gave up alcohol and sleeping pills. I had to because otherwise it was gonna take over me, or give me up. But when I did that I gave that up, which was very hard, but then when I started to, you know, just go out for a walk, and I started to watch what I ate and I, I immediately said, well there's no fat, no salt, no sugar. I didn't learn that from anybody, I just said no fat, no salt, no sugar, because I figured if I'm gonna give that up and I might as well go for everything, you know, I might as well do it. And that's been the basis of my diet, the past, oh, twelve years.

WOLF: How do you keep up your energy?

CAESAR: Well if you eat well and you, your exercise thing you don't have to be a tremendous ape, but exercise, and then I watch the stress. And you'd be surprised how much energy you got, because a lot of it is wasted on stress, which you don't even realize you're doing. If you know, it's a matter of going like, it's like going like this, or going like this. That's the difference, it really is. Because when you're like this it's stress, and you don't realize it, but if you catch yourself, if you can catch yourself you feel (INAUDIBLE), this is like, I gotta go, I can't (INAUDIBLE), it ain't gonna make no difference, you know, everybody blowing their horn, you know, to get to the next red light. They're blowing horns and (NONSENSE SOUNDS), cursing and screaming, to the get to the next red light, they ain't going anywhere. Nobody's going anywhere, in this town, forget about it. Mean really. What are you blowing a horn for, I mean it's like insane.

WOLF: Now, some forty years since "Your Show of Shoes" premiered, Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca are still at it. They are living proof that having a positive attitude helps to rewind the clock.

CAESAR: If you feel good about yourself and you start to like yourself, you know because if you take care of yourself, if I do nothing else for the rest of the day, I mean I, I know I did something for myself, you know, even if I just go, say go to a movie or this and that, if I do nothing, you know you feel that you did something because you took a walk, you worked out, you took a shave, a shower, you ate well, you know that's, makes you feel good.

WOLF: Can't imagine a better way of looking at life, he's a wonderful example for all of us. And when it comes to choosing a recipe for Sid, here's one with his name written all over it. Caesar salad. It was invented in 1920 by a man named Caesar Cardini, who had a restaurant in Tijuana, Mexico. It's traditionally made with lettuce, oil, lemon juice, cheese, anchovy, and raw eggs. Now you can easily think that those ingredients are quite safe, but that might not be true. As you may know many of the chickens sold in the United States contain salmonella bacteria that can cause food poisoning. Fortunately when the chicken is properly cooked the bacteria is destroyed, but salmonella bacteria is often found in raw eggs. Those uncooked eggs in the Caesar salad could be as dangerous to you as Brutus was to Julius. In the interest of food and good health, I've modified all my recipes that previously used raw eggs. Now I make my Caesar salad by blending together hard-boiled egg whites, anchovy, mustard, garlic, and lemon juice. A little oil, a touch of tabasco and Worcestershire, lettuce, cheese, and croutons. By the way, the green leafy lettuce is packed with nutrients. Iceberg lettuce in comparison has about as much nutrition as an iceberg. A healthier Caesar salad. What do you think about that, Sid?

CAESAR: Boy that was like (WHISTLES). That was whoopee.

BURT WOLF: New Orleans, where Creole cooking was created, and Cajun food made famous. We'll stop into Brennan’s and find out how to get a great-tasting meal, with the fewest number of calories, the way to make a perfect peanut pie, why New Orleans serves red beans and rice on Monday, and the story of the invention of the coffee break. We'll also talk food and play along with Pete Fountain. Join me, Burt Wolf Eating Well in New Orleans.

The original inhabitants of New Orleans were the Native American Choctaws. The first Europeans to arrive were the French. They came in around seventeen hundred. Then the Spanish came up from the Caribbean, Mexico, and Latin America. Africans were brought in and the French Canadian Cajuns arrived. In 1805, right here in jackson Square, the french sold all of their Louisiana lands, including the city of New Orleans, to the United States government. We paid fifteen million dollars for it. It wasn't even a leveraged buy-out. In those days, the United States government had a balanced budget. We actually paid cash. People from the original colonies began to wander in to see what was going on in the newly purchased land, plus lots of immigrants from Italy, Ireland, Germany and Greece. As each group arrived they took their basic techniques and famous recipes and adapted them to the local ingredients. I guess that process of adaptation has been going on here since the very beginning, when the French arrived and took their classic soup, bouillabaisse, gave up the Mediterranean fishes, and put in the local shellfish. The Choctaw indians taught them how to thicken up that soup with ground sassafras leaves. The sassafras was called filet, and the new soup, gumbo. 

Three hundred years of serious gastronomic adaptation and invention have turned New Orleans into a city of food lovers. In no other American town is there a greater interest in food. It's the subject of much of the conversation, the basis of the major social activities, and the occupation of the local heroes. One result is a series of New Orleans specialties that have become the gastronomic signature of the city. 

There are two basic styles of cooking in the French Quarter of New Orleans. The oldest is called Creole. The word Creole comes from an old spanish word that means, native to the place. In New Orleans, a Creole is a descendant of the original French or Spanish settlers. The original Creole colonists in New Orleans did not have the ingredients that they were accustomed to from Europe, so they had to take the foods and techniques of the local Indians, and combine them with the traditional French approach to cooking. That's what actually formed the basis of what we call Creole cooking today. 

Many of the original Creole settlers were wealthy plantation owners. Their kitchens were staffed with skilled and sophisticated chefs from France and Spain. These European trained chefs adjusted their classic recipes to the new environment, and thereby developed the original Creole dishes. You can actually see how these cooks adapted their traditional European recipes to the new world, by tracing the history of a single dish called gumbo. 

When the French settlers originally arrived here, they brought with them a love of a fish stew called bouillabaisse. Unfortunately, none of the traditional ingredients were available, so they had to make do with what they could find in the local lakes, rivers, and the Gulf of Mexico. The origin of gumbo lies in Africa. Gumbo is an African word for the vegetable that we call okra. It was one of the favorite foods of the Africans who were brought to America as slaves. Many of the African women hid the seeds of the gumbo plant in their hairdo and brought 'em across on the ships to America. The use of okra quickly spread to all of the good cooks in the area.

Originally gumbos were probably a vegetable stew made with okra. The okra contains a gummy substance that acts as a natural thickener. At some point, however, a second thickening technique was introduced by the Choctaw Indians. The stews began to be thickened with the dried ground leaves of the sassafras herb called filet powder. The filet powder is blended into the stew, often at the end of the cooking time, to give it body. Thought the technique was developed by the indians, it was quickly adapted by many of the local cooks.

Because of the fish-filled waters in the area, it's almost impossible to find an authentic regional recipe without seafood being added in at some point. The Cajuns, great fishermen that they are, [MUSIC] added crabs and shrimp to make their world famous seafood gumbo. 

The second basic style of New Orleans cooking goes back over two hundred years. When the English took control of Canada in 1755, they over ran the settlements of a group of french catholics, who called themselves Acadians. The Acadians refused to swear allegiance to the king of England, stop speaking French, or give up their Catholicism. The English were so fearful of having this group in their midst that they broke up the entire settlement and deported them to as many different locations as they could. 

For over ten years, the Acadians wandered through the New World looking for each other. Finally, the survivors met up with the French and Spanish Catholics in New Orleans, who gave them a safe place to live. 

The people in the area had a difficult time pronouncing the word Acadian, so they shortened it to Cajun. Cajun people had been through a difficult and stressful time in their history, and their cooking showed it. 

Cajun food has a strong, down-home country style. It's the home-cooking of a rural people. Often peppery, pungent, hot and spicy, often in one-pot meals. Rice comes along with many of the dishes, to calm the flavor. It's a straight-forward cookery, developed by people who love to eat, but like most of us, just don't have the time to live to eat. 

Another classic New Orleans recipe is jambalaya. It's a rice-based dish with pork or shellfish or sausage or all of the above. Jambalaya is the Spanish adaptation of paella, in the same way that the French turned their bouillabaisse into gumbo. 

New Orleans is also the home of the poorboy sandwich. Poorboy is a big hunk of French bread, stuffed with a fried fish filet, oysters, ham, or roast beef. If it's just the meat or fish on the bread, it's called a poorboy undressed. If lettuce, tomatoes, mayonnaise, and/or cabbage join in, it's called a poorboy dressed. I mention that, so if someone asks you if you want your poorboy dressed or undressed, you won't feel they're being rude. 

And now for the origin of this sandwich. The great depression of the 1930s brought a devastating level of unemployment to our country. In New Orleans, almost all of the trolley workers were out of work. They hung around on the corner across the street from a restaurant owned by Grandpa Martin. One day, Grandpa Martin was looking out at these guys and he said, “poor boys, they got nothing to eat. We got to come up with a sandwich that gives them enough food for an entire day, and we're only going to charge 'em a nickel.” And that was the beginning of the poorboy. These days, it's a national institution, and the favorite place to get one in New Orleans is Mother's. 

Another New Orleans sandwich specialty, is the muffaletta. It was designed by Salvatore Lupo, who owned the Central Grocery on Decatur Street. It's made from the muffaletta bread, which is round, about eight inches in diameter, and topped with sesame seeds. The bread's cut in half and then packed with layers of ham, swiss cheese, mortadella, and genoa salami. It's topped off with an olive salad, then the top half of the bread is painted with olive oil and put back on. And there you have it. An authentic muffaletta sandwich. 

If it's Monday, it's red beans and rice day. Why Monday? Well, traditionally there are two reasons. First of all, in New Orleans, Monday is washday. That meant lots of housework. No time for any fancy cooking. And red beans and rice is very easy to make. Everything goes into the pot and cooks slowly over a low flame. Second reason: many families in New Orleans only had meat on Sunday. They'd do a big family roast for a Sunday afternoon dinner. That meant on Monday, there was a bone available. Usually a ham bone. And ham bone is the main flavoring agent in New Orleans red beans and rice. So there's your red beans and rice, every Monday. 

New Orleans is the coffee drinking capital of the U.S. And the town's most common method of preparation is called cafe au lait. Steaming coffee in hot milk, usually served with a beignet, which is New Orleans’ answer to the doughnut. 

But the most important thing to take place between New Orleans and coffee actually happened on March seventeenth, 1930, at three-thirty in the afternoon. The owners of the Mississippi steamship company called all of their employees into the company office and held the first company-sponsored coffee break in the United States. Executives of the steamship company had seen something like a coffee break take place in Brazil, and they liked the effect it had on the morale of the workers. And so they instituted it here and made it a permanent part of company operations. It was a pretty good idea, too. Doctors at Duke University recently took a look at all of the research available on the relationship of coffee and health and concluded that there really are no problems at all to moderate coffee drinking. They also found out that coffee drinking can stimulate mental activity. And goodness knows, I could use a little mental stimulation. [FOGHORN]

Having been the city where the coffee break was introduced to the United States, it's only fitting that New Orleans be the home of the world's largest coffee-roasting facility. [NOISE] The building covers about half a million square feet of floor space and produces enough coffee each year to brew about fifteen billion cups of our country's favorite beverage. 

The coffee bean grows in countries with a tropical climate. They form a band which runs around the equator of the earth. Countries like Mexico, Kenya, and Columbia send their beans here to New Orleans. When they arrive at the plant, they're cleaned and checked for quality. A small batch is taken and roasted, brewed and taste-tested. If they're up to the proper standards, those beans are then mixed with beans from other countries, to achieve the company's secret formula. 

Then they're roasted in a long cylinder, ground, packed into bags or cans, and sent through a vacuum process; that removes the air from the container. The vacuum is very important. For a roasted bean to keep its full flavor, the bean must be kept away from air. After a bag is opened, it should be used within a week, or re-sealed, and kept in the refrigerator or freezer. 

One of the men responsible for keeping up the quality and uniformity of the coffee produced here is Dale Hoffman. He's a professional coffee taster. He tastes coffees from all over the world, and sets up the blending formula so whenever you open up a container, the flavor is uniform. The green coffee arrives at the plant, he takes a small batch, roasts it by hand in a mini-roaster, measures out an ounce and mixes in boiling water. That sits together for three minutes. [ALARM RINGS] Gets strained, and tasted. Dale, what are you tasting for?

DALE HOFFMAN: The sort of things you look for is body, and body is is comparing, say, a mouthful of water to a mouthful of milk. It's...

BURT WOLF: Milk is the body.

HOFFMAN: Milk is the body. 

WOLF: Alright.

HOFFMAN: The acidity, or just how sharp or how sour, the the notes are in there. And last, you're looking at the overall taste. Is it a pleasant cup of coffee? You want something that that has a a richness, a fullness, in your mouth. You want a nice, sharp taste, that's pleasant. You want coffees that that are pleasing to your palate, and and you will en... enjoy the cup of coffee as as it is. 

BURT WOLF: Dale's advice for making a perfect cup of coffee at home: You always want to start with fresh water. Not water that's been standing around and not water that's been boiling very long. In both those cases the water will have lost a lot of oxygen, and the oxygen is important to give coffee a clean, clear taste. Use two tablespoons of coffee for every eight ounces of water, and choose a brewing method that's a single-pass-through system. You don't want the water and the coffee grains to stay together for more than three minutes. That's the way the pros do it. Dale Hoffman, a man who has been on a coffee break for twenty years, and gotten paid for it, too.

New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz, America's most important contribution to the world of music. Jazz developed towards the end of the 1800s out of the hymns, worksongs, and spirituals of the black community. Dixieland jazz spread out from southern Louisiana and became one of our national art forms. And one of our greatest practitioners of the art is Mr. Pete Fountain. A native of New Orleans, Pete has been part of one band or another since he was nine years old. 

When Lawrence Welk gave him a one-night guest appearance, Pete turned it into a two-year gig. And that regular television exposure made him famous throughout the country. He's recorded over eighty albums and can still be seen live, five nights each week, at his own club, built right into the Hilton Hotel, in New Orleans. Fame and fortune, but it all began with a doctor's recommendation that Pete take up a musical instrument to help strengthen his lungs. Well, it sure improved his lungs, and his appetite, too..

BURT WOLF: If I knew nothing about New Orleans, and this was my first trip here, what would you feed me?

PETE FOUNTAIN: First off, I'd go to a a place that's well-known for their fried oysters and their... gumbo. Which is a place that I grew up .. in the same neighborhood. A place called Bozos. So he.. he has the greatest fried and raw oysters. That's what I'd get you. And catfish. And crawfish. Which was they call it crayfish, you know, they, known around, but crawfish and shrimp. The seafood, I'm a seafood nut. And so I would... I'm what they call a Friday frier. Every Friday I'll I'll fry -- I fried catfish today. Now... next week I might fry oysters. Or fried shrimp. So I... I've that that's my ideal. Otherwise, my wife is a great cook. And.. you know, I'm I'm just a fryer. I love to eat. I I come up and down with my weight like a yo yo. It's a shame, I've just lost twenty-five pounds and darn it is I didn't pick up five over the holidays. 

WOLF: How did you lose the twenty-five?

FOUNTAIN: By not eating, not eating at night. The biggest thing when I get off the stage, I'm hungry. Which... you know, like ,when when everybody ... goes to work, you know, they have a a a twelve o'clock or a dinner, my my dinner really feels like my stomach wants to eat late at night. And I shouldn't. You know, I should eat at maybe about four o'clock and then... quit eating ... Or or just have a light thing. You know, Rice Krispies or something.

WOLF: Right.

FOUNTAIN: And then go to bed. But .. when you go to bed on a full stomach, it stays there. And it stays there.

WOLF: You just cut out eating after the show?

FOUNTAIN: After, at late at night, anytime after they say ... eating any time after seven or eight o'clock is real bad for you. 

WOLF: When you're on the road traveling, and you're away from New Orleans, is there a particular food that you miss?

FOUNTAIN: All of 'em. [THEY LAUGH] All they, we we have some great desserts down here and ... but... one the road, I I'd ... on the road we, I really lose weight on the road, because I, I don't I don't pick as much. I don't... my, I don't have my wife's cooking. Or they don't have all these fine restaurants. You know, like, this ... this town is just brutal with with with the great restaurants. It's ...[MUSIC] That, and it's jazz, it's it's ... known all over the world. 

BURT WOLF: And one of the finest restaurants is Commander's Palace. It occupies a beautiful Victorian mansion in the Garden District of New Orleans. It's one of the truly great restaurants in the United States, and the original home of the jazz brunch. Today's brunch menu includes a dish of sauteed fish, with a citrus sauce, bananas and almonds. Here's how it's prepared by chef Jamie Shannon. 

The sauce is made by boiling lemons, limes, in their juices. Bananas are sliced, seasoned with salt and pepper and grilled for two minutes. Boneless, skinless filets of trout or flounder or snapper are dipped into an egg wash, floured and seasoned with basil, thyme, powdered garlic and powdered onion, cayenne pepper, and paprika, and sauteed on each side until golden. Then on goes a layer of the grilled banana slices and a topping of toasted almond slices. Almonds contain mono-unsaturated fat, which research has shown can actually reduce cholesterol levels, when used as the fat source in a low-fat diet. Then the citrus sauce goes onto a serving plate, the fish and a garnish of capers, chopped tomatoes, sauteed red onion slices, and parsley. 

Two hundred million years ago the southern part of the United States was completely covered with ocean. As the sea water pulled back from the land in southern Louisiana, it left a huge concentrated deposit of natural salt. After a few hundred thousand years the salt became covered again by the ocean or by land and was literally buried away. But at some point in time, the earth shook, and forced a column of this salt up from the sea, to become an island. It's called Avery Island. It's west of New Orleans on the Gulf of Mexico and it has America's first salt mine. 

Now, if that weren't enough to make it famous with American cooks, it began to grow a very special hot pepper. 

In 1868, a man named Edmund McIlhenny planted a few pepper seeds. When he harvested the peppers that grew from them, he chopped them up, mixed them with some salt that came from a nearby salt mine and some vinegar. The mixture was stored in wooden barrels to age. After three years of aging, he had a sauce that he poured into small cologne bottles for storage. He tested it out at a few meals with his friends and neighbors, and everybody liked it. And he gave the sauce a catchy name. It came from a small river in southern Mexico called Tabasco. Now they make well over a hundred thousand bottles of it every day. They ship the bottles to over a hundred countries around the world and if that isn't a wide enough distribution, Tabasco sauce goes into outer space in the spice packs of the astronauts. And back down on earth, the good eating continues, in New Orleans. 

The Windsor Court Hotel in the heart of New Orleans is regularly selected by travel authorities as one of the very best hotels in the world. It houses an excellent collection of seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth century art and furniture that you would normally expect to see in museums. The penthouse suites are designed to give you a feeling of great personal luxury. As I walked through the living rooms, studies, sitting rooms, and bedrooms that make up these accommodations, I decided that this was the perfect spot for me. As soon as I win the ten million dollars for the magazine subscription I sent to Ed McMahon, I'm moving in here permanently. There's a great health club for staying in shape. You know, a guy with ten million bucks has to look good. An Olympic-sized swimming pool, running machines, rowing machines, stepping machines. 

Research indicates that contrary to popular belief, exercise does not increase your appetite. As a matter of fact, exercise tends to reduce your appetite. Isn't that wonderful? Something that makes you less hungry and burns calories at the same time. But I wouldn't want to overdo it and ruin my appetite, especially here at the Windsor Court. 

Jean Mestriner has been the managing director here since 1988. He's personally responsible for the unique quality of this establishment and when it come to things that deal with eating, he's passionate about perfection. The English tone of the hotel is carried out in the high tea service that takes place every day, in the salon. The Polo Club Lounge is, of course, the spot for lounging. And the Grill Room is constantly winning awards for it's great food and magnificent decor. The executive chef, Kevin Graham, has put some of his favorite recipes into a book called “Simply Elegant,” which is a perfect description. The preparation is simple, the result elegant. And it's even simpler when Kevin does the cooking. Today he's making a cassoulet with chicken and white beans.

A quarter pound of cooked lean bacon goes into a saute pan. A quarter pound of sliced sausage. A few cups of chicken stock. Two cooked chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces and a pound of dried navy beans, that have been cooked. Everything gets mixed together and heated through. Then into a serving casserole. A top coating of bread crumbs, covered, and into a three hundred and fifty degree fahrenheit oven to heat for a few minutes. You're ready to serve. Easy stuff.

Right down the block from the Windsor Court is a restaurant that has become the hot spot in a town known for its great restaurants. It's owned by and named after its chef, Emeril Lagasse. Emeril and his New Orleans restaurant are national gastronomic treasures. Inside his open kitchen, traditional Creole recipes are reborn in skilled hands. Example, peanut butter pie. 

A crust is made with graham crackers, melted butter, sugar, cocoa, and the peanuttiest peanut butter, then pressed into a baking pan. The pan goes into the oven for a few minutes. Meanwhile, heavy cream is whipped, cream cheese is mixed with more peanut butter, sugar, chopped peanuts and vanilla extract. That gets blended together with the whipped cream, and filled into the pie crust. The finished pie sits in the refrigerator for about two hours. Then it's ready to serve. Emeril cuts a slice and decorates it with whipped cream, liquid chocolate, fresh mint, and chopped nuts. Now why would a man who's so interested in controlling his weight end up with a piece of peanut butter pie in his hand? Well, very simple: there's a block or research that tells us that having a sweet at the end of the meal signals our brain to stop eating, and this is where I want my signal to come from.

New Orleans is a city with a strong French influence. For many years, the French kings thought of this city as their outpost in The New World. Two places where you can clearly see the French connection is in the architecture of the French Quarter, and in the menu selections of the city’s restaurants.

Remoulade sauce is a basic part of the New Orleans menu. There's actually a classic French sauce called the remoulade, and that's the mother of the local version. But like everything else that came to New Orleans from France, it's been Creolized. Here's how it's made by chef Lazone Randolph, at Brennan’s.

Pour a quarter-cup of vegetable oil into a mixing bowl. Then add in a tablespoon of finely chopped garlic, a little bit of black pepper, a little bit of salt, two tablespoons of hot and spicy mustard, two tablespoons of red wine vinegar, two tablespoons of chopped green pepper, two tablespoons of finely chopped dill pickle, two tablespoons of finely chopped celery, and finally, two tablespoons of finely chopped parsley. Everything gets mixed together until you have a smooth paste, and it's served over cooked shrimp. 

Brennan’s is one of the great restaurants of New Orleans, made up of a series of comfortable, charming and elegant rooms that look out on a lush patio. It is a French Quarter classic. It's run by Pip, Jimmy and Ted Brennan, the great- grandsons of an Irish immigrant who arrived in New Orleans in 1840. Brennan’s is the first restaurant to have built a worldwide reputation on its breakfasts. These days, scientists are telling us that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. The time to fuel our internal engines for the work ahead. In that case, Brennan’s is definitely the place to fill ‘er up. 

When I'm at Brennan’s I make breakfast my meal of the day and I have a double portion of moderation tomorrow and the day after. After all, New Orleans is about having a party and a little bit of excess seems in order. There is, however, a technique that you can use in most restaurants to make sure that you do have a low-fat meal when you want one. Think of the menu not as a list of finished dishes, but as a list of ingredients that you can reassemble when necessary. I'm going to start with a bowl of onion soup. That's sauteed onion, soup stock and some seasoning, so I'm going to take it just the way it is. The next thing I want is an omelet. The problem there are the egg yolks; they're filled with saturated fat and cholesterol. So I ask the chef to make my omelet with four egg whites, very high in protein, very low in calories. I put a little sauteed vegetable Creole sauce on top for the flavor. When it came to dessert, I skipped the dessert column, went back to the appetizer column, where I had found a baked apple. Told them to leave off the double cream and I had a perfect dessert. The trick is very simple, think of the menu not as a list of finished dishes ... [MUSIC] ...but as a list of ingredients, that you can reassemble. 

New Orleans, birthplace of the blues. Songs that talk of love gone wrong and the frustration of life. Jazzman Joe Simon composed one, just for me. 

SINGER: I love my stew, my rice and stew, I love my beans and cabbage greens. There's no way I can lose this weight, I eat my little diet dish, I got those hungry, hungry hungry blues. 

SINGER 2: Alright!

BURT WOLF: So what have we seen in New Orleans, in terms of good food for good health? You should take in most of your daily calories at breakfast and lunch, and lower your calorie intake as the day goes on. A small portion of a sweet at the end of a meal can help reduce hunger after that meal. A low-fat diet is even better for your cholesterol level when the fat is mono-unsaturated or polyunsaturated. And finally, think of a menu as a collection of ingredients that you can have reassembled by the chef to give you a lower fat meal. That's Eating Well In New Orleans. Please join us next time as we travel around the world, looking for foods that taste good, and make it easier to eat well. I'm Burt Wolf.