Praline or "Pecan Candy" Vendors

Stop 1 of 6 in the New Orleans Food History tour

Pralines are thought to have originated in seventeenth-century France when the chef of César, duc de Choiseul, Comte du Plessis-Praslin coated almonds with sugar. While sugared nuts were already enjoyed throughout the world, the candy termed "prasline" became a popular treat in France, in part because of their lucrative sugar colonies in the Caribbean. The French settlers in Louisiana brought the praline tradition with them.

African-American cooks working in the French colonists' kitchens transformed the sugared-almond praline. Because of their abundance, pecans replaced almonds and milk was added. The final product was a sweet, creamy patty filled with pecans.

African-American women throughout the 1800s could be found selling pralines in various parts of New Orleans. The praline women would become the most popular of New Orleans street vendors, and they were often found around Jackson Square.

As the tourism industry expanded in the early 1900s and praline stores opened throughout the French Quarter, many businesses employed a racist, "mammy" caricature of the praline women to sell their candies. Some businesses placed life-sized images of "praline mammies" in front of their stores to attract customers. Many tourists posed themselves alongside these gross depictions of the praline vendors.

The stereotypical image has all but disappeared from New Orleans' streets, but the praline remains one of the city's most sought-after foods as well as a popular treat made in home kitchens throughout New Orleans and other parts of the South. In the 21st century, entrepreneurial vendors continue to conduct their own business, often using social media. African-American fans of the delicacy often use the term "pecan candy" or "plarine" to refer to the treat.

Images

C�©sar, duc de Choiseul, comte de Plessis-Praslin, 17th Century

C©sar, duc de Choiseul, comte de Plessis-Praslin, 17th Century

Pralines are thought to have originated in seventeenth-century France when the chef of Marshal du Plessis-Praslin coated almonds with sugar. When the French settlers came to Louisiana, the creolization process led to a new form of the treat. Image: Public Domain View File Details Page

French Pralines: Sugar-coated Almonds

French Pralines: Sugar-coated Almonds

Pralines served in France are now generally powdered almonds. At times, the term "Creole Praline" is used to identify the Louisiana version of the treat. Image: Chanda M. Nunez View File Details Page

Creolized Pralines

Creolized Pralines

Pecans replaced the almonds and milk was added. The final product was a sweet, creamy patty filled with pecans; the Louisiana sugar industry played a major role in changing the old world treat. Image: Chanda Nunez View File Details Page

Praline Vendor, Newcomb College, Tulane University

Praline Vendor, Newcomb College, Tulane University

African-American women sold pralines in various sections of New Orleans. This vendor was a fixture on the campus of Tulane University's college for women. Later, her daughter took over her business. Though often treated dismissively by white observers, these were independent business women who either worked for themselves or supplemented their regular wages. Courtesy of Vorhoff Library and Newcomb Archives, Newcomb College Center for Research on Women, Tulane University View File Details Page

Praline Woman, French Market

Praline Woman, French Market

The praline women became one of the most popular of the street vendors. These entrepreneurs dressed in long skirts and aprons with their heads wrapped in tignons and scarves draped around their necks. They carried umbrellas to shade themselves and fans made from palm fronds to keep the flies away from their pralines. The praline women always carried large wicker baskets, which held the many varieties of pralines, including coconut and peanut. Courtesy of the Collections of the Louisiana State Museum View File Details Page

Praline Vendor, rendered artistically

Praline Vendor, rendered artistically

The praline women were so iconic that artists created numerous interpretations of them. Such paintings and sketches depict the vendors sporting a tignon and long skirts with her pralines in a basket. Courtesy of Vorhoff Library and Newcomb Archives, Newcomb College Center for Research on Women, Tulane University View File Details Page

Courtesy of Vorhoff Library and Newcomb Archives, Newcomb College Center for Research on Women, Tulane University View File Details Page

Circa 1900s

Circa 1900s

The tourism industry generated praline businesses throughout the French Quarter, and most used the caricatures of the praline women to sell their candies. The warped image could be found on praline boxes, bags, and in newspaper advertisements. "Look for Mammy with the Blinking Eyes," states the souvenir box top. Image: Chanda M. Nunez View File Details Page

Touristic Exploitation of the Street Vendors

Touristic Exploitation of the Street Vendors

Into the late 20th century, life-sized "mammy dolls" featuring gross stereotypes of the praline vendors were used to market the candy to visitors. Thefts of the figures were so numerous that these figures were often chained to posts. Courtesy of Michelle Benoit View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Chanda M. Nunez
, “Praline or "Pecan Candy" Vendors,” New Orleans Historical, accessed June 24, 2017, http://neworleanshistorical.org/items/show/259.
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