Bean Stories: The search for Maw Maw’s “La La” Beans
For many natives of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region, the delicious aroma of Camellia red beans simmering on the stove brings them back to comforting memories of childhood and the mealtime traditions that shaped their lives. They often write in to share their heartwarming stories with us – and you’ll find these stories here, in our Bean Stories blog series.
If you can’t say Camellia, say “La La”!
Ms. Bonnie Stanzak was born in New Orleans in 1948 – just a few years after we began packaging our beans in the iconic cellophane bag with camellia flower logo and selling them in big supermarkets like Schwegmann’s. Her grandmother, Maw Maw, made red beans as far back as she can remember. She says “I think one of my first solid foods was my Maw Maw’s red beans. She made the best red beans I ever tasted. They were always so creamy and tasty. She always told me that if I thought she made the best, it was because she used the best – Camellia Beans. As a young child I couldn’t say Camellia, so I would say ‘La La.’ I’d ask, ‘Maw Maw can I have some La La beans?’”
Searching for childhood’s lost beans.
Bonnie grew up and moved to New York City as a young woman, and her beloved Maw Maw passed away. She tried to re-create her Maw Maw’s red beans and rice, looking all over for a “La La” brand of dried red beans, and of course no one knew what she was talking about. But when she returned to New Orleans for a visit, problem solved! She says, “When I asked the New Orleans taxi driver if she ever heard of ‘La La’ beans, she said no, but the best beans she liked was ‘Ca-mel-LA.’ That seemed to strike a chord, so when I went to a store and found them! When I made that first pot of beans, I knew that I had found my Maw Maw’s beans. I mashed them up in the last 30 mins of cooking like she always did, and tasted them: nice and creamy! They are truly the best. And now my daughter, son and grandchildren are enjoying Maw Maw’s ‘La La’ beans.”
Remembering a true Southern lady and cook.
Bonnie’s Maw Maw lived in the New Orleans area, and from what Bonnie has shared with us, she was a typical New Orleanian – enjoying life to the fullest! Says Bonnie, “She was a fantastic Southern lady and cook. Her seafood gumbos and red beans were unbeatable. I have a picture of her at about age 25 in a bathing suit, hair cut short, smoking and showing a lot of skin for those days! She was the first feminist that I knew! She raised my mom on her own, working as a seamstress from the time she was 11 until retiring at 65. She cooked on weekends, freezing food so there was always a hot meal on the table when she got home. Camellia Beans were always a part of the weekend cooking.”
Here’s to another 100 years of Maw Maw’s “La La” red beans and rice.
Stories like Bonnie’s are the heart and soul of Camellia Beans, making every day special at our headquarters in New Orleans. Bonnie finished her story with best wishes for the family mealtime traditions of the future: “I could go on and on about this lady and am very proud to call her my Maw Maw and to be part of the Camellia family to carry on this wonderful tradition. Happy 100th Birthday Camellia! Maybe the world enjoy your product for 100 more!”