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How Do You Red Bean, Panderina Soumas?

Panderina Soumas with Basket

With Panderina Soumas, it’s all about her heritage. In fact, in her company’s tag line for Soumas Heritage Creole Creations, she points out that, “It’s ALL in the history.” It’s been a quest for her to not only promote and cook the Creole ways that is her heritage, but to also educate others about the unique culture.

Panderina started Soumas Heritage Creole Creations as a way to honor her ancestors. The company produces prepackaged Creole food mixes with a nod to the past and influenced by African and Caribbean flavors. The name of the mixes reflect what is unique with the Creole culture and that of south Louisiana. For instance, there’s the “Hoodoo You Wanna Voodoo” dip, “Jumpin’ da Broom” jambalaya, “Knock Knock, WHO DAT” dip, and the “Creole Gombo” to name a few. The gumbo is spelled after the African term for okra, ki ngombo, while the jambalaya is named after slave wedding ceremonies.

Panderina Soumas

It’s all in the history, and it’s all being honored by Panderina. She loves to spread the word of her heritage. So much so that she has a program called, Gumbo CULTURE. With this “creative and universal learning through unique resources and education” system, she shares what is unique and diverse about the Creole culture through stories about the cuisine, food, legends, and of course, the history.  She intends to have fun while raising interest in what is the gumbo pot of culture in Louisiana.

And if that’s not enough, Panderina also caters. She’ll bring the Creole culture right to your kitchen – as long as you’re within an appropriate distance. However, if you order one of her fine Creole mixes online, have her cater your event or meet Panderina at one of the many cooking events she attends, you’ll sense the pride she has in her work, along with a new, deep appreciation for her heritage.  She’s not just cooking from her own culinary experiences, she is also pulling from her mother’s, grandmother’s, and great-grandmother’s experiences – remember, it’s ALL in the history!

I asked Panderina Soumas, “How Do You Red Bean?”

1. Where’s your favorite place to order red beans and rice?
I reside in North Louisiana now, unfortunately I have not found a place yet that has that south Louisiana, cultural Creole kick with red beans and rice here. In this area, some, if not most, and certainly not all, will have red beans and rice on their menu, but it’s actually pinto beans! I STILL CAN’T GET OVER THAT! Anyway, I’ve had them, most were tasty and well prepared, but’s its a cultural thang!

There’s a corner store name “The Brown Derby”, Uptown around Claiborne Ave and also a place called “Dunbars.” There’s an older/mature lady who cooks the food there. I’d say she has the BEST red beans and rice in New Orleans. According to my cousin, Chef Edwardo Soumas, if he’s not cooking them himself, he prefers hers. “I think she put her feet on the pot or somethin’.”

It’s the Mom~n~Pop places that have the BEST cultural cuisine. The big name, tourist marketed attractions are okay, but they are focused on “gourmet”, making it fancy and charging an arm, a leg and a couple of toes for that tourism dollar.

Panderina Soumas Cooking

2. Do you put any unique ingredients in your pot of red beans? Do you prefer dried or canned beans?
Dried beans mostly. On quick/lazy occasions, I’ll pray and ask forgiveness from the Red Bean Gods and use a good canned version and doctor them up so much you really can’t tell. I just put the can way at the bottom of the trash can!

I use a lot of garlic and onions, especially garlic! When putting in my bell pepper, I use it all – seeds and stem. The stem can be taken out before eating, the seeds will just cook in the stock, you won’t even see them but they’re packed with flavor! I also use a lot of celery, all the leaves and that bottom part that most people throw away.  Wash it well, chop it up and throw it in.

I use several bay leaves. Most folks just use 1 or 2, I use 4 or 5.  Also, sometime to enhance the flavor, I’ll sprinkle a small amount of File’ powder and maybe a “careful drop” of liquid crab boil.  But know with those ingredients, use just a bit, they’re both very strong condiments. If used too much, it can ruin the red beans.

3. What do you eat with red beans and rice?
Mostly just sausage. On rare occasions I may have a few fried chicken wings with it!

4. Do you only eat red beans and rice on traditional Mondays or any day of the week?
I eat them any day of the week, I LOVE `EM! But mostly prepare a fresh pot on Mondays!

Panderina Soumas with Soumas Heritage Cookbook

5. What does red beans and rice mean to you?
Oh my. A TREAUX remembrance of my New Orleans Creole Heritage! I remember hearing my great-grandmother in the kitchen early on Monday mornings sorting them out, choppin’ and dicin’ all the trinity, washin’ her pickled meat. Maybe cleaning off a ham bone from Sunday dinna’ and maybe dicin’ some sausage. My grandfather loved fried or smothered pork chops with his. All this as well as with my own mother {cooking red beans} in our family kitchen.



To order any of Soumas Heritage Creole Creations products, her cookbook, or for more information on catering, visit Panderina Soumas’ website at Soumas Heritage Creole Creations.  You can also find her on Twitter @thecreolelady and on Facebook.


This story originally appeared on Red Beans & Eric and was written by Eric Olsson

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