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Pralines: How They Cook’Em in New Orleans

THIRTY-FIVE YEARS AGO, WHEN LORETTA Harrison opened Loretta’s Authentic Pralines in New Orleans’ old Jax Brewery building, she became the first African-American woman to own and operate a praline company in the Crescent City—a distinction she characterizes as relative. “While mine may have been the first brick-and-mortar store here,” Harrison says, “many other entrepreneurial black women preceded me.”

Indeed, free women of color have been selling pralines in the French Quarter since before the Civil War. The history is, of course, complicated. Though street-vending granted these, a book of Louisiana folklore published in 1945, the authors noted that “the delicious Creole confections…have been vended by Negresses of the ‘Mammy’ type.” This kind of racist iconography would persist, with at least one local praline brand employing such shameful imagery into this century.

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