Is Macanese cuisine a Creole cooking, as in hybrid. The question was asked of me by food anthropologist Annabel Jackson leading on to her recent article 
Real Creole for Business Traveller Asia magazine. My mind went off at a tangent: Creole - what is it, and what is the origin of the word and term. The exact sense varies with local use. Originally with no connotation of colour or race. In Fowler's (1858-1933) definitive Dictionary of Modern English Usage (1926) he writes: "Creole does not imply mixture of race, but denotes a person either of European or (now rarely) of negro descent born and naturalized in certain West Indian and American countries." I am Hong Kong Chinese, my understanding of creole relates to language and peoples. Macau Creole (known as Patua to its speakers) is a creole language derived mainly from Malay, Sinhalese, Cantonese, and Portuguese, which was originally spoken by the Macanese community of the Portuguese of Macau. In linguistics, the term creole means a language arisen through contact between two or more languages. Dr Mark Sebba, Linguistics' specialist, asserts that  'what is important in defining a creole is that a new language is created which did not previously exist'.

Rampart Mississippi Fried Chicken September 2008More often than not, though, the term creole is associated in a culinary context and applied to the cooking of the Mississippi Delta, in particular the US state of Louisiana (Louisiana Creole cuisine) and its largest city of New Orleans. Inadvertently, I was first introduced to the culture and food of New Orleans many years ago by the international writer Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904) whose numerous works on Japanese folklore and Kaidan stories I collected. Hearn lived a decade in New Orleans (1877-1888) before moving onto Martinique and finally to Japan. Inventing New Orleans: Writings of Lafcadio Hearn (edited by the learned Professor S. Frederick Starr), is an illuminating selection of Hearn's 'impressions'  of facets of life in New Orleans and Louisiana. Hearn was a prolific writer and journalist. From Professor Valerie Loichot's scholarly paper Cooking Creoleness we learn that Hearn was a forerunner of both  creoleness (creolite) and creolization. 'Hearn often lived on the edge of hunger' marking the beginning of his obsession with food. Surely Hearn's twin career as a gourmand began in New Orleans. Hearn published the first Creole cookbook La Cuisine Creole (1885) - now a Pelican facsimile edition as Lafcadio Hearn's Creole Cook Book. He even spotted a business opportunity and opened The Five Cent Restaurant - 'the cheapest eating-house in the South' - which unfortunately was short lived as his business partner absconded. Hearn's brief culinary enterprise ceased.  In modern-day parlance Hearn could also be known as an entrepreneur. (New Orleans based writer Michael Allen Zell at NOLA Defender writes a zippy essay Stray Leaves about idiosyncratic author Hearn). Lafcadio Hearn's literary output of yesteryear Louisiana has virtually invented the idea and symbol of New Orleans as one of the iconic cities of America.

I have longed to visit Nashville and Memphis, Tennessee being a fan of Country music and the Memphis soul, and of Elvis Presley. Check out Elvis in the film King Creole. And New Orleans, birthplace of African-American music and the culinary heritage of American Southern food. David Simon and Eric Overmyer (writer/producers of exceptional HBO miniseries), co-created Treme HBO a socio-drama about the resilience and recovery of post-Katrina New Orleans. Treme is part of the Seventh Ward, which is historically the neighbourhood of free people of color and is sort of what is Creole: which is a contentious term. Simon paid a "homage to one of America's greatest achievements, African-American music... blues and jazz, New Orleans is the cradle of all that." Indeed Treme's script contains serial music peppered dialogues. Is President Obama a Creole: it depends on the nation of reference. Barack Obama is the first African-American to hold the office as President of the United  States. On 27th August, 2015, commemorating the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Mr Obama visited and delivered a speech in New Orleans: as reported by the New York Times, the racial divides are intertwined. Valerie Loichot's essay Creolizing Barack Obama illustrates the discrepancies between racial perceptions in continental France and Martinique. Most French journalists describe Obama as a 'metis', a form of praise of racial and cultural mixing. In Martinique, he is referred to as 'creole'.  On a culinary note, before he was President elect , State Senator Barack Obama was an amateur food critic. Mr Obama appeared in a video segment for the television broadcasting station WTTW in Chicago aired in August 2001, reviewing a certain restaurant and promoting Southern food.

Yesterday an impulse to pull out and listen to a few jazz cds was triggered by an insightful essay Blue Horizon: Creole culture and Early New Orleans Jazz by Professor of musicology David Ake. Then a few music books jumped out of my bookshelves. Am now re-reading Satchmo: My Life in New Orleans (Da Capo Press), the great Louis Armstrong's exuberant autobiography depicting his early years in turn of the 20th century New Orleans. Reads just like having a conversation with Satchmo himself; a pleasure to read.