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Po’ Boys & Peacemakers: The Tale of a Gulf Shores Restaurant Essential

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If you love grabbing good, old-fashioned meals, it’s very likely you’ve gobbled down po’boys. This iconic New Orleans sandwich is as popular around the coast as it is in its home city, and you can always be sure to find Gulf Shores restaurants that have it on the menu.

How did this sandwich come to be? And why is it called a “po’boy”? There are a lot of fun facts behind this meal.

Peacemakers

Po’ boys traditionally feature fried oysters, shrimp, crawfish, soft-shelled crab, or fish flakes in between two pieces of French bread.

In the 1800s, a sandwich like this, popular in seaports like New Orleans and San Francisco, was called “oyster loaves.” Recipes for this meal appear both in an 1838 cookbook called The Virginia Housewife and a 1901 publication named The Picayune Creole’s Cook Book.

Somewhere along the line, a variation became known as “La Mediatrice” – or, the Peacemaker Sandwich. Made of split French bread, buttered and filled with fried oysters, it was supposed to be a husband’s gift to a waiting wife – one that would calm her temper if he came home late.

A less domestic episode, however, is what led to the po’boy as it is known today.

Poor boys

Two restaurant owners from Raceland, Louisiana are said to have “invented” the sandwich in 1929. The men – brothers Bennie and Clovis Martin – had worked as streetcar conductors before opening a restaurant in New Orleans. When the city’s streetcar workers waged a strike, they started serving them free sandwiches. The bread was rectangular and shorter than regular French bread, but it still had the same typical fillings.

Bennie Martin said, “Whenever we saw one of the striking men coming, one of us would say, ‘Here comes another poor boy.’”

The name (and the sandwich) caught on, eventually becoming synonymous with New Orleans, and filling stomachs across the Gulf Coast.

Regional variations

Today, the people of New Orleans celebrate the annual Oak Street Po-Boy Festival. The event showcases every imaginable variation of the sandwich, even as it honors its long heritage and simple roots. Recent concoctions include po’boys with pastrami brisket, pork schnitzel, and barbecued oysters.

There’s no need to travel to The Big Easy to enjoy new takes on the po’boy, though. Many an Alabama and Gulf Shores restaurant offers its own take on the sandwich – giving the iconic regional dish an irreplaceable taste of home.

Sources:

Submarine-Style Sandwiches History. WhatsCookingAmerica.net.

The History of the Po-Boy. PoBoyFest.com.