Having grown up in New Orleans, the kitchen has always been a very sacred spot for the family. My family tree is replete with Creoles, Italians(Sicily), Germans, Spanish and Irish. Combine those cooking traditions with the focus on food in New Orleans and you can't go wrong. Sunday Dinner of course was a post church event and lasted long into the evening, with my great grandmother finally ranting and raving about everything from the price of milk to the homily at Mass.
Usually there were from 14 or 15 family members at my grandmother's table on Sundays and you really couldn't get by without at least one uproar of some kind, but at least you could be sure that the food would be good!
As most of you know, though, the real tradition wasn't and isn't Sunday dinner. It was and is,red beans and rice on Mondays. I still believe that I could live solely on red beans and rice if I had to. When you grow up on it (and really strong coffee) you just can't live without it. My dad does the red beans these days and many think it's a sacrilege that he sometimes uses....canned beans!!!
The tradition in New Orleans surrounding the red beans was linked to "wash day". (My great grandmother never did own a washing machine and she passed away in 1984!) The idea was that if you were washing clothes and such all day, you really didn't have the time to cook a meal for the family...hence the red beans. You could go ahead and let those beans soak all day and all you had to do at dinner time was season and serve over rice....
If you are not from New Orleans, but have a chance to visit someday, make it your mission to have red beans while you're here (see if you can't get them from a local, the restaurants don't always do them justice).
The only other "can't live without it" from my neck of the woods is the coffee. I don't mean just any coffee either. I mean strong, bitter, make your hair stand up coffee. We grew up on CDM "coffee and chicory". My mom gave us cafe au lait in the mornings and if we had too much trouble getting to sleep a little whiskey with warm milk at night. Parents these days would probably balk at those practices, but hey, we're New Orleanians and we have our own way of using food and drink to our advantage. It's just always been that way.