What It Means to Be American
A National Conversation

Ideas

The Slave Gardener Who Turned the Pecan Into a Cash Crop

A Louisianan Known Only as Antoine Tamed a Wild Tree and Launched an Industry

Oak Alley Plantation in Vacherie, LA, a national landmark. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

By Lenny Wells

Pecan trees, armored with scaly, gray bark and waving their green leaves in the breeze, grow in neat, uniform rows upon the Southern U.S. landscape and yield more than 300 million pounds of thumb-sized, plump, brown nuts every year. Native to the United States, they’ve become our most successful home-grown tree nut crop. Hazelnuts originated here too, but they come from a shrub, which can be trained into a tree. Almonds come from Asia. Peanuts, which aren’t actually nuts, hail …

Identities

Why We French Canadians Are Neither French nor Canadian

An Intimate Family History of New England's Franco-Americans

T. Pariseau Ladies’ Outfitter, one of many businesses created and owned by Franco-Americans in Manchester. Photo by Ulric Bourgeois, 1915.

By Robert B. Perreault

Whenever my family visits Québec, people other than our relatives are surprised to hear Americans—even our grandchildren, ages five and six—speak fluent French. They’re amazed to learn that French is our mother tongue and that we also speak English without a French accent. Likewise, if we leave our native New Hampshire to travel elsewhere in the United States, we get blank stares upon mentioning that we’re Franco-Americans from New England.

“Franco-American, as in canned spaghetti?” some ask.

I roll my eyes and …