CAJUN AND CREOLE CUISINE


Cajun and Creole cooking are recognized as part of the best America’s oldest and richest regional cuisines. These cultures have their history dating back 300 years ago. The roots of these styles came from the European cuisine, French, German and Spanish, and also from the African people. Cajun country, also called Acadiana, runs 300 miles aprox. from the marshes of the Gulf coast to Texas and includes the inland prairies, accounting for almost one-third of Louisiana. The Acadians were isolated from New Orleans; they developed new dialect Cajun-French, which is a combination of words from French, Canadian French, Native American, and African languages. The word Cajun is a corruption of Acadian, and it refers to the area and the people who live in that area.


The Cajuns learned to cook with a variety of indigenous ingredients, and they attribute excellent dishes to their culture. In addition, the Cajun culture is well known for their hospitality, it is a Cajun custom always to throw in a little extra. Lagniappe is the term in southern Louisiana referring to their hospitality and means “something extra”. The Cajuns developed variations of fricassees, stews, gumbos and other dishes identified with Louisiana, they used every possible part of the animal in one preparation or another, and they are also famous for the andouille, boudin, and Tasso that enhanced their flavorful dishes.


A Cajun’s dish that came from the combination of French, Native American, African and Southern cultures and cooking techniques is called Gumbo. To made it the Cajuns combine oil or animal fats and flour over heat to form a thickening agent called roux, which is a classic French approach to thickening soups and sauces. Also, the Africans contributed the vegetable okra ad the Native American added filé powder to gumbo as another thickening agent too. The French contributed to Cajun cooking the use of mirepoix, which is a combination of aromatic vegetables frequently used in French cooking and the Cajuns adapted them to their dishes. In addition, the Germans brought their knowledge of sausage making and this became a tradition in southern Louisiana. Also the Italians contributed red gravies, garlic and breadcrumbs.


The term Creole, is derived from the Spanish Criollo, which means “native to a place”, they are generally people of French or Spanish descent. In Louisiana there are two kind of creoles; white creoles, who are Aristocratic French or Spanish ancestry, they were generally very educated people and bring a variety of celebrated European dishes; and black creoles who were former slaves who often took the same last name as their former owners, they trace their lineage in the same fashion. Both, white and black creoles maintained high standards for food and service in the XIX century.


Creole cuisine was influenced by the French, German, Italian, Spanish, Native American, West India, and African-American cultures. The Choctaw tribe introduced to the creoles to many foods of the area. The Creole cuisine that came from the Choctaws is powdered. The Spanish culture incorporated the tomatoes and spices in many Creole recipes. African Americans had a great influenced also; they combined ingredients such as rice, beans, and green leafy vegetables with traditional African ingredients, like okra, yams, onions and garlic.


Cajun and Creole cuisines share many ingredients and spices. Cajun cuisine is a country style of cooking, using more animal fats and meats than does the Creole style. Creole cuisine is more associated with New Orleans than the rest of the state. Celebrations always have been part of the Cajun and Creole cuisines. One of them is the Mardi-Gras (French for Fat Tuesday) is the day before Ash Wednesday and the firs day of Lent. Fat Tuesday celebrates the arrival of the three kings who traveled to pay homage to the Christ Child. The traditional Mardi-Grass colors are purple, representing justice; green, symbolizing faith; and gold, for power. The French Market is another event; it was a center for business and society in New Orleans area. Everything was available, from herbs and vegetables to slaves. All of this is part of the Cajun and Creole cuisine and cultures.