WHAT ARE CREOLE AND CAJUN?

The Creole and Cajun cultures are as distinct as their cuisines. The Creoles were European-born Aristocrats, invited to Louisiana by the Spanish to establish New Orleans. Second born sons, who could not own their own land in their native countries, were offered the opportunity to continue family traditions in the “New World.” They brought wealth, education, and most importantly, their chefs and cooks. These chefs brought knowledge of the extravagant cuisines of Europe. The influence of regional French, Spanish, German and Italian cooking is very apparent in Creole cuisine. The sauces and terminologies that have evolved from these cuisines have provided a solid foundation for Creole cooking. The French played an integral part with their contribution of sauces and bouillabaisse (soup) in the creation of Gumbo, as we know it today. The Spanish are responsible for giving Creole food its spice. Paella, a Spanish rice dish made with vegetables, meats, and sausages, was the groundwork of Louisiana’s jambalaya. Along the coastlines, seafood was often substituted for meat. The Germans who migrated to Louisiana were very knowledgeable in the production of fine sausages. Prior to the arrival of Germans, a steady supply of milk and butter were seldom available. Many Creole dishes reflect the Italian influence and their love of cooking, especially their talent in making ice cream and pastries.

Native Indians befriended the new settlers and introduced the Creoles to local produce, such as corn, ground sassafras and bay leaves, which contributed to the local culinary backbone. The Africans made a significant contribution by introducing the okra plant, which is the main ingredient and meaning of “Gumbo.” Obviously, many nations are responsible for the creation of the Creole cuisine. The Cajun cooking style reflects their ingenuity, adaptability, and survival. Cajuns are descendants of Acadians from Nova Scotia. The Acadians were well versed in the art of survival. Before being exiled, they had made their home in the wilderness of Southeast Canada. Many of the Acadians immigrated to Southern Louisiana where they made a life for themselves in the swamps and bayous. This area was abundant in fish, shellfish, and wild life, explaining characteristics of the Cajun cuisine. From their association with the Indians, the Cajuns learned techniques best to utilize the local products from the swamps and bayous. These ingredients were carefully combined in black iron pots. These creations, called “one pot meals,” became known as jambalaya, stew, gumbo, soup, and a host of stuffed vegetable dishes. From the Germans, the Cajuns learned the art of sausage making and today produce andouille, smoked sausage, boudin and chaudin. The Cajun cuisine is a creative adaptation of Louisiana food forged out of a land that opened its arms to the weary Acadians.

Southern Louisiana has two unique cuisines, both rich in history and diversity. Gumbo’s, a Louisiana Style Cafe, was developed by fusing these and many other cooking styles to produce a selection of esthetically pleasing dishes that are rich in flavor.

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