Cajun = spicy.
And spicy is my middle name.
So, the Cajuns came to Louisiana around the 1700s as Acadians from the French-Canadian region, Nova Scotia. They didn’t come to Louisiana by choice (they were exiled), but they brought with them some French country cooking. In Canada, they lived off the land and ate what was available, mostly meat and vegetables that they cooked in a stew. The Acadians were poor, country folk, and most of their dishes were easy one-pot recipes that were thick and hearty.
In Louisiana, the Acadians found all sorts of new ingredients, like oysters, alligator, crawfish, catfish, shrimp… you know, Southern stuff. And, man, did they relish in the new spices: pepper and cayenne? Yes, please. Cultural influences from Spain and African-Americans, as well as local Native Americans, crafted what is now known as Cajun cuisine.
Cajun food relies heavily on seafood, keeping with the tradition of cooking what is readily available (and that means the bayou.) Having access to new spices and vegetables also crafted the cuisine. Almost every stew is made of a base of onion, celery, and bell pepper, or what they call, the Holy Trinity. Spice is key, and roux (fat and flour, yum) is used as a thickener. Everything Cajun is saucy.
What do most people know about Cajun cuisine? Gumbo, the king of stews. With a Holy Trinity and roux base, Gumbo usually consists of seafood, okra, different meats, but definitely always sausage. There’s also jambalaya, the rice dish with pork that is smothered, yes, smothered, with gravy. I make a mean one. (More about jambalaya here!)
Cajuns took their food seriously and celebrated its flavors frequently. There’s still the annual Crawfish Festival (if it ain’t crawfish, it ain’t Cajun) and rural Mardi Gras, as well as the family boucherie. Sounds so French, doesn’t it? (Because it is.)
Do you like Cajun food? How spicy do you like it? Favorite dishes or recipes? Share!!