If one were to trace the origins of Cajun-style cooking, a good look at the distant past would be in order. I would wager that many of today’s popular dishes originated in France and were handed over to the descendants of the original French Acadian colonists who occupied the Canadian province of Nova Scotia from 1710 until 1755, before the diaspora.
Nova Scotia offered an abundance of wild game and seafood for the taking. The lands were fertile. It was a perfect place to colonize.
When the Acadians were dispersed (Le Grande Derangement), the largest part of the tiny nation trekked southward along the North American eastern seaboard for hundreds of miles.
The colonists then turned westward to cross the Tennessee and Mississippi Rivers southward which led them to their present location (a 22 parish area of Louisiana known today as Acadiana).
Again, the Acadians settled in a geographical region blessed with a cornucopia of natural foods and fertile soils upon which to farm.
This is our contribution to some of those recipes and to which this publication is primarily dedicated. We also made room to include a few excellent Tex-Mex family meals. After all, the Great State of Texas is where I have retired, so it is appropriate to include at least some of those recipes, too.
As an honest-to-goodness Cajun, I think a true knowledge and understanding of how real Cajun food is prepared and enjoyed, one has to learn from someone who has had personal experience. I do qualify. It started for me deep in the heart of Cajun country in 1949 near an off-the-map village in Lafayette Parish, Louisiana named Indian Bayou.
Over the years, I've traveled and dined extensively throughout North America and noticed that few restaurants serve authentic Cajun dishes the old way, anymore.
Restaurant-prepared Cajun foods have fallen victim to bottom-line economics. Also, they have succumbed to a potpourri of unusual add-ins and spices which do not accurately reflect the foods I grew up on as a kid
The main ingredients in many of the original Cajun meals included onions, bell pepper, celery, garlic, and a few choice salts and seasonings. Cajuns usually cook the onions and celery first and after a few minutes the bell peppers are added, and toward the end of the cooking cycle -- fresh garlic -- to get the ultimate flavor. All Cajuns know that.
Early settlers cooked a variety of wild game, including but not limited to: duck, goose, squirrel, alligator, eel, rabbit, raccoon, possum (the list goes on), which may have contributed to the old saying that a real Cajun will eat just about anything that don't eat him first.
Some folks can't quite get the knack of cooking Cajun foods. That is because they are often too impatient to understand what low-heat and prolonged cooking times can do to enhance the flavor of foods and tenderize the toughest of meats.
You have heard, for example, that gumbo is especially tasty on the following day. That is because gumbo roux needs time to complete its magic -- that of absorbing all of the wonderful flavors of the vegetables, meats and seasoning.
Seasoning, now there’s a hot topic! The spicy tastes usually associated with Cajun foods became popular in the late 18th century when abundant resources of Tabasco, cayenne and other varieties of peppers began to flourish throughout the region.
The Spanish/Mexican influence in the Acadian Parishes grew prominently with the introduction of the world renowned Tabasco Sauce which is grown, harvested and processed at Avery Island in Iberia Parish, Louisiana.
It paved the way for the 'hot and spicy' characterization of Cajun cuisine. Not all Cajun foods are spicy, however. They do not have to be, as you will see in many of our recipes. Just add enough excitement to suit your desire is what we always advise.
Conclusion? There are a few modern and delightful Cajun recipes which can undoubtedly be found on-line. We will try to publish and share them with you periodically -- when we find them.
However, before the old-time recipes are forever lost and forgotten, we want to share some of them with you, also. You won't find anything fancy here, merely delicious meals which are pure and simply prepared.
Please leave any comments or suggestions that you may have. Thanks for visiting and letting us share with you some great family recipes and traditions.
If you want to be kept informed of new recipes or articles, please subscribe.
Bon Appetite! ~ Jacques Gaspard