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Saturday, 25 June 2011 00:14

Creoles, by simple definition, were described as later generation Europeans whose parents, grandparents, etc., were early colonists in the Louisiana territory. Cajuns, of course, were the displaced Acadians and their descendants


who settled through most of South Louisiana.

Before attempting to distinguish between Cajun and Creole cuisine, I think its important to relate their similar Louisiana beginnings. Both cultures brought with them culinary skills from their native lands. The Cajuns came from Nova Scotia and many years before, France. Creole aristocrats, mostly wealthy planters, came from various countries of Europe and many brought along their very accomplished chefs.


Both Cajun and Creoles were faced with the same reality in that the vegetables, wildlife, and seafood Louisiana had to offer was what you worked with. An important influence in the development of both cuisines was the contributions of French, American Indian, German, Spanish, Africans, Italians, and South Americans. Each of these cultures also played a role in what defined the Cajun and Creole techniques and ingredients.

Keep in mind that chefs from France and Italy possessed skills in preparation of seafood from the coastal regions of those countries. The French creoles were also skillful when in came to producing wild game and poultry dishes. And with the availability of corn and wheat, bread and pastry recipes were successfully prepared in the Creole kitchens of New Orleans.

I believe the actual cooking techniques may have distinguished the Cajun and Creole dishes more than the ingredients. For one to suggest that the French Creoles had never prepared wild game or poultry before coming to Louisiana is absurd. Of course there were unique herbs and berries, wild game, and seafood varieties that were not available in the Nova Scotia and European kitchens.

At the risk of “over cooking” this topic, let us consider where these techniques originated. In Nova Scotia kitchens the Acadians prepared simple country meals from the farm produce, the forests, and the sea. Their philosophy was probably one of subsistence and not so much as a stylized presentation of creamy sauces and soups incorporated in entertaining dinner guests; a method brought to Louisiana by the aristocratic Creoles.

It is important to recognize the culinary contributions of various cultures who were brought into the mix when coming to the New World. The Creoles, because of their population concentrated in and around New Orleans, probably adopted many of these worldly influences and ingredients before the Cajuns of South Louisiana. Both, however, eventually incorporated much of the ingredients of those people into what made up their cooking styles.

Lastly, we must, join the majority of writers on this subject in recognizing some of these contributors and what they had to offer.

The Native Americans including the friendly Chitimachas, Houmas, and Choctaws introduced their use of new ingredients that were not part of either Creole nor Cajun recipes. These included powdered or ground sassafras leaves (file’) used in thickening soups and gumbos, bay leaves, and maize (corn). Maque choux , a vegetable dish featuring corn as the main ingredient, was shared with the settlers around New Orleans and Cajun Country.

Germans who arrived in the late 17th Century brought with them an extensive knowledge of sausages and meats including andouille, boudin, and tasso. The Germans settled along the Mississippi and these hard working farmers delivered pigs, chickens, milk and butter to the French Market.

The creamed sauces, fish soup (bouillabaisse), and wonderful baked goods were introduced by the predominantly French population. Spanish along with South American influences added various spices which developed interesting flavors to basic dishes. The kitchens of the West Indies featured the use of mirliton and tomato dishes along with the sauce piquantes (spicy hot) into the Creole cuisine.

When the Africans were forced from their homes and brought over to North American, many of them carried with them the seeds of the okra plant as a practical means of insuring their survival in this unknown land. As they introduced this unique vegetable to the plantation kitchens, it was quickly integrated into the Creole and Cajun soups and gumbos. In fact the word gumbo is African for okra.

I’m certain the difficulty in distinguishing Cajun and Creole cuisines will become greater as time passes and their similarities will increase as they continue to share techniques and ingredients much the same as we do for friends and families in our own kitchens.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 05 July 2011 16:28