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Misconceptions about Cajun Culture

By : Chrissy LeMaire | 0 Comments | On : March 5, 2004 | Category : Cajun Country Blog

Sorry, long time no blog. I’ve been super busy with work. I wanted to post about all the recipes we made for Christmas but never got around to it. I also wanted to post about how each year my mom sends all her kids a King Cake for Mardi gras from Meche’s Donut King but didn’t manage that either.. hopefully soon I’ll have time. Until then, I wanted to clear up a few misconceptions about our culture. Here they are, in no particular order.

  • New Orleans is not in Cajun Country and only 1% of its population claimed Cajun ethnicity in the 1990 US Census. Cajun Country, or Acadiana, consists of 22 parishes in Southwest Louisiana. Not even Baton Rouge makes the cut. The parish with the highest Cajun population, Vermilion Parish (where I grew up!) claims has a 49% Cajun population.You can read more about all that¬†here.
  • Mardi Gras is not just celebrated in New Orleans. It’s celebrated all around Southern Louisiana in towns big and small (Kaplan’s population swells to about 15,000 during the Mardi Gras parade) and our parades are very kid-friendly. When I was growing up, we’d get 3 days off of school to celebrate Mardi Gras.
  • We do not eat blackened anything. Like my momma used to say “If its black, its burnt and we throw it out!” It was a dish invented by the famous Cajun chef, Paul Prudhomme. You can read more about it at¬†CajunCulture.com
  • Our food isn’t insanely spicy. Most dishes just have a nice little kick.
  • We call it “rice dressing” not dirty rice
  • We call them “crawfish” not crayfish or crawdads
  • Emerile’s food & cooking style does not accurately portray Cajun cooking. As a matter of fact, as¬†Murph¬†points out, Emerile was born in Massachusettes.Justin Wilson¬†and¬†John Folse¬†do a better job.
  • We don’t take¬†pirogues¬†to school¬†or work. Come on, people! Only our parents do ūüėČ
  • We don’t have pet alligators. Though sometimes we do stop off in Cameron Parish and see if we can find dinner in a lil canal.
  • We are not Creole. Many people disagree on the definition but I was initially taught that Creoles are black folk living in Southern Louisiana.
Here are other things you may enjoy knowing:
  • In addition to lots of beef, pork and poultry, we also eat crawfish, shrimp, alligator, rabbit, frogs, oysters and duck. I also ate squirrel growing up but I don’t know how traditional that is. Edit:¬†Ken Wheaton¬†says that eating squirrel is very traditional and that “Ville Platte and those areas practically shut down the first day of squirrel season.”
  • We eat breakfast in the morning, dinner at noon and supper in the evening.
  • Most of our parents and grandparents spoke Cajun French as their primary language¬†but most of my generation does not even speak it as a second language ūüôĀ You can read more about this in the book¬†Cajuns: Americanizations of a People.
  • High school dances played Cajun music alongside rap, country and pop. Most of my friends know how to Cajun dance. I was too shy to learn even though I had ample opportunity. My mom is a wonderful dancer.
  • Many people in my small Cajun town pass a good time drinking Miller Lite, eating Jack Miller’s BBQ hamburgers and playing¬†softball. Most of them are also Roman Catholic.
  • We like our coffee strong and black. Many Cajuns drink Community Coffee and Mello¬†Joy.
  • We don’t have many Starbucks. CC’s Coffee (CC is for Community Coffee) is a cafe similar in style and is very popular in SW Louisiana.
  • WikiPedia.org has a great writeup of¬†Cajun Cusine.
  • We have parishes, not counties. I used to be jealous of other states that had counties. haha.
  • We used to be able to buy (but not drink;) alcohol at 18. Then the federal government decided they’d withhold funds for roads if we didn’t up the buying age to 21. Cajuns love to drink and thus, were very disappointed. “I can serve my country but not be served beer?!”
  • We say “sha” but its spelled “cher.” I’ve grown up saying it two ways .. kids call cute things cher. “Aww cher, this puppy is sooo cute!” while our grandmas and “taunts” call us cher. “Come, sha,¬†give maw-maw a kiss.”
Fellow Cajuns, feel free to chime in and let me know if there’s anything you’d like people to know. I’ll add it on to this post.

 

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