The cuisine of the Cajuns is a mirror image of their unique history. It is a cooking style which reflects their ingenuity, creativity, adaptability and survival.
When the exiled French refugees began arriving in South Louisiana from Acadia in Nova Scotia, Canada, in 1755, they were already well versed in the art of survival. Their forefathers had made a home in the wilderness of southeast Canada in the land of "Acadie". Following their exile, these French Catholics found a new home compatible with their customs and religion in South Louisiana.
The story of "Le Grand Derangement" is memorialized in the epic poem Evangeline by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. This love story tells of Gabriel and Evangeline, tragically torn apart when ten thousand Acadians were gathered and driven from their homeland. It took six days to burn the village of Grand Pre, and families were divided and put aboard twenty-four British vessels anchored in the Bay of Fundy.
The Acadians were forcibly dispersed, nearly half of them dying before a year had passed. Survivors landed in Massachusetts, Maryland, the Carolinas, Georgia (where some were sold into slavery), the French West Indies, Santo Domingo, Uruguay, Nicaragua, Honduras and the Falkland Islands. The main tragedy lay in the fact that the men were exiled first, to destinations unknown, with the women and children following later. As time passed, the struggle to reunite these families, in most cases, proved futile.
A large contingency of Acadians returned to the coastal seaports of France, their initial homeland, and eventually came to South Louisiana. Some were sent to England while others made their way back to "Acadie" to Sainte-Marie and settled on the French shore. Word rang out across Europe, Canada and South America that reunion with their husbands and fathers could be possible in the bayous of South Louisiana.
As wave after wave of the bedraggled refugees found their way to yet another land, the Acadians were reborn. They were free to speak their language, believe as they pleased, and make a life for themselves in the swamps and bayous of the French Triangle of South Louisiana. They were among friends, friends who enjoyed the same "joie de vivre" or joy of living.
Just as they had become such close friends with the Micmac Indians when they were isolated in the woodlands of Canada, so they befriended the native Indians here in South Louisiana. Friends were quickly made with the Spanish and Germans as well.
The original Acadian immigrants had come to Nova Scotia from France beginning in 1620. They were primarily from Brittany, Normandy, Picardy and Poitou. These fishermen and farmers had learned how to adjust, survive and make a life for themselves in Acadie. Once again, they were faced with the task of survival. Rugged as they were, the Acadians learned to adapt to their new surroundings. Armed with their black iron pots, the Cajuns, as they had come to be known, utilized what was indigenous to the area. No attempt was made to recreate the classical cuisine of Europe. None of the exotic spices and ingredients available to the Creoles were to be found by the Cajuns in Bayou country. They were happy to live off the land, a land abundant with fish, shellfish and wild game.
Chef John D. Folse Cec, Aac; shared by Fred Towner; Mm by Dorothy