Sunday, November 6, 2011

Speaking Cajun....

Often, when I am talking about food or cooking, I reference something that I assume the listener knows, but then I see that blank on his/her face and realize that a little translation is needed! So I thought that a post on the Cajun Dictionary might be in order both here and on our cooking blog!


But we have to start with the BASIC VOCAB... What the heck is a Cajun?!  (although my father-in law insists that we are a form of Indians...right down to the FEATHERS... WE ARE NOT.)

The REAL definition is this:
CAJUN: Slang for Acadians, the French-speaking people who migrated to South Louisiana from Nova Scotia in the eighteenth century. Cajuns were happily removed (they say they kicked us out; we say we chose this life!!) from city life preferring a rustic life along the bayous. The term now applies to the people, the culture, and the cooking. Our food is spicy and so is our attitude

So here are a few more for your dictionary:
THE HOLY TRINITY.... the most basic Cajun term you need to know.... Onions, Bell Pepper, Celery. Period. 
Andouille (ahn-do-ee)
A spicy country sausage used in Gumbo and other Cajun dishes.
Bayou (bi-yoo)
The streams crisscrossing Louisiana.
Beignet (ben-yea)
Delicious sweet doughnuts, square-shaped and minus the hole, 
lavishly sprinkled with powdered sugar.  
Bisque (bis-k)
A thick, cream or milk-based shellfish soup, usually made 
with crawfish, shrimp or oysters. (but in our house, NEVER 
Boudin (boo-dan)
Hot, spicy pork mixed with onions, cooked rice, herbs, and 
stuffed in sausage casing. (OMG The Danes need to learn how 
to create this...they say they are the Pork Kings, but until 
Boudain can be found in the local butcher shop, I say that 
DK is still a bit incomplete on the meat-front!)
Bourrée (boo-ray)
French for "stuffed”, it is the name of a Cajun card game which 
requires the loser of a hand to stuff the pot with chips. We 
actually had a Bourree group in Dallas when I lived there... 
wonder if I could get this going in DK??? 
Café au Lait (kah-fay-oh-lay)
 Coffee with steamed milk. No, Starbucks did not create the 
Latte concept! We Cajuns have had it for generations. But 
perhaps this is why I am SOOO drawn to SB! It's in my 
Cayenne (ki-yan)
A hot pepper that is dried and used to season many Louisiana 
Chicory (chick-ory)
An herb, the roots of which are dried, ground; roasted and 
used to flavor coffee.
Coonass (koon-ass)
A controversial term in the Cajun lexicon: to some Cajuns it 
is regarded as the supreme ethnic slur, meaning "ignorant, 
backwards Cajun"; to others (like me!) the term is a badge 
of pride. In South Louisiana, for example, one can often see 
bumper stickers reading "Registered Louisiana Coonass". The 
word originated in South Louisiana, and is derived from the 
myth that Cajuns frequently ate raccoons. Like I said... BE 
CAREFUL; I call myself and my family members 
"COONASS", but you and I better have a GREAT 
relationship before you try it! 
Couche-Couche (koosh-koosh)
A popular breakfast food, made by frying cornmeal and 
topping it with milk and/or cane syrup.  
Courtbouillon (coo-boo-yon)
A rich, spicy tomato-based soup or stew made with fish fillets, 
onions, and sometimes mixed vegetables. The BEST is Catfish 
Courtbouillon, but I cannot find a Catfish-like 
fish in DK!! 
Crawfish (craw-fish)
Crawfish resemble lobsters, but are much smaller. Locally, 
they are known as "mudbugs" because they live and grow 
in the mud of freshwater bayous. They can be served many 
ways: in etouffees, jambalaya, gumbos or, simply boiled. 
And you know you are a real CAJUN if you are willing 
to boil 'em and suck the heads before you eat the tail meat! :-)
Creole (cree-ol)
The word originally described those people of mixed French and
Spanish blood who migrated from Europe or were born in 
Southeast Louisiana and lived as sophisticated city or plantation 
dwellers. The term has expanded and now embraces a type of 
Dirty Rice
Leftover cooked rice sauteed with green peppers, onion, celery, 
stock, liver, giblets and many other ingredients. It is a whole 
meal in itself.. .and don't forget to put in the HEART..that is 
the best part! Yes, the chicken heart. 
Etoufee (ay-too-fay)
A smothered dish usually made with crawfish or shrimp. 
Crawfish and Shrimp etouffees are Cajun country specialties. 
We even eat it for breakfast over an omelette! 
Gumbo (gum-boe)
A thick, robust roux-based soup. There are thousands of 
variations, such as shrimp or seafood gumbo, chicken or duck 
gumbo, okra and file' gumbo. But in my family, we NEVER 
make it with OKRA!! 

Jambalaya (jum-bo-lie-yah)
Louisiana chefs "sweep up the kitchen" and toss just about 
everything into the pot. A rice dish with any combination of 
beef, pork, fowl, smoked sausage, ham, or seafood, as well as 
celery, green peppers and often tomatoes.
Joie de Vivre (zhwa-d-veev)
An attitude towards life
Laissez les bon temps rouler 
(lay-zay lay bon ton rule-ay )
Let the good times roll! This was the THEME for Mads' 
Birthday party last month! And it's the theme at Mardi Gras, too! 
Maque Choux (mock-shoo)
A dish made by scraping young corn off the cob and smothering 
the kernels in tomatoes, onion, and spices.  A STAPLE in our 
house! We never eat just REGULAR OL' Corn! 
Mardi Gras (mardi graw)
Commonly known as Fat Tuesday, it is the day before Ash 
Wednesday, the first day of the Roman Catholic season of Lent. 
It's also the day of the Biggest Party on Earth!
A sandwich extravaganza that began as a five-cent lunch for 
poor boys. Always made with French bread (not like what we 
call French bread in DK!), the best po-boys are stuffed with 
shrimp and spread with REMOULADE...again, NOT like what
we have in DK! 
Praline (praw-leen)
The sweetest of sweets, this New Orleans tradition is a candy 
patty made of sugar, cream and pecans. (Savannah, GA 
claims they created the praline, but we know the truth!)
Red Beans & Rice
The traditional Monday meal in New Orleans, red beans are
cooked with ham or sausage and seasonings, and served 
over rice. Yes, it's a whole meal in itself! 
Roux (rue)
Base of gumbos or stews, made of flour, oil, and onions. 
A STAPLE that you will find in the back of EVERY 
Cajun's fridge. Mads learned LONG AGO that you do 
not ever throw it away! 
Zydeco (zi-de-co)

A relatively new kind of Creole dance music that is a 
combination of traditional Cajun dance music, R&B, and 
African blues.  Want to see a sample??

CLICK on this video for the music: 

And then here are some pics of our family.... Gettin' down in New Orleans.....

So hopefully now you know a bit more about WHAT/WHO I am and what the heck I am talking about when I get excited describing something related to food......Cajun culture is like nothing else.... and neither are the folks called Cajuns. 100% unique. 


Nina Ø said...

I like alot of Cajun and Southern food/spices but I do not do ANY beans, all kinds of innards (even in broth) and no way ANY okra. I like Chipolte, like you do, because they will make me a burrito WITHOUT beans. You get to choose!

Unknown said...

You crazy Cajuns eating chicken heart...ewww!

O said...

It's funny because creole has different meaning in france. No wonder the food is so good, you're the French of the USA haha