The Cajuns and the Creoles: Who are they?
Cajun vs Creole–what’s the difference? If you thought they were the same and completely interchangeable, you’re not alone! But the two are actually quite distinct with different historical backgrounds and ingredients. The word Creole comes from the word “criollo” which is a Spanish word that means “local or native.” When New Orleans was founded, Creole simply meant “New World French,” and often comprised the commercial classes who settled the famed French Quarter.In Louisiana today, the word Creole is often used to refer to people who have mixed ancestry—French colonial, African American, and Native American.
The word Cajun comes from les Cadiens or “the Acadians.” The Acadians came the French colony of Acadia in Canada (now Nova Scotia) and were expelled from their home by the British in the early-mid-1700s. The king of France gave them a land grant and they and relocated to the bayou regions of Louisiana, south and west of New Orleans.
Although both groups have French roots, they represent different cultures, classes, and histories.
What are the main differences in Cajun and Creole food?
Cajun food is “country food.” Because the Cajuns lived out in bayou country they usually had access only to local ingredients. They cooked with what they had, making use of every part of animals they could hunt, trap, fish or tend.
Creole food is “city food,” and like our urban areas counts a wide variety of cultural influences. Creole cooking incorporates flavors from Spain, France, Germany, Africa, the West Indies, and Native Americans. The Choctaw Indians, for example, introduced Creoles to file powder (a spice made from dried sassafras leaves), a common ingredient in gumbo. The Creoles had access to more ingredients in the city than the Cajuns did. This is why you’ll often see tomatoes in Creole cooking, but not in Cajun food; you’ll also notice that Creole roux uses butter, rather than oil or animal lard, because butter was a luxury that Cajuns did not have.
What does Cajun and Creole cooking have in common?
For both Cajun and Creole cooking, the holy trinity are onion, celery, and bell pepper. This is a Louisiana variation of the French mirepoix, which is made up of onion, celery, and carrots.
One common misconception is that Cajun cooking and Creole cooking are spicy or “hot.” Though I’m not saying both don’t like a little heat to their food, Cajun cooking tends to be spicier than Creole cooking, and both are known for being flavorful and well-seasoned.
Read all about Mardi Gras in Mardi Gras 101
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