OK. The McCall (ID) Winter Carnival Parade opened up the Mardi Gras season today. And you are Cajun if you can answer this question, “Who’s Your Mama, Are You Catholic, and Can You Make A Roux?” You might enjoy Mardi Gras then. But what are Creole? What is Creole cuisine? What is the difference between Cajun and Creole foods? Here is some really good information on these two cuisines. Enjoy!
From the website http://southernfood.about.com/od/cajuncuisine/a/Creole-And-Cajun-Cookery.htm, “The similarities between Creole and Cajun cuisines are due to the French heritage of both cultures, and the new ingredients to which French cooking techniques were applied by Creoles and by Cajuns. Both types of cooking have culinary roots in France, with a nod to Spain, Africa, and Native America, and to a lesser degree to the West Indies, Germany, Ireland, and Italy. Both cultures take their food very seriously, and love to cook, eat, and entertain.
It is said that a Creole feeds one family with three chickens and a Cajun feeds three families with one chicken. Another major difference between Creole and Cajun food is in the type of roux used as the base of sauces, stews, soups, and other savory dishes. Creole roux is made from butter and flour (as in France), while Cajun roux is made from lard or oil and flour. This is partly due to the scarcity of dairy products in some areas of Acadiana (Acadia + Louisiana) when Cajun cuisine was being developed. Gumbo is perhaps the signature dish of both cuisines. Creole gumbo has a tomato base and is more of a soup, while Cajun gumbo has a roux base and is more of a stew.
The cultural difference between the two methods of cooking lies in the fact that Creoles had access to local markets, and servants to cook their food while Cajuns lived mostly off the land, were subject to the elements of the seasons, and generally cooked meals in one large pot.
Cooking Style. Creole cooking is city cooking: refined, delicate and luxurious, developed and originally prepared by servants. There is greater emphasis on cream, butter, seafood (though not shellfish), tomatoes, herbs, and garlic, and less use of cayenne pepper and file powder than in Cajun cooking, resulting in rich sauces, elegant pureed bisques, and time-intensive soups, brunch dishes, and desserts.
Cajun Country is the southwest section of Louisiana, unique unto itself. Acadiana is an area comprising twenty-two parishes (counties) in Southwest Louisiana. This area is predominately populated by Cajun people who are, technically, descendents of the Acadians expelled from Acadia, now known as Nova Scotia, in 1755. While their new home in Acadiana was familiar in terms of being an agrarian setting already populated by Catholic, French-speaking people, the Cajuns had to adjust to the unknown terrain of swamps, bayous, and prairies that presented some exotic forms of meat, game, fish, produce, and grains.
Ingredients. The Cajuns applied their French cooking techniques to these new ingredients, with a result that is recognized and respected as some of the best regional cooking in America, as well as one of the world’s most unique cuisines. There are versions of Cajun dishes on restaurant menus across the Country, from upscale to hip and trendy to fast food establishments. Unfortunately, many of these restaurants misrepresent Cajun food by using their standard menu items and carelessly over-spicing them, making the food unbearably hot, then calling it “Cajun.”
Seasonings. Cajun food and culture has little to do with the mass media hype of the past twenty years that presents Cajun cookery as fiery hot, and Cajun people as hot pepper eating, beer swilling caricatures of themselves. Pepper and spices are merely one element of Cajun cookery, and not the most important one at that.
Cooking Style. Cajuns in Southwest Louisiana have steadfastly adhered to the preservation of their habits, traditions, and beliefs in terms of lifestyle, language and cooking. They became noticed by society during the oil boom in the mid-1900s, which brought many outlanders (non-Cajuns) into the area. These new residents began to discover the food-oriented, talented Cajun cooks whose lives and socializing revolve, to a large extent, around the preparation, sharing, and enjoyment of food. The word began to spread.”
And from http://www.louisianatravel.com/articles/cajun-vs-creole-food-what-difference, ” So if you’re versed on Louisiana history and culture, then all you really need to know is that Creole cuisine uses tomatoes and proper Cajun food does not. You can stop reading now. That’s how you tell a Cajun vs. Creole gumbo or jambalaya. You’re welcome (to be fair, some Cajun food, such as a sauce piquant, does include tomatoes as a key ingredient). However, if you’d like to know more, please continue reading so that you can learn why the terms “Cajun” and “Creole” that have become used so loosely and interchangeably when describing Louisiana food, are not at all the same.
A vastly simplified way to describe the two cuisines is to deem Creole cuisine as “city food” while Cajun cuisine is often referred to as “country food.” While many of the ingredients in Cajun and Creole dishes are similar, the real difference between the two styles is the people behind these famous cuisines. They say in order to really know someone, meet their family. The same goes for food. In Louisiana, the best place to find authentic Cajun and Creole cooking is in homes across the state, which is what makes the food so special. Many of Louisiana’s most talented chefs learned their trade from their parents or grandparents. Cajun and Creole are two distinct cultures, and while over the years they continue to blend, there is still a vast distinction in Louisiana, and both have their own unique stories… The word “Cajun” originates from the term “les Acadians,” which was used to describe French colonists who settled in the Acadia region of Canada which consisted of present-day New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. With the British Conquest of Acadia in the early 1700s, the Acadians were forcibly removed from their home in what become known as Le Grand Derangement, or the Great Upheaval. Many Acadians eventually settled in the swampy region of Louisiana that is today known as Acadiana.
Actually, four regions of south Louisiana were settled by the Cajuns, each with different resources and influences. Those distinct areas are the levees and bayous (Lafourche and Teche), prairies (Attakapas Indian land), swamplands (Atchafalaya Basin), and coastal marshes (New Orleans area and Houma)… The term “Creole” describes the population of people who were born to settlers in French colonial Louisiana, specifically in New Orleans. In the 18th century Creoles consisted of the descendants of the French and Spanish upper class that ruled the city. Over the years the term Creole grew to include native-born slaves of African descent as well as free people of color. Typically, the term “French Creole” described someone of European ancestry born in the colony and the term “Louisiana Creole” described someone of mixed racial ancestry. ”
There is a lot more information at the links that I have supplied, including some recipes from both cuisines. Enjoy the food and the information. Happy Mardi Gras!