Cajun vs. Creole Cuisine

By Beth D'Addono |
Photo Credit: Grand Isle

Nothing is black and white in New Orleans, whether you’re talking food, music, politics or history. The difference between Cajun and Creole cuisine is no exception. Both styles of cooking share French roots and many of the same ingredients. Beyond that, it’s a matter of country style vs. city style, rustic and hearty fare vs. rich, sophisticated preparation.

Cajuns and Creoles

To understand their food, first understand their roots. Cajuns were French Acadians expelled for their Catholic beliefs in the 1700s from what is now Nova Scotia. Many settled in Acadiana, 22 parishes (counties) in southwest Louisiana. Surrounded by swamps, bayous and prairies, the Cajuns were isolated and lived off the land. Their culture remains alive and intense, evident in their language, music and rustic, hearty cuisine.

Creoles, on the other hand, were city folk originally from Europe who settled in New Orleans. Primarily French and Spanish, Creoles hailed from wealthy families and brought their own chefs from Madrid, Paris, and other European capitals. These chefs adapted classic cooking techniques to incorporate unfamiliar ingredients like mirliton, crawfish, pompano and snapper. Add into the equation the culinary influence of the enslaved Africans who served in these households, the influence of Choctaw Indians and immigrants from Ireland and Germany and a diverse gumbo indeed emerges.

“Cajun folks used one chicken to feed three families, Creoles used three chickens to feed one family,” said chef Mark Falgoust, executive chef at Grand Isle restaurant across from the Convention Center and Harrah’s Casino. Although a native New Orleanian, Falgoust’s family roots are in Bayou Pigeon and Pierre Part and he’s Cajun through and through. “Our people held onto our culture. We had big families, hunted and fished, and didn’t use fancy ingredients or dairy in our food. To me, Cajun isn’t a bloodline, it’s a state of mind.” A Cajun gumbo typically is made with a darker oil-based roux and homemade sausage and chicken as well as seafood. “People think Cajun food is all spicy, but that’s not true at all,” said Falgoust. “Creole cooking is more refined all around. Creole gumbo uses butter in the roux, tomatoes and usually just seafood, no meat.” [...]

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