To quote Michael Scott, “It takes a big man to admit his mistakes, and I am that big man.” Or in my case, a woman. My mistake: I’ve been using the terms “cajun” and “creole” interchangeably, and I recently learned that they aren’t exact synonyms. I know both use spices pretty extensively, but that’s where my general knowledge falls apart. The line between creole and cajun can be a little difficult to explain, even to native Louisianans, but there are certainly more differences than I had originally thought. So, this post is my attempt to correct my mistake and learn just what separates the two cultures and their cooking styles. According to most news articles attempting to explain the difference between Cajun and Creole, it’s easiest to look at the history of the two peoples.
”A Creole takes three chickens to feed a family. A Cajun takes one chicken to feed three families.” –Alex Patou
The term “cajun” described French colonists who settled in the Acadia region of Canada. During the French and Indian War, the British expelled the french settlers in this region, moving them to either the 13 colonies or deporting them to Europe. Those who moved to the colonies, ended up settling along the swampy bayous in what is today Louisiana. Being rural and poor, Cajuns were resourceful and cooked with what was easily available, unlike Creoles. Cajun food tends to have fewer ingredients than Creole food, especially lacking in diverse ethnic imported foods.
“Creole” described upper-class French and Spanish settlers, who ruled the city of New Orleans. Because most Creoles had money, they were able to import more foods and didn’t rely as heavily on the local lands. Also, their most famous dishes usually have a laundry list of ingredients (looking at you Remoulade sauce).
Once again, I had no idea that there was a difference between Creole and Cajun music! Just like with food, the distinction between the music styles can be a little blurry. Current bands from both styles tend to have heavy bluegrass and folk influence. But, I’ll leave it up to an expert, creole fiddler Cedric Watson, to explain the differences.
Even though differences exist, music can bridge divides. This fascinating New York Times article details the life of Amédé Ardoin, or at least as much of his life as is known. He was living in Louisiana in the early 1900s, and he would play for black and white audiences, creoles and cajuns alike. The article explains that his music bridged the strong racial divide enforced in Louisiana at the time.
But back to current day musicians…. many bands coming from the bayou tend to mix creole and cajun sounds. So this playlist is a mix of both.
After reading about the Louisiana food scene, I’ve decided my sweet potato hash is cajun: there are few ingredients, but green onion is one of them, and there’s delicious, delicious pork.
- 2 sweet potatoes (chopped)
- Bacon strips (diced) – I used 3 strips
- 1 small yellow onion (diced)
- 1 green onion
- Emeril’s cajun spice blend (recipe here)
- Oil for cooking as needed
- Start cooking diced bacon in a large skillet.
- As the bacon fat starts to separate, add the diced sweet potatoes and yellow and green onions. (Depending on how many bacon strips you used, you may need to add oil. You want the bottom of the pan coated.)
- When the sweet potatoes and yellow onions start to soften (5-7 minutes) add the spice blend.
- Serve and enjoy!