I actually get this question often. People want to know what makes a person Cajun? What makes someone Creole? The terms are not interchangeable. They also want to know what the difference is between Cajun and Creole food but that is a post for another day. First, in order to understand the food differences, you must understand the differences between the people.
Let’s start with Creoles.
The original definition of a Creole was “one that was born in Louisiana.” Simply put, if you were born here then you were a Creole baby. That is how they distinguished the natural born citizens of Louisiana way back when.
Today, the term has been adapted to mean that you are a descendant from a mixture of cultures. For example, if a person has Spanish and African ancestry or French and Native American ancestry then they would be considered Creole. That pretty much means almost everyone in Louisiana is a Creole but it all started because there was once a law that stated that there could be no intermarrying of races. People didn’t listen and didn’t care about that law so to work around it they began having masquerade balls. Everyone would show up in fancy outfits and masks and begin to mingle. This is where some of the traditions of Mardi Gras originated. Men and women of differing races would fall in love and agree to live a lifestyle devoted to each other. The man would care for the woman and their offspring financially and she would take care of the man when he was able to visit. Their children were called Creoles.
My people (or the biggest contributors to my DNA at least), the Cajuns, are descendants of Acadians (les Cadiens). Hence the “femme cadien” term I’ve used in previous articles. It means “Cajun woman“.
The Acadians were French peasants who found a home in what is now New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, Canada. The Acadians made a prosperous and full life in the place that they called Acadie and thrived there for many, many years. Then, because of their ever raging battle with France, Great Britain wanted the Acadians to pledge allegiance to them and fight with them against the French. The Acadians refused. They wanted peace. They did not want to fight against their French brothers and sisters or the native Mi’kmaq that they had become friendly with. This went on for many years until Great Britain finally arranged for a massive cleansing of the area.
The men and boys were called into churches and the ones that weren’t murdered were arrested on the spot and sent to boats that were ready to take them to one of many places. The women and children would go later and often to different locations. They lost everything they had. Villages were burned down. People were killed. Families were divided forever and all of the records of their existence (birth, marriage, death, etc) were destroyed. Nearly 10,000 Acadians lost their lives during the Le Grand Derangement.
It became a common practice for families to take in children that were not their own. In later years, out of respect for the man that raised them, they would take on that person’s last name without giving up their birth father’s name. It would be preceded with the term “dit”. For example, if a boys’ last name was Landry but he was raised by Richards then to honor both men who took part in the man he was becoming, he would be called, Landry dit Richard.
There is so much more amazing history there but I’ll just let you look at this quick video here to get an idea of who the Cajuns are. This was from the History Channel’s new show, “Swamp People”. And yes, this show all true. It is not fabricated one bit. This really is how some of the people around here live. It is totally a way of life. Believe me, if Carsten, Maxon, and Andrew had their way then they would be in the bayou, swamp, and river every day. It is in their blood.
Some of these folks live just minutes away from where I grew up. In fact, they mention my hometown, Plaquemine, in the “Big Head Bites It” episode. And I have so many Landrys in my family tree that it would not surprise me one bit if I had common ancestors with the Landrys from the show. Not to mention they each look just like someone else in my family. Crazy!
Check this out… and check out the show too! Or have you seen it already?