By formalfallacy @ Dublin (Victor) on 2010-12-25 15:08:42
Cajun cuisine is a legacy of the French Acadians. Originally residents of Nova Scotia, they settled in Louisiana after many were ejected from their homeland by the British. The now world famous Cajun style of cooking developed after the Acadians settled in the swampy Louisiana territory. The French Acadians were farmers with large families of up to eight persons each. In order to feed such a large family, they had to learn how to adapt their French cuisine to incorporate local bayou ingredients such as crawfish, rice and sugar cane, to supplement a low cost protein rich meal.
Cajun cuisine is sometimes also referred to as ‘rustic cuisine’ since it only used what was plentiful or readily available at any given time. Preparation of traditional Cajun food is very simple. It is effectively a ‘three pot affair’ where each pot is dedicated to a particular dish. Often, one pot would be for the main meal which was for the most part a protein rich one, the next pot would be used to prepare a grain dish and the last to make whatever vegetable is readily available.
Cajun recipes were passed down from one generation to the next solely by word of mouth. As often happens with oral traditions, the recipes evolved over the ages as each generation added an extra ingredient or changed the cooking methods employed for certain dishes. As a result, it is usually hard to come across a single recipe that can be deemed THE traditional Cajun food recipe. This is not necessarily a bad thing as it gives each Cajun chef the flexibility to add something extra and tweak the menu a little to obtain their own unique recipe.
Despite this constant recipe evolution, there are some elements of Cajun recipes that have remained constant through the years. The ‘trinity’ combination of onions, celery and bell peppers is one of the elements that most chefs of traditional Cajun food would swear by. Another long held tradition is the use of Cayenne pepper as a spice. But in spite of popular belief that Cayenne is the spice that gives most Cajun recipes their taste, the correct position is that the underlying flavor of most Cajun food is derived from the cooking method which often includes a simmering phase.
Among the more popular traditional Cajun meals include gumbo, boudin and jambalaya. Gumbos are Cajun stews that have okra as the base ingredient – the vegetable lends a unique taste to the stew and doubles up as a thickening agent. Boudin is a sausage shaped delicacy that is stuffed with rice, pork, garlic, green onions and a variety of other spices. Gumbo and boudin will usually be served with bread, rice dressing or maque choux. A jambalaya dish includes rice and anything else the chef wants to include. Usually the ‘trinity’ ingredients will be included in a gumbo, boudin and jambalaya.
When it comes to the protein part of Cajun cuisine, seafood is a common ingredient as is game meat. For traditional Cajun food, the seafood will comprise crawfish, oysters, red fish shrimp or crabs. Game meat could vary from wild turkey to frog, turtles or gator meat. The constant in all Cajun recipes however is rice which is included in large quantities in every meal. Some other ingredients that go into preparing traditional Cajun food include yams, tomatoes, oranges, okra, beans, homemade sausages, figs, pecan, pork and black eyed peas.