Driving and Eating in Cajun Country

Trip Start Apr 30, 2010
Trip End Sep 05, 2010

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Flag of United States  , Louisiana
Friday, May 7, 2010

Au Revoir, Nouvelle Orleans

We hit the road on Friday for the 6ish hour drive to Houston. Aside from our day in the swamp, we really only stayed in the Quarter in New Orleans, but it does take some time to get your head around the plethora of sights, sounds, smells, and tastes or just those few blocks. I would still like to check out the spooky cemeteries, the Garden District, the State Museums.....Next time!

Driving through Southwestern Louisiana was lovely – we felt it was fitting to throw on some CCR and enjoy tunes such Born on the Bayou while we made our way through the rolling hills and swampy, weaving waterways.

Cajuns and Creole

Driving west from New Orleans towards the Texas border takes you through real Cajun country. It seems that the terms 'Cajun' and ‘Creole’ are at times used almost interchangeably by tourists in these parts, but we did learn a bit more about these two cultures who contributed so immensely to Louisiana’s development.

Many people today lay claim to Creole origins and identify themselves as Creole still today. In the 1800s, when Louisiana, through that famous purchase, made the transition from European to American, natives used the term Creole  - "Born in the New World" – to designate French speaking, native born inhabitants. Those people included Germans, French, Spanish, and Africans - but not the English-speaking Americans or the countless new immigrants, speaking a tapestry of their own native tongues, who were landing into the port of New Orleans at the time. Creole food, culture, customs, and of course Mardi Gras celebrations are still a major part of Louisiana’s way of life.

The Cajuns, who many of us Canadians are a bit more familiar with, were the Acadians (Aca’juns), the French colonists of Nova Scotia. Fiercely Catholic, they refused to renounce their religion and swear allegiance to the King when the British arrived in the early 1700s. In 1755, the British expelled them all – destroying their towns and splitting their families. A few thousand found their way down to the French speaking parts of Louisiana. They went back to their quiet ways of hunting and farming for the next couple of centuries, and kept to themselves in virtual isolation until oil-driven expansion in the 40s and 50s brought out-of-state immigrants into their lands. The Cajuns were met with both admiration, as their lively music and fiery food were well-received, but a bit of mockery as well: their new, more urban neighbours got a kick out of the Cajun dialect and old fashioned ways – sounds like they were the Newfs of the region.

Pont Breaux: CODOFIL vs. OLF

We stopped for lunch in charming Breaux Bridge, about 8 miles east of Lafayette, and enjoyed a hearty Cajun lunch – BBQ catfish and Crawfish étouffé - at Café des Amis. The town is small and quaint, with French names on the street signs and shop fronts. Our waitress, Cameron, confirmed what we had read about the area – despite the bilingual menus and “Pont Breaux” t-shirts, there is almost no French spoken anymore. The Roosevelt administration decreed that only English should be taught and spoken in schools, and the consequences for Cajun children – and eventually the whole language – was swift and harsh. Nowadays, there is a Council for the Development of the French Language in Louisiana (CODOFIL), but I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that’s they’re not as, uh, effective, as the Office de la Langue Francais at home.
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