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Cajun

Cajuns are the descendants of Acadians who came from Nova Scotia to Louisiana as a result of their refusal to swear allegiance to the British Crown. At the time of their eviction around 1755 there was a war going on in what is now Canada between France and Great Britain over the colony of New France, which is today Quebec. The Acadians refused to support the French but they also refused to swear allegiance to Britain, wanting nothing to do with the war and wishing to remain neutral. Fears remained among the British that the Acadians might join the French in the war and so the Crown chose to evict those Acadians who refused to swear allegiance.

Cajun French (derived from Acadian French) although a dialect of the French language, differs in some areas of pronounciation as well as in some areas of vocabulary with Parisian French. In recent years the number of speakers of Cajun French has diminshed considerably, however efforts are being made to reintroduce the language among the youngest generations. Today Cajun areas of Louisiana often form partnerships with Acadians in Canada who send French teachers to reteach the language in schools.

Table of contents

Characteristics of Cajun and Acadian French

  • [a] pronounced with tongue towards the back of the bocal cavity
  • [k], [t] pronounced [tsh]
  • [d] pronounced [dg] *example [d] in the word Acadian becomes [dg] in Cajun
  • [wa] pronounced [we] *similar to Quebec French

  • nous replaced by je which acts as the pronoun for first person singular as well as for first person plural. For example:
    • French je parle = Cajun je parle
    • French nous parlons > Cajun je parlons

Cajun Music/Zydeco

It's not easy to define Cajun music without looking at its roots among the French-speaking Catholics of Canada. But today not all modern Cajun music is sung in French. In earlier years the fiddle was the predominant instrument, but gradually the accordion has come to share the limelight. Some folks aver that Cajun music is dance music -- with or without words. With Cajun music's heavy syncopation, it would be easy to make that claim. However, so much of the culture is expressed in the lyrics that one cannot separate them from the music. Whatever one might say about it, Cajun music was created for a party: either a small get-together on the front porch[?] or a foot-stomping crowd intent on having a good time.

The Cajun dance is usually a two-step or a waltz, while Zydeco, mentioned below, is a syncopated two-step. A Cajun will cover the dance floor while the Zydeco will do all his dancing in one spot.

In the early 1950s Zydeco gradually developed from the music of the Creoles in south west and south central Louisiana. At an earlier period Creole and Cajun music were quite similar but after World War II, Creole music took off into another direction, incorporating elements of the blues and rock and roll. The accordion replaced the fiddle and electric instruments, drums, and corrugated metal washboard (called a frottoir) were added.

Cajun Food

To paraphrase an old saying, Cajuns live to eat. Outside Louisiana the distinctions between Cajun and Creole cuisine have been blurred. However, Creole dishes tend to be more continental, although using local produce. Cajun victuals[?] are more spicy hot and tend to be more hearty. But outside Louisiana the distinctions are academic.

High on the list of favorites of Cajun cooking are the stews called gumbos[?], a word brought to Louisiana from Africa. It means okra, one of the principal ingredients of a gumbo. (The word came into Caribbean Spanish as guingambó, which is now the word for okra in Puerto Rico.) A filé gumbo is made with sassafras leaves, a practice borrowed from the Choctaw Indians. The backbone of a gumbo is the roux[?], made with fat, not butter as with the French. The classic gumbo is made with chicken and the Cajun sausage called andouille[?]. But the ingredients all depend on what's available at the moment.

Another Cajun classic is the variey of jambalayas[?] that is available at any time. The only certain thing that can be said about them is that they contain rice and almost anything else. Usually, however, you'll find green peppers, onions, celery and hot peppers. Anything else is optional.

And, of course, to sop up the juices what would a meal be without cornbread? The corn pone[?] one hears about in the South is derived from an Algonquin dish made with corn (maize) flour, salt and water.

In most cases, whatever is found on a Cajun table is what a Cajun found in the field or water a short time before and a short distance away, like crawfish or gator or rabbit or chicken. The cuisine is lively, hearty and plentiful.

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