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PICTURES FROM CAJUN COUNTRY


CAJUN COUNTRY REVISITED


Dear Folks:

Sara and I first visited “Cajun County” in the winter of 2003. We vowed to return to what native Cajuns affectionately call Acadiana, but this time for a longer and more “intimate” visit. We are not sure what we find so appealing, no absolutely fascinating, about these folks of southern Louisiana. The culture is a rich gumbo of proud and somewhat tragic history, incredible cuisine, distinctive music, delightful language, varied geography, deep religious faith, strong family traditions, a strong, proud work ethic and probably the most appealing to us, a “friendly, accepting manner” and zest for life that is usually preceded with the broadest smile you will ever see. We can honestly tell you that in the two weeks we spent in Acadiana, never once did we encounter a single Cajun who wasn’t helpful and friendly. Ask them a question about their history, food, music or culture and you will get a little mini lesson on the spot. Cajuns are proud of who they are and where they came from and in these days, there is something so refreshing about that.

First some history. The Cajuns of Louisiana came from Nova Scotia during the 1750’s as a result of the “Great Derangement of 1755” when these French pioneers of northeastern Canada were forced to either swear allegiance to the British Crown or be deported. They were mainly poor and illiterate people with a deep faith in the Catholic religion and most refused. Families were divided and thousands were killed outright or died during forced sea voyages to France, New England, Louisiana and even the islands of the Caribbean and South America. The Longfellow poem Evangeline, based on two lovers separated and finally reunited at death, has is origins from the cruel treatment at the hands of the British in the 1750’s. We lunched under the famous Evangeline Oak in St. Martinsville, Louisiana close to where, according to the poem, the lovers were reunited.
Spain controlled the lands west of New Orleans and was eager to have it settled. They offered generous land grants to anyone who would develop this inhospitable region. The Acadians, desperate for a homeland, got the least desirable area consisting of the swampland and wet prairies south and west of New Orleans.

Today Cajun country stretches approximately 300 miles from New Orleans to the Texas Louisiana border along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico in a triangle pointing north to the city of Villa Platte. The geographic center is the city of Lafayette which is also considered the Cajun capital. Flat and wet are two words that best describe the geography. Hot and humid also comes to mind. Imagine the first Acadians coming from the winters and frozen lakes of Nova Scotia to land of moss and alligators. I am convinced that part of the “Cajun Pride” originates from the history of peoples who have survived in lands that no one else seemed to want or use.
The language of Cajun Country is a combination of Acadian French, Creole or Black French and Standard French. This is remarkable when one considers that Cajun children were not allowed to speak French of any kind in the public schools and were punished for doing so. Present day Cajuns often speak a dialect common to one of the three main regions, south or swamp, midland around Lafayette, and upland or prairie. I will forever regret that I never learned a foreign language in high school or college. I could so use French in this area and Spanish would be such an asset when traveling in the Southwest. Many phases are so delightful; one does not have a good time but
“passes” a good time or would “pass” a look at a pretty girl. And of course, one of the most famous of all, “Laisser les Bon Temps Rouler” or “Let the Good Times Roll.”

Now for the food. Oh my gosh!!!!! If you were to draw a circle 50 miles out from Lafayette and pick any state or county road, you will find a small, inconspicuous eating establishment, often as an extension of someone’s home with the most unforgettable cuisine and the most incredible price, about every 10 miles. Many are connected to dance halls where you eat and then dance. With names like Rita-Mae Kitchen, Mama Goulas’s, Mulate’s, Mathilda’s, Thibodaux’s Boudin and Cracklin, how can you go wrong? There are gumbos, jambalayas, smoked tasso, rabbit and quail, alligator and seafoods. The biggest misconception is that all Cajun food is hot and spicy. Many dishes are very light and delicate with rice and yams as a base. We visited one Cajun bakery in Abbeyville and picked out several small cakes, filled pastries and brownies. I put a $10 dollar bill on the counter and said, “Keep the change” to which the women responded, “Oh, I couldn’t do that!” When I asked why, she informed me that the bill was $3.25.

But where ever you are in Cajun Country, crawfish is king. Never ever, ever, say “krayfish” or you will stick out as foreigner, as one Cajun told me, “like a damn duck on a gator’s back.” Crawfish is consumed literally in every Cajun town larger than 10 people, by the tons day after day. You get a steaming 5 lb pile on a round plate. Then you pinch off the head, schuck out the tail meat by squeezing, and pop it in your mouth, no sauce needed. We saw children as young as two or three pinching and schucking as though they have been doing it since birth. If you are a true believer, you also squeeze out the head juices into your mouth before you toss the head in the pile, thus the phase, “Pinching, Sucking and Schucking” “Laisser les Bon Temps Rouler”. Out of the 5 lb pile you actually eat about 3/4 of a pound of the most delicious, succulent meat available. It is truly “poor man’s lobster”. Sara would not pinch, suck or schuck but had no trouble eating the tiny tails. The crawfish are raised in watery fields that line both sides of the road for miles which are later used to grow rice. Also catfish is king and more popular than smelt in Wisconsin.

The other most popular food is Boudin (B00-dan), never (Boo-din) another Yankee give-away, a rich and well seasoned rice and pork sausage that sometimes includes varying amounts of giblets. There is more rice than pork by far and not what we think of as sausage. Boudin is sold precooked and still warm in literally thousands of towns across Cajun Country. You simply cut the link in half and squeeze the stuffing into your mouth.Oh my God, is it good. Sara even tried boudin. These links are so popular that a “seven course meal” in Cajun Country has often been described as “a six pack of beer and a pound of boudin. One sign read, “Rubber Boots, Hardware, Tackle, Bait, Kerosene and Boudin. It is a treat not to be missed when visiting Cajun Country.

Also consider andouille (and-Do-we) a spicy but very lean pork sausage, boulette (Boo-let) a ball shaped fritter similar to a hush puppy, cracklins which is fried strips of pork skins, not a health food but oh so good, and crawfish etouff’ee (pronounced eh-two-Fay) a dish of peeled crawfish tails in a stew of fresh peppers, onions, and garlic simmered in butter and served over rice……and of course the dirty rice, gumbos, jambjalaya and Po’boy (never a poor boy) which is a sandwich made with tomato, lettuce and crusty French bread and just about anything from shrimp and catfish to pork or spiced beef.
Besides the food, the music of Acadiana is probably the best know aspect of Cajun culture. Be it Cajun, Zydeco or Swamp pop, the native music is the antithesis of most modern music heard on the radio today. It is the music of working people, both young and old, and if it has one common characteristic, it is for those who love to dance. To hear it all you have to do is turn on your car radio, roll down the window, or visit one of the literally thousands of dance hall scattered across Cajun Country. These dances began as “bals de maison” or house dances in private homes where children were rocked to sleep in a “fais-do-dos” or separate room. Have you ever been to a wedding dance and seen a couple that looks like they have been dancing all of their lives together?? Well, we attended several dances, usually Friday or Saturday night, even during Lent, and EVERYONE looks like they have been dancing together for their lifetime. And there is a reason why!!!! It is because they have. Grandma dances with the baby in her arms. Dad dances with his teenage daughters, junior dances with his mom, everyone dances with everyone. And, but Oh Boy, when mom and dad start to “cut the floor” you’d better get out the way. Whether it is the unbelievably fast Zydeco, a two step that makes you tired just watching, or an occasional stately, sweeping waltz, the people of Cajun country can dance and they do it with style. Sara and I were usually in awe and always in a dripping sweat, and hoped that we didn’t too often look like a “dam duck on a gator’s back.” But we enjoyed the music always and had such a good time.

Which lead me to my final thought. When ever you go in Cajun Country, you see evidence of the close family ties. Whether you are in a restaurant, a dancehall, a grocery store, a bar or church, everyone in the family is included. We have never seen such well behaved children and such loving parents. When families greet families it is always with a warmth and genuine joy that seem to radiate through the room. Elders are respected and babies are cared for by everyone. We even observed a teenager brother and sister dancing together. How often do you see that???????????
In this time when the collapse of the family seems so pervasive, and cynicism toward organized religion all an all time high, a visit to Cajun Country is

good for the soul…….if not for the waistline

“Laisser les Bon Temps Rouler”
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POSTER SEEN EVERYWHERE IN CAJUN COUNTRY
POSTER SEEN EVERYWHERE IN CAJUN COUNTRY
5 TONS OF CATFISH ARE TAKEN OUT OF THIS ONE POND EVERY YEAR
5 TONS OF CATFISH ARE TAKEN OUT OF THIS ONE POND EVERY YEAR
CRAWFISH FARMER STARTING OUT TO HARVEST A POND
CRAWFISH FARMER STARTING OUT TO HARVEST A POND
TRAPS USED TO CATCH THE CRAWFISH IN THE PONDS
TRAPS USED TO CATCH THE CRAWFISH IN THE PONDS
THE CRAWFISH FARMERS AND THEIR CATCH
THE CRAWFISH FARMERS AND THEIR CATCH
WE ATE AND DANCED AT DI'S  WHICH WAS IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE
WE ATE AND DANCED AT DI'S WHICH WAS IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE
WE HAD A LATE NIGHT AT DI'S
WE HAD A LATE NIGHT AT DI'S
DON PINCHED, SUCKED AND SCHUCKED HIS WAY THROUGH 5 LBS OF THEM MUDPUPPIES
DON PINCHED, SUCKED AND SCHUCKED HIS WAY THROUGH 5 LBS OF THEM MUDPUPPIES
GRANDMA LINE DANCING
GRANDMA LINE DANCING
THE BAND WAS GREAT................
THE BAND WAS GREAT................
MOM AND DAD CUTTING UP THE FLOOR
MOM AND DAD CUTTING UP THE FLOOR
AT D'S THE WHOLE FAMILY CAN PINCH, SUCK AND SCHUCK
AT D'S THE WHOLE FAMILY CAN PINCH, SUCK AND SCHUCK
BABY DANCING WITH DAD
BABY DANCING WITH DAD
ANOTHER FAMILY ENJOYING CRAWFISH AT DI'S
ANOTHER FAMILY ENJOYING CRAWFISH AT DI'S
SARA  AND I LOVE TO DANCE CAJUN
SARA AND I LOVE TO DANCE CAJUN
THE PLACE WAS PACKED
THE PLACE WAS PACKED
FAMILY DANCING AT DI'S
FAMILY DANCING AT DI'S
SARA UNDER THE FAMOUS EVANGELINE TREE
SARA UNDER THE FAMOUS EVANGELINE TREE
CHURCH AT EVANGELINE PARK ST MARTINSVILLE
CHURCH AT EVANGELINE PARK ST MARTINSVILLE
INTERIOR OF THE CHURCH AT ST. MARTINSVILLE
INTERIOR OF THE CHURCH AT ST. MARTINSVILLE
A CAJUN BAKERY WITH DELICIOUS TREATS
A CAJUN BAKERY WITH DELICIOUS TREATS
WHAT A BAKERY AND WHAT GREAT PRICES!!!
WHAT A BAKERY AND WHAT GREAT PRICES!!!
THE FOLKS IN CAJUN COUNTRY LOVE THEIR STATUES OF VIRGIN MARY AND THE SACRED HEART IN THE FRONT YARD AND NO BATH TUBS USED
THE FOLKS IN CAJUN COUNTRY LOVE THEIR STATUES OF VIRGIN MARY AND THE SACRED HEART IN THE FRONT YARD AND NO BATH TUBS USED
SARA AND I ENJOYED THE ARCADIA CENTER AT EUNICE
SARA AND I ENJOYED THE ARCADIA CENTER AT EUNICE
ARCADIAN MUSEUM AT THE EUNICE
ARCADIAN MUSEUM AT THE EUNICE
CAJUN MUSIC MUSEUM AT EUNICE
CAJUN MUSIC MUSEUM AT EUNICE
SARA GETS THE HISTORY OF CAJUN DANCE AND MUSIC
SARA GETS THE HISTORY OF CAJUN DANCE AND MUSIC
STORY OF THE ARCADIAN'S HISTORY IN STITCHES OF A QUILT AT ARCADIA CENTER
STORY OF THE ARCADIAN'S HISTORY IN STITCHES OF A QUILT AT ARCADIA CENTER
CAJUNS ARE QUILTERS AND PROUD OF THEIR WORK
CAJUNS ARE QUILTERS AND PROUD OF THEIR WORK
SARA AND I ALSO DANCED AT THE FAMOUS EUNICE LIBERTY THEATER CAJUNS CUTTING THE FLOOR
SARA AND I ALSO DANCED AT THE FAMOUS EUNICE LIBERTY THEATER CAJUNS CUTTING THE FLOOR
GRANDMA ON THE SPOONS
GRANDMA ON THE SPOONS
OH THE FIDDLE PLAYER WAS AWESOME
OH THE FIDDLE PLAYER WAS AWESOME
WHAT A BAND!!!!!!!!
WHAT A BAND!!!!!!!!
DID THIS GUY LOVE TO DANCE.....
DID THIS GUY LOVE TO DANCE.....
BASS PLAYER WAS IN RARE FORM
BASS PLAYER WAS IN RARE FORM
CAJUN FOOD  FOR EVERYONE AFTER THE DANCE AT THE LIBERTY THEATER
CAJUN FOOD FOR EVERYONE AFTER THE DANCE AT THE LIBERTY THEATER
OH HOW THOSE CAJUNS CAN DANCE
OH HOW THOSE CAJUNS CAN DANCE
OUR LAST DAY IN CAJUN COUNTRY WE TOURED SOME OF THE OLD  PLANTATIONS......THE LANE TO THE HOUSE WAS ONCE 3 MILES  LONG
OUR LAST DAY IN CAJUN COUNTRY WE TOURED SOME OF THE OLD PLANTATIONS......THE LANE TO THE HOUSE WAS ONCE 3 MILES LONG
PLANTATION HOUSE AT THE END OF THE LANE
PLANTATION HOUSE AT THE END OF THE LANE
ANOTHER PLANTATION..........
ANOTHER PLANTATION..........
THEY WERE BEAUTIFUL ...........
THEY WERE BEAUTIFUL ...........
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