We came to eat! – Cajun Country, Louisiana
…and boy did we ever!
But first, since we were camping in the capital city of Louisiana – Baton Rouge – we wanted to tour the state capitol building. Having visited eight so far, we continue to be amazed by what we learn at each one. So how about the history and unique features of this capitol building?
Firstly, it’s the tallest one in the country.
Secondly, this one displays the names of every state in the order of their admittance into the union on its front steps.
An interesting fact – a great proponent in constructing the building, Governor Huey Long, was assassinated in the hallway of this very building he helped to create.
Lastly, this building was constructed similar in style with two other ones we’ve visited, in Nebraska and North Dakota. All three were completed at about the same time and have unique stories to tell.
On the 27th floor is the observation deck, where we enjoyed a 360º view of Baton Rouge:
After the tour I began my first foray into Cajun eating for this trip…3 pounds of absolute deliciousness!
Of course everyone knows about New Orleans, but we prefer “the real cajun country”, known as Acadiana, when we visit. The history and culture of this area really set it apart. The residents here came from various native nationalities, but many are “Cajuns”, descendants of 18th-century Acadian exiles from what is now Canada’s Maritime Provinces. Our home base during this one-week stay was at the little town of Breaux Bridge, known for its Cajun and Creole culture, and its legendary Cajun cooking and crawfish dishes.
Music and Dance
Savoring cajun cuisine is only one of the reasons we were here, another was to attend a fais do-do – a Cajun dance party. Weekends were jam session time, beginning on Saturday mornings with dancing to live zydeco music. You see, Cajuns are known for their “Joie de Vivre” or Joy of Life, and they express it by pumping up high energy music featuring an accordion!
After taking a recovery break back at Poches Fish Camp where Betsy was parked, we headed over to a big event at Bayou Teche Brewery. The band BeauSoleil, a 2-time Grammy winner, happened to be playing that day. Using an accordion and fiddle, they’ve captured the rich Cajun traditions of Louisiana with an infectious beat, and wow were they good!
It was a Saturday filled with music, food, and dancing. These folks know how to party!
So what else did we eat?
We had our initial taste of Cajun food during our first visit in 2013, and we vowed then to come back and stay longer. This time we had a long list of foods to enjoy, and Steve was happy that there were no dishes to do for a whole week!
You know you’re in Cajun Country when you see things like this in the grocery stores and small restaurants:
While stuffing ourselves we learned that Cajun and Creole dishes are actually two distinct cuisines, both born in Louisiana. One difference is between the people who prepare them:
Creole food contains influences of multicultural heritage born to settlers in French colonial Louisiana, and more specifically in New Orleans – hence Creole food is referred to as “city food”.
Cajun cuisine is referred to more as “country food”, prepared by people that descended from the families of the original Acadians. These were Canadians of French descent who immigrated to the region from Nova Scotia after being expelled by the British in the mid-18th century and found sanctuary in southwest Louisiana.
The other distinction is that Creole cuisine uses tomatoes, while traditional Cajun food doesn’t. We enjoyed both of these iconic dishes the entire week, especially loving the crawfish étouffée, a staple in both Cajun and Creole cookery. It’s a rich dish that pairs crawfish tails with a light, blond roux served over rice.
And then there’s Boudin (boo-dan), a Cajun sausage link made of pork, pork liver, rice, onions, and spices stuffed inside a chewy casing. I preferred mine stuffed with crawfish, but it was all excellent. And remember that icemaker that Steve fixed weeks back? Well, we had to remove it from our freezer to make room for Cajun food and fit it with all of the fish we’d already collected!
Breaux Bridge is the world’s crawfish capital, and beginning in 1960 it started celebrating with a crawfish festival. Our timing was a bit off since it doesn’t happen until early May. Fortunately, we were here during the early crawfish season so we were able to put a dent in the crawfish population!
We learned how to pinch, peel and squeeze like real pros during our stay, and Steve actually likes crawfish now. Good thing, as we ordered another three pounds before heading out of town:
The crawfish boil is a tradition that holds a special place in Cajun culture. While here, we heard an old Cajun story that goes like this: in the 1700’s when ancestors of the Cajuns were forced to leave their homes in Acadia (now Nova Scotia), the lobsters missed them so much that they followed them. Their journey was rough and long, carrying them over land and sea so by the time they arrived in Louisiana they had shrunk into mini-lobsters. Later they were renamed crawfish and thus these iconic creatures have become inextricably woven into the culture and traditions.
From boiled crawfish to gumbo, boudin to cracklins, and red beans to pralines, we enjoyed the local food with gusto. At the end of the week we had accomplished our goal – we came to eat…and boy did we…and our scale proved it!
Next up: Natural and Haunting beauty of Cajun Country