Cajun Country

The French province of Acadia (today's Nova Scotia and surrounding regions) was settled in the 1600s by French colonists, but the area became a British possession soon afterwards. In 1755, as war neared between France and England, the British authorities demanded that the Acadians renounce their Roman Catholic faith and swear allegiance to the Crown. The Acadians refused and the mass exile that followed is well known to all who have read Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's "Evangeline".

The migration of the French Acadians to Louisiana was neither smooth nor immediate. Many were shipped to the New England colonies, others to the West Indies or back to France, and many wandered for 20 years before learning that they were welcome in the predominantly French territory of Louisiana. Here they established small farms along the Mississippi River, Bayou Teche, Bayou Lafourche and other streams in the southern part of the region. Fishing and trapping villages were established in the swamplands. Cajun (the word is a corruption of the original French pronunciation of Acadian--A-ca-jan) Country today lies within a triangle whose base is the Louisiana coast and whose apex is near Alexandria in the central part of the state. The triangle contains 22 parishes and the region's principal city, Lafayette, is the unofficial capital of "Acadiana".

Cajun cooking may be a first cousin to the Creole cuisine of New Orleans, but there is none other quite like it in the world for the imagination of its dishes or the artistic robustness of its seasoning. Favorite Cajun dishes include jambalaya, gumbo, turtle sauce piquante, andouille sausage, boudin (a pork and rice sausage), cochon du lait, soft-shell crab, stuffed crab, a hundred shrimp dishes, crawfish etouffee, crawfish bisque, crawfish pie, and dozens more.

Cajun music can be lively or melancholy - and sometimes both at once. The traditional instruments are fiddle, accordion and triangle, and those still dominate (although drums and guitars have found their way into Cajun bands in recent years). Like the spoken language of the Cajuns, the lyrics of their songs are part French, part English. The themes are universal, love (lost and found) and the beauty of their land, but the melodies and phraseology are unique.

Originally farmers, trappers and fishermen, today's Cajuns occupy virtually every occupation and are the backbone of the state's oil and gas exploration and production industry, particularly offshore. When oil was first discovered in the North Sea more than 5,000 Cajuns with experience working on oil rigs in the open sea were employed to drill the first wells and to provide training.

Along with its food and music, the major trademarks of Cajun Country are pirogues (canoes made from a single cypress log), Spanish moss, alligators, swamps, bayous and "Cajun Cabins".

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