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Katharine Shilcutt reported on which Houston restaurants have opened and which have closed, including three Cajun joints. Which led commenter Tim to reflect on Creole and Cajun, New Orleans and Lafayette:

Forgive me for I am about to nitpick:

'Three separate Cajun places went to that big Crescent City in the sky'?

Cajun cooking has a strong influence on much of the food you can eat in New Orleans. There are some great Cajun restaurants there and everyone should be happier for it. Furthermore, the notion that traditional New Orleans cuisine is often called Creole in no way necessarily excludes Cajun cuisine from the New Orleanian canon of cuisine.

However, while I am not a Cajun myself, my understanding is that many if not most Cajuns would probably not consider New Orleans to be their ultimate resting place. It's more likely it would be somewhere closer to the vicinity of Lafayette.

Interesting. But we have to say, "that big Lafayette in the sky" just doesn't have the same ring...

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When Cajuns arrived in Louisiana, the people of New Orleans didn't welcome them and wouldn't have them. Cajuns were forced to live in the swamps. It's actually an insult to Cajuns and their very tragic history when New Orleans capitalizes on the current popularity of things Cajun.


He's right. I'm from Louisiana - Breaux Bridge, specifically - a little town just outside of Lafayette. Cajun and creole are very different. Cajuns are of French Canadian decent and settled in what is referred to as Acadiana - The Lafayette and surrounding areas. The food is a result of French influence and living off what was available in the swamps.

Creole is a mixture of French, Spanish, African and American-Indian influence. The food is much heavier, with thicker gravies and darker roux. Some of the gravies have a lot of tomato mixed in and you don't find that in Cajun cooking for the most part unless you're eating catfish courtbouillion (pronounced coo-be-yon).

If you compare a traditional creole gumbo to a cajun gumbo, you'll see a big difference in the color and thickness of the soup, the chunkiness of the vegetables and the types of them that are found in it. Cajun cooking is much simpler, relying heavily on onions and bell pepper for vegetable flavor, along with heavy helpings of garlic, cayenne, salt and black pepper.

Also, Cajun's don't blacken anything. I've never eaten anything blackened until I moved to Houston and saw it in the menu of "Cajun" restaurants. It's weird. We call things that come off the grill charred "burned".

And I've never eaten at a Cajun restaurant in Houston that actually holds a candle to my mom's and grandmother's cooking. Hell, I don't think I've eaten at a cajun restaurant in Louisiana that does that, either. Probably because cooking that food is about family and tradition, more than how it looks on a plate. We take our food seriously, we love to eat and love to do it big with as many people gathered around us as possible. That's really what Cajun cooking is all about.

And cold beer.

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