Cajun and Creole cuisine are often mistaken as one in the same. They are similar because both came out of the same menagerie of cultural influences. Cajun food can be classified as ‘country cooking’ and Creole as ‘city food’. 

The settlements of the Cajun people are bordered by the Atchafalaya area to the north and the Gulf of Mexico to the south. This puts us in the middle of the “Sportsman’s Paradise”. The wild game and seafood, inland and offshore, are bounteous to say the least. The Cajuns have always taken full advantage of these abundant resources and “live off the land”. 

Historically, the “Cajun” was not rich monetarily. To feed their large families they utilized what was available to them. This often resulted in incorporating wild game and seafood into one-pot meals. Jambalaya, originally a Spanish dish called ‘paella’, and Gumbo, from the African word for okra, became staples in the Cajun kitchen.

The word ‘Creole’ comes from the Spanish word ‘Criollo’ and means ‘child born in the colonies’. This originally referred to those born to Europeans from France and Spain. Eventually the term came to include those of mixed, African heritage as well. 

Creole cooking came mainly from people of means that could afford the ingredients to make creamy soups and sauces. For example, they use butter in place of oil for a roux. The Italian influence would result in a red gravy made with a roux and tomatoes, which is more characteristic of Creole cuisine. 

My Grandma incorporated both Cajun and Creole methods in her cooking. I think growing up in a Cajun community, then cooking in the convent in New Orleans, really influenced the meals she made for her family. From Shrimp and Hot Dog Jambalaya to Smothered Rabbit and White Beans, we all looked forward to Saturday nights at “Grandma’s house”!

Published by Gina Smith