The History Of Cajun Cuisine

Cajun cooking is one of the most popular styles of food in the American South today. But believe it or not, Cajun cuisine wasn’t even originally American: it was Canadian! Keep reading to learn more about the history of one of the South’s most iconic cuisines.

Northern Roots In Southern Foods

Cajun cuisine is a style of cooking that originally developed in the American South after Acadian immigrants fled Canada in the 18th century. These immigrants fled Canada as it was annexed by the British, refusing to swear allegiance to the British Crown. The Acadians headed south, settling into the American South, specifically Louisiana and the surrounding areas. The French-Canadian influences still show in modern cajun cooking; most meals center around meats and vegetables with thick sauces cooked in a single pot. Particularly, many Cajun specialties focus on Cajun seafood, with seafood being a common main emphasis of much of French cuisine.

The Evolution Of Ingredients

While the main structures of meals and the cooking methods remained largely the same, the ingredients changed to incorporate what foods were available in the region. Staples like cod, salmon, and lobster from the French-Canadian diet were swapped for more readily available foods, such as crawfish, alligator, shrimp, oyster, crab, catfish, and redfish. Crawfish, in particular, became very popular within Cajun cooking, as they were readily available in the bayou and Gulf region. Additional spices were introduced, such as cayenne and black pepper. Cold-weather vegetables such as carrots replaced with vegetables from warmer climates, like bell peppers; bell peppers, onions, and celery became the so-called “Holy Trinity” vegetables of Cajun cooking and can now be found in nearly every Cajun dish. Potatoes, which often served as the base carbohydrate for French-Canadian meals, were replaced with rice that grew far more readily in the hot Southern climate.

Modern Cajun Cuisine

The combination of these ingredient replacements and the continued basic structure and cooking methods from French-Canadian Cuisine gave rise to the modern Cajun cuisine. Seafood is still prominent in most Cajun dishes and plays a significant role in the cuisine as a whole. In fact, crawfish boils have become a staple of Cajun culture, right alongside Mardis Gras. Since its days as a modified form of French-Canadian cuisine, Cajun cooking has grown and developed into its own unique style, cementing its place within the culture of the American South.