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Cajun Foodways

Cajun Foodways

C. Paige Gutierrez
With a Foreword by Barry Jean Ancelet
Copyright Date: 1992
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  • Book Info
    Cajun Foodways
    Book Description:

    Cajun food has become a popular "ethnic" food throughout America during the last decade. This fascinating book explores the significance of Cajun cookery on its home turf in south Louisiana, a region marked by startling juxtapositions of the new and the old, the nationally standard and the locally unique.

    Neither a cookbook nor a restaurant guide,Cajun Foodwaysgives interpretation to the meaning of traditional Cajun food from the perspective of folklife studies and cultural anthropology. The author takes into account the modern regional popular culture in examining traditional foodways of the Cajuns.

    Cajuns' attention to their own traditional foodways is more than merely nostalgia or a clever marketing ploy to lure tourists and sell local products. The symbolic power of Cajun food is deeply rooted in Cajuns' ethnic identity, especially their attachments to their natural environment and their love of being with people.

    Foodways are an effective symbol for what it means to be a Cajun today. The reader interested in food and in cooking will find much appeal in this book, for it illustrates a new way to think about how and why people eat as they do.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-602-1
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-x)
    Barry Jean Ancelet

    During the 1980s, bigger-than-life chef Paul Prudhomme brought his native Cajun cooking to the attention of the nation by appearing on national television and cooking for heads of state and media celebrities. The excitement generated by his enthusiasm and spicy seasonings brought Cajun culture and its cuisine to the attention of the nation, fueling a fad which swept through restaurants across the country. Unfortunately, fads are usually based on trendy fascination instead of deep understanding, and many came to know only a caricature of Cajun cooking. Chefs everywhere copied Prudhomme’s blackened redfish, and eventually blackened just about everything else. Cayenne...

  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. Introduction: Louisiana’s Cajuns
    (pp. 3-33)

    During the 1980s Cajun food was a favorite topic of food critics and travel writers. Countless magazine and newspaper articles featured Cajun cooking, and restaurants in New York, Los Angeles, and other cities far from south Louisiana’s Cajun country served Cajun-style food to eager customers. Cajun cooking was the subject of television talk shows, cooking classes, mail-order catalogs, specialty food shops, cookbooks, and how-to video tapes. New “gourmet” food products, such as frozen Cajun entrees and prepared Cajun seasoning powders, appeared on supermarket shelves. Cajun food became firmly established as an ethnic cuisine, far from its Louisiana homeland. Today Americans...

  6. 1. What Goes into Cajun Food
    (pp. 34-50)

    How do Cajuns describe “Cajun food”? Not all the foods Cajuns eat are labeled “Cajun.” For instance, Cajuns eat steak and baked potatoes, pizza, packaged breakfast cereals, hamburgers, ice cream, and bananas, but none of these is ever described as Cajun food. The fact that a group of people eats a certain food does not make it “ethnic.”

    When asked to identify Cajun food, Cajuns often answer by listing various local dishes, such as gumbo, étouffée, boudin, sauce picquante, and chicken fricassee, to name a few. These are allcookedfoods, and they are prepared according to a Cajun style...

  7. 2. Cajun Cooking
    (pp. 51-68)

    This chapter consists of a series of descriptions of major Cajun dishes. It is not a complete description of all cooked foods eaten by Cajuns (some of which are not labeled as “Cajun”). Nor is it a “food genealogy” describing the historical origins of various dishes, although I occasionally refer to historical origins, especially if these purported origins are part of the folk or popular view of a particular dish. Nor do the following descriptions constitute a complete listing of all dishes whicharelabeled as Cajun. Rather, I list those prepared dishes that are most frequently mentioned and labeled...

  8. 3. Cooks and Kitchens
    (pp. 69-76)

    It is not surprising that professional Cajun cooks like Paul Prudhomme, Enola Prudhomme, John Folse, and others have become high-profile “ambassadors” of Cajun culture. In Acadiana, cooking is a widely held, often performance-oriented skill, and one that is highly valued in both men and women.

    A study conducted in the 1960s of married white homemakers in Evangeline Parish indicated that 95 percent of the women surveyed did the cooking of everyday meals in the home. However, 39 percent of their husbands also cooked domestic meals occasionally, and 9 percent cooked often. In addition, 65 percent of the husbands cooked for...

  9. 4. Cajuns and Crawfish
    (pp. 77-82)

    The crawfish is the dominant food-related ethnic symbol in Acadiana. It is arguable that the crawfish is the most important of all Cajun ethnic symbols today. Its use as a symbol is ubiquitous, and it is acceptable as an ethnic emblem to a wide variety of Cajuns. Revon Reed, a Cajun teacher, writer, and radio personality who has long been active in the Cajun ethnic revival, has predicted that “anthropologists of the future” will classify the crawfish as the symbol of Cajuns in the twentieth century (R. Reed 1976:109; see also Gutierrez 1984).

    Why is the crawfish so popular and...

  10. 5. Catching, Cooking, and Eating Crawfish
    (pp. 83-95)

    Unlike the Anglo-Americans who settled in much of the southern United States, the French who settled in south Louisiana brought with them to the New World a tradition of eating crawfish, which were also eaten by the local Indians (Comeaux 1972:63–65). By the time the Acadian refugees began to arrive in Louisiana, crawfish were important enough to the colonists that they took steps to ensure a ready supply. A military officer who traveled in Louisiana before 1770 observed that “The crawfish abound in this country; they are in every part of the earth, and when the inhabitants chuse a...

  11. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  12. 6. The Meaning of Crawfish
    (pp. 96-109)

    How do the foodways associated with crawfish contribute to the efficacy of the crawfish as a Cajun symbol? Foodways such as the crawfish boil, described in chapter 5, underlie the use of the crawfish as a symbol, helping to determine its significance and its success. The crawfish boil, as a social event, makes a statement about both the internal unity and the boundaries of the group known as Cajuns.

    The crawfish boil is an event that celebrates Cajun joie de vivre and esprit de corps. A crawfish boil, unlike most meals, demands the presence of a large group of people....

  13. 7. Boucheries, Mardi Gras, and Community Festivals
    (pp. 110-120)

    The crawfish boil is a well known Cajun food-related event, and it is regarded as characteristically “Cajun” by Cajuns themselves, by the regional media, and by Anglo-American outsiders. However, Cajuns hold a variety of other social events that revolve around food and eating, and that are often regarded by Cajuns and others as characteristically “Cajun.” An analysis of these events, like the analysis of crawfish boils presented in chapter 6, yields insight into the relationship between Cajun foodways and ethnic identity.

    A family boucherie—not to be confused with the traditional meat-butchering and distribution institution also known as a boucherie...

  14. 8. Cajun Food and Ethnic Identity
    (pp. 121-138)

    Crawfish boils, boucheries and other special food events blend work and play, thus highlighting both Cajun competence and joie de vivre. In addition, at these events ethnic differences between Cajuns and outsiders are clearly evident and ethnic boundaries take on a special relevance.

    Part of the power of the crawfish as an ethnic marker is derived from the fact that outsiders typically have difficulty in peeling and eating crawfish (see chapter 6). Outsiders, like very young Cajun children, cannot put food into their mouths because they lack the necessary mechanical skills. Two other cajun foods require special mechanical skills on...

  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 139-146)
  16. Index
    (pp. 147-149)