My Thick Cajun Roots

Let me just start by saying that I may fool many people I meet. My roots run deep with Cajun culture but I give no signs of it. I have no dog named Duke. My English is not broken Cajun-French. I do not hug EVERY stranger that I meet and invite them over for gumbo. Even though on the outside I do not drip with Cajun culture, it shapes the very person I am.

They may not be the most refined people in the South, but these people, my family, have hearts of gold (no Saints color reference intended). They stand together no matter what. No tragedy can separate the bonds that these people share.

Cajun Dancing at D.I.’s Restaurant in Basile, Louisiana

There are many quirks that are unique to my culture. It is a Cajun’s cruel joke to ask people that are not from Louisiana to pronounce their last name. Broussard, Fontenot, Fruge, Duplechain may be pronounced like Brow-sard, Font-e-not, Fruggie, and Dup-lee-chane anywhere else in the country. There are things that we put on the Sunday afternoon buffet that you may call an exterminator for. We will eat frog legs and alligator meat and tell everyone that it tastes like chicken. Little hint: it does not and never will.

Crawfish Hole in Lake Charles, Louisiana

No matter what kind of dog, male or female, they are named Duke or Lady. Gender is never relevant. This is where I get my unnatural addiction to Ray Charles and Louis Armstrong (and yes, I can do the impersonation). I let people know that they need a passport when they go into Deep South Louisiana because it is like a whole other country. It is nothing like you have ever experienced. One thing I can say through all of the craziness is that we know how to laugh through anything and everything. My strength draws deep through my tangled roots of Louisiana but I would not have it any other way. We are a resilient people.  I know whatever comes my way in life that it will be tackled with hard work, love for others, and a love for life.

All of this to say that Louisiana is my home and the people in it are my family. I would not be the same strong and sometimes crazy person that stands in front of you right now without my culture. I carry it with me in my pocket and in my heart. I love how through everything there are people that will never leave Louisiana through hell or high water (literally). No matter how much nature and man may build and teardown and build back up again, it is always home. You learn it is not about possessions. A home is built not with wood and steel but love and community. My culture has a sense of togetherness. Whenever anyone asks where I am from, I will proudly say that my home is and will always be Louisiana.

Crawfish Pond in Basile, Louisiana

Crawfish Boil

 

As I look across the ever-flat terrain of the deepest parts of Louisiana, I see the land scattered with four-inch tall crawfish holes. These mounds of mud might seem insignificant, but an immense part of the Louisiana culture lays in these crawfish dwellings. Louisiana produces nearly 50,000 tons of live crawfish a year, which are harvested from November through June. These little critters have become a culinary symbol. The spring and summer months are filled with thick, humid air and the smell of backyard crawfish boils.  Or, if you are between bayous Des Canes and Nezpique, your nose is directed toward D.I.’s Restaurant in Basile, Louisiana. D.I. and his wife Sherry started the restaurant in his farm equipment building and placed an all you can eat spread of boiled crawfish for $5.00. Now, the restaurant seats 275 people and includes  live Cajun bands and a dance floor. People from all over the world, “with the exception of Australia”, says Sherry, have come to visit and engage in the unique Cajun culture. Piles of bright red crawfish cover the tables at D.I.’s, along with laughter, Cajun music and the cracking of shells embody the Cajun tradition.

Crawfish Boil Recipe From John Besh’s My New Orleans

2 cups of salt

1 package of Zatarian’s Crab Boil spices

5 lemons, halved

3 tablespoons of cayenne pepper

5 whole heads of garlic, halved

5 onions, halved

3 stalks of celery, cut into large pieces

3 bell peppers, seeded and diced

¼ cup of canola oil

20 small bliss potatoes

8 ears of corn, shucked and halved

20 pounds of whole crawfish, rinsed with fresh water

Fill a crawfish pot with 10 gallons of water, bring to boil then add the salt, spices, cayenne, garlic, onions, celery, peppers and oil. Reduce to simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the potatoes and corn and simmer for about 15 minutes. Add the crawfish and simmer for another 10 minutes. Turn the heat off and let the mixture sit for about 15 minutes. Strain the liquid from all of the other yummy ingredients. Dump all of the crawfish and vegetables on a platter or newspaper-covered picnic table. Serve with vinegar, salt and pepper mixture.