Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.
I'm Doug Johnson. This week:
learn about the history of Cajun and Creole food and culture …
Visit some of the famous restaurants of
New Orleans, Louisiana …
listen to some traditional zydeco music.
The state of Louisiana is widely known for its rich
history, musical traditions, good food and fun spirit. Its largest city, New Orleans, is considered
one of the best cities for food in the world. Many famous cooks began their
careers in restaurants that offer the rich traditions of Cajun and Creole
cooking. Before we tell about the food
and music of Louisiana, Bob Doughty explains more about Creole and Cajun
asked food writer and cook Marcelle Bienvenu to help us with the definitions of
Creole and Cajun as part of our exploration of Louisiana cooking.
word "Creole" refers to French colonists and their descendants who came to what
is now Louisiana starting in the early eighteenth century. The roots of Creole
cooking come from the traditional French foods these colonists would have made.
They had to change their cooking to use the food sources that were available in
the hot, wet climate of Louisiana.
settlers came from countries including Spain, Germany, Italy and England. The
food traditions of those countries also influenced Creole cooking.
One group of settlers came to Louisiana during the
eighteenth century from an area of Canada known at the time as Acadie. The
Acadiens were from France and still spoke their native language. They were
forced to leave Canada when the British took over.
Many Acadiens travelled south to Louisiana. The French
and Spanish settlers there permitted them to speak their language and follow
their religion. Some Acadiens settled in rural parts of the state. Over time,
the term "Acadien" developed into the word "Cajun."
Marcelle Bienvenu says the cooking of the Creoles
living in New Orleans often was and still is more formal and complex.
Cajuns living in rural areas made and continue to make
hearty dishes like gumbo and jambalaya that usually contain seafood,
vegetables, rice and spices. These are prepared in one cooking pot. Cajun cooking uses whatever foods are nearby
and available, like crawfish, duck, alligator, okra, corn or tomatoes. Miz Bienvenu says: "When a Cajun cook is
planning a meal, he or she simply opens the kitchen door and whatever is
flying, swimming, walking by or growing in their gardens may well end up in the
Bienvenu adds that Creole and Cajun cooking have influenced one another. So it
is hard to make set rules about their differences. One thing the two cultures
have always had in common is a love of good food.
was "Cedric Zydeco" performed by the twenty-five year old musician Cedric
Watson. Born in the state of Texas, Watson now lives in Lafayette, Louisiana.
He is helping to keep the sounds of Creole and Cajun alive and well. We thought
this energetic music would help us get in the mood to talk about food in the
city known as "The Big Easy."
Orleans has many famous restaurants that celebrate the best of Cajun, Creole
and French cooking. In fact, the travel Web site iExplore recently listed New
Orleans as the best food city in the world. Many food lovers would agree.
can start their day at Cafe du Monde where they enjoy chicory coffee and pieces
of sugary, fried bread called beignets. Its main shop in the French Market is open twenty-four hours a day. So
visitors have all the time they need to enjoy their coffee outside while
watching the people walk by.
family-owned Galatoire's restaurant has been serving fine Creole food in the
French Quarter since nineteen oh five. Its specialties include Trout Marguery. This fish dish is named after a
French cook who created a rich sauce containing white wine, fish stock, egg
yolks and butter.
At Commander's Palace in the Garden District, food
lovers can try American as well as Creole specialties including turtle soup and
fish covered in pecan nuts. Two famous cooks once worked at Commander's Palace.
Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Lagasse have helped make Creole and Cajun food
popular around the world.
Antoine's is another favorite for French Creole
cooking. This restaurant is known for dishes including Oysters Rockefeller and
brings us to our listener question from Vietnam. Khoa Pham wants to know the
difference between alligators and crocodiles. Each creature belongs to a
different group within the order of crocodilians.
The clearest difference
between the two is the shape of their heads. The alligator has a shorter and
wider head with a curved jaw or snout shaped like the letter "U." The crocodile
has a pointier snout, shaped like the letter "V."
Also, alligators liketo live in freshwater,
while crocodiles can survive in salt water. There are several kinds of
crocodiles and alligators.
In the United States, crocodiles are only found
around the southern tip of Florida. But alligators live in several southeastern
was "Dance Everyday" by Terrance Simien and the Zydeco Experience Band. Simien
has been performing Creole music professionally for twenty-five years. Simien, his wife and others worked for years
to influence the Recording Academy to create a zydeco and Cajun music award to
present at its Grammy Awards ceremony. This music became an official Grammy
category last year.
two hundred kilometers west of New Orleans is where another star of Cajun
cooking spent her career making delicious food. Barbara Klein remembers Eula
Mae Dore who died last year.
Mae Dore spent most of her adult life on Avery Island in Louisiana. This area
is known as the home of one of the world's most famous hot sauces, Tabasco. Miz
Dore worked for the McIlhenny Company which makes Tabasco for fifty-seven
years. She worked in the general store of the company and also cooked for its
workers. Her sandwiches became famous in the area. The food she made was so
good that the McIlhenny family soon asked her to cook for them and the many
important visitors to the island.
Mae Dore grew up in a small town in Louisiana. Her mother died when she was ten
years old, so she had to teach herself to cook for her family. She also learned
by watching her grandmother prepare traditional Cajun food. Miz Dore never
trained professionally, but she had an extraordinary skill with food. Many
famous cooks came to Avery Island to try her dishes and learn from her.
Paul McIlhenny and the food writer and cook Marcelle
Bienvenu asked Eula Mae Doré if she would write a cookbook. Miz Dore at first
did not think anyone would be interested in her style of cooking and refused.
But she later agreed to the project. Miz Bienvenu and Miz Dore worked for two
years on the cookbook. "Eula Mae's Cajun Kitchen" was published in two thousand
two. It captures the spirit of this special woman and her love for her native
We leave you with "Chanson D'Acadie" by the band
BeauSoleil and Michael Doucet. The group combines the sounds of Cajun, zydeco,
jazz and blues music.
I'm Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program today.
It was written and produced by Dana Demange. To read
the text of this program and download audio, go to our Web site, voaspecialenglish.com.
us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA's radio magazine in Special