• Ellen Byron

Feeding a Ragin' Cajun Appetite

When I wrote Plantation Shudders, a mystery set in Cajun Country, it was a given that the book would include recipes. Gumbo, jambalaya, etouffe, boudin – I don’t think any region in America is as defined by its culinary accomplishments as south Louisiana. And I think filmmaker Kevin McCaffrey, the creative force behind the documentary, No One Ever Went Hungry: Acadian Food Traditions Then & Now, would agree.

In this mouthwatering piece of filmmaking, everyone from shrimpers to hog farmers seems to have a knack for creating delicious dishes. Kevin McCaffrey explores how location affects local cuisine. Cajun Country is effectively split by I-10; north of the interstate is prairie Cajun, south is coastal Cajun. Since the prairie Cajuns are primarily farmers, their jambalaya will feature meats like chicken, pork and andouille sausage. The bayous are populated with fisherman, so visit a village like Delcambre and you’ll find seafood in your jambalaya. Cajuns are also very specific about their cookware. You make jambalaya in a Dutch oven, but gumbo in a cast iron pot.

Another unique aspect of Cajun cuisine is that men do a lot of the cooking, and they learn from their fathers, not their mothers. They take great pride in their culinary accomplishments, and it’s wonderful to watch cooking tips be handed down from grandfather to father to son.

No One Ever Went Hungry also debunks the myth that Cajun cooking has to be super spicy. “Theres a misconception about Louisiana products that they’re spicy hot, and that’s not so,” Darrel Rivere of Rivere Foods says in the documentary. “Chefs will tell you that it’s about the flavor, not so much about the spice.”

While the havoc wreaked by Hurricane Katrina, the BP Gulf Oil Spill, and commercial development is disheartening, it’s reassuring to see how committed the Cajun people are to maintaining their culinary culture. “Families have not moved away at the same rate as the rest of the country,” says Kevin McCaffrey. “Food is community based, ritual based, traditional, memorable, and loaded with significant human connections.” One warning about No One Ever Went Hungry: Acadian Food Traditions Then & Now: don’t watch on an empty stomach!

For more information about Kevin's Louisiana documentaries, visit http://eprimemedia.com/.

Enter my contest to win a copy of Kevin's great documentary, a rare, out-of-print edition of the classic cookbook, RECIPES AND REMINISCENCES OF NEW ORLEANS, a tote bag, and other goodies! http://s.heyo.com/c77768


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