Yes, there’s a difference in Cajun and Creole cuisine. Though we often use the terms interchangeably, there are some traditional variations worth noting.
Here’s a few, that will help the next time you face a Louisiana-style menu.
It Comes Down to History, Region & Ingredients
Take a look:
History: Creole cuisine came with the French. But the cooking style was a blend of the many cultures to settle in the New Orleans area. Cajun was a more humble variation from the bayou region—the downhome, comfort food of its time.
Region: Creole dishes were considered “city food,” while Cajun cuisine was thought of as “country food.” Creole cooks were more likely to use such upscale ingredients as okra, tomatoes, butter, cayenne pepper, and filé powder made from ground sassafras leaves. Creole cooks even imported canned tomatoes from Sicily.
Cajuns used what was on hand for their stews, but not tomatoes. Ingredients were grown locally, or hunted.
There’s an old saying: “Creole cooking feeds one family with three chickens. Cajun cooking feeds three families with one chicken.”
Spices: Paprika was used more liberally in Creole dishes, along with basil, celery seed and white peppers. For some reason, neither cuisine included carrots in the so-called “trinity” of ingredients: onion, green peppers, and celery.
The Roux: That’s the mixture of flour and fat used to make the dark thickening sauce. Creole recipes used butter: Cajun made do with oil or lard.
Sister Cities Cajun throws a wide net. The menu offers the traditional gumbo, jambalaya, étouffée, shrimp and grits, as you would expect. But also look for such comfort fare as smoky chicken wings, tacos, Cuban sandwich, hoisin bowl, nachos, and ribs.
Enlightened by all this knowledge, I headed off for lunch with Russ, Deb, Andrew, and Jacci. We met up at Sister Cities Cajun, the Louisiana restaurant on Broadway just south of the Brewery.
“What Are You Getting, Grandma?”
“I want a Dirty Gertie,” I said from having previously scanned the on line entrees.
“It’s not Dirty Gertie,” Andrew smiled. “It’s Dirty Chick,” he said, pointing to the menu.
“Hmm . . . that sounds like the name of a country-western band.”
“That would be the Dixie Chicks,” he said.
“Then what is “Dirty Gertie?” I asked.
He hunched his shoulders and returned to his Hoisin Chicken Bowl, as I googled the name that had popped into my head. Turns out Dirty Gertie was a 1940’s film. It’s amazing how the mind stores little bits of useless information—though sometimes in a mislabeled “file folder.”