#10 Gumbo

Seafood Gumbo

I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself if I didn’t talk about the ultimate Cajun meal…gumbo! Now I’ve held off talking about gumbo for this long to avoid covering the most common Cajun topics, but enough is enough. There’s no denying gumbo’s place in a Cajun’s heart…or belly.

The very word gumbo makes a Cajun man or woman drool like ‘dem dogs with the bells and stuff. Gumbo is the ultimate Cajun comfort food, enjoyed on a cold night with friends and family, or by your lonesome if you don’t feel like sharing the good stuff. Eating it brings back memories of childhood, of the gumbos made with love by your mama or mom-mom. Cajuns have even coined the term ‘gumbo weather’ to hint to each other that it might be time to whip up a pot…and invite us over. Pretty much anything under 60 degrees is considered ‘gumbo weather’ to a coonass.

Gumbo is basically a stew or thick soup, made with a handful of simple ingredients, and served over rice. You start with water and a thickening agent like okra or roux (depending on the type of gumbo), then we add the holy trinity, or Cajun Mirepoix, which is a magical combination of onions, celery, and bell pepper that gives most Cajun food its signature flavor. After that, we throw in some meat and sausage, season with salt, cayenne, and garlic, and let it cook till it’s done.

There are no hard and fast rules for making gumbo. Each family has their own special recipe passed down over the generations. Think of them as Cajun snowflakes, each unique in their own special way. That said, there are NO TOMATOES in a real Cajun gumbo! Sorry, but there are few things that’ll make a Cajun man’s blood boil faster than trying to pass off a fake gumbo. You might find tomatoes in a New Orleans, or Creole gumbo, but that’s an entirely different beast than a Cajun gumbo. If a restaurant tries to serve you a tomato gumbo, demand a refund…cause you been ripped off.

Here’s a good chicken gumbo recipe I found online. You can save some time on the roux by buying it in a jar (sometimes we cheat a little). Next time ‘gumbo weather’ rolls around, I’ll try to write down my own recipe and post it (I usually just eyeball everything).

Advertisements

#9 ‘Dem White Alligators

White AlligatorEver since my grade school field trip to the Aquarium of the Americas, I’ve been fascinated by the white alligators they have there. It’s a fascination I share with many of my Cajun brothers and sisters. Such was my own interest, that after the levees broke during Hurricane Katrina, about the fifth thing I thought of (after the really important things of course) was whether or not them white alligators were alright.

You see, alligators are deeply embedded in the Cajun psyche. We glimpse them out of the corner of our eyes while fishing in the basin. At night, we see their glowing eyes reflected back at us when we’re out gigging. There’s an unspoken agreement we have with them: we leave you alone, and you won’t try to eat us.

But don’t Cajun’s eat alligators you ask? Yes and no. I grew up in Cajun country and can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve eaten alligators in my life, and just about every time was at one of our many yearly festivals. Alligator is more something we feed the tourists. It’s a stereotype we play up to, or down to. In my opinion, alligators are a bitch to clean, and they’re not all that great to eat.

Reactions upon seeing the white alligators usually goes something like this: “Keeyaww, did you see ‘dat! Man, I could make some nice white boots with ‘dat. Mais, let’s throw ‘dat ting in a gumbo. Boudreaux, ‘dat crocogator’s prettier than your wife Marie!”

If you haven’t had the pleasure of seeing these fine creatures, take a trip to New Orleans, throw down a few hurricanes down at Pat O’Briens, have a fried shrimp poboy, and head on down to the Aquarium of the Americas. Then go drink some more. Life’s short.

#8 Making Fun of Themselves

A favorite pastime of Cajuns, besides beer drinking, is telling jokes, and nothing gets a bigger belly laugh from a Cajun than a Boudreaux and Thibodeaux joke. You see, Coonasses like making fun of themselves, and Boudreaux and Thibodeaux jokes are universally loved across Cajun country (with the possible exception of people named Boudreaux or Thibodeaux – but that’s ok, they usually don’t understand dem jokes anyway).

Boudreaux and Thibodeaux jokes are the Cajun equivalent of blond or Texas Aggie jokes. In fact, a lot of Boudreaux and Thibodeaux jokes are recycled Aggie jokes Cajunified a lil’ bit (I like makin’ up words yeah). Thibodeaux usually plays the straight man to Boudreaux’s dumbass antics, and occasionally their friend Gautreaux or Boudreaux’s equally dense wife Marie join them.

Here’s a small sampling of what I’m talkin’ about, and if you like them, you can find more here, and some racier ones here.

Boudreaux’s Wife Goes Into Labor

Boudreaux calls the doctor and shouts, “Doc! Doc! my wife Mathilda she be in labor and da contractions are only two minutes apart!”
The doctor asked, “Is this her first child?”
Boudreaux shouts, “No, you idiot, this is her husband!”

Boudreaux Pays Respect

Boudreaux, Thibodeaux, and Gautreaux was playing a big round of golf for $200. At the 18th green Boudreaux had hisself a ten foot putt to win dat round, and the $200. As Boudreaux was lining up his putt, a funeral procession started to pass by. Boudreaux set down his putter, took his hat off, placed it over his chest, and waited for the funeral procession to pass him by. After it passed, Boudreaux picked up his putter and returned to lining up his putt. Seeing this, Thibodeaux said, “Mais cher, dat was de most touching ting I never seen befo. I can’t believe you stopped playing, possibly losing all you concentration, to pay you respects.” “Well”, Boudreaux replies, “we were married for 25 years.”

Cajuns Meet the Aggies (We love pickin’ on dem Aggies)

Boudreaux was sitting in the City Bar in Maurice, Louisiana, one Saturday night, and had several beers under his belt. After a while, he looked at the guy sitting next to him, and asked him, “Hey, you wanna hear a good Aggie joke, you?”

The big guy replied, “Let me tell you something. I’m an oil field roughneck, I weigh 270 pounds, and I don’t like Cajuns. My buddy here is a pro football player, weighs 300 pounds, and he doesn’t like Cajuns either. His friend on his other side is a professional wrestler, weighs 320 pounds, always has a chip on his shoulder, and he likes Cajuns even less than we do, and we are all Aggies. Do you really want to tell us an Aggie joke ?”

Boudreaux, all 150 pounds of Cajun attitude, told him, “Mais, I guess not. After all I don’t want have to explain it three times !

Boudreaux Goes to Confession

Boudreaux, in his usual highly inebriated state, accidentally stumbled into the church building Saturday afternoon, trips his way into the confessional and sits down. The Priest, there of course to hear confession hears nothing so he coughs to let Boudreaux know that he is ready to listen to him, but still hears nothing. He then knocks on the wall separating them, and Boudreaux tells him, “Sorry but dey ain’t no paper in dis one neither!”

Cajuns in the News: Paul Prudhomme takes a bullet, keeps on cookin’

Now dis here is a story about how you can’t keep a Cajun down. While setting up a cooking tent at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans Golf Tournament, famed Louisiana chef Paul Prudhomme was hit by a falling .22 caliber bullet in the arm. Needless to say, Paul pulled through and finished his cookin’. Nuff said.

Updated Wednesday, March 26: 

In related news, Boudreaux and Thibodeaux were hunting over at the Audubon Zoo the other day, and Boudreaux completely missed dat elephant he was tryin’ to shoot.  There’s a $1 reward to anyone who finds his missing bullet.

#7 Popeyes Fried Chicken

Popeyes Fried Chicken

Last Sunday, founder of Popeyes Fried Chicken Al Copeland died of cancer at the age of 64. Despite growing up poor in New Orleans, Al became a millionaire with his spicy fried chicken and buttery biscuits. Now I was gonna to get to Popeyes sooner or later, but it seems now that sooner is better. Rest in peace Mr. Fried Chicken Man.

Ask any Cajun what his favorite fast food place is, and 9 times out of 10, it’ll be Popeyes Fried Chicken. It’s got everything a Coonass needs. Biscuits. Check. Fried chicken, shrimp, catfish. Check. Red beans and rice. Check. Cajun rice. Check. Heart bypass…well you gotta go to the doctor for dat one.

In an age where other fast food places are putting salad and skinless boneless chicken breasts on their menus, Popeyes remains unapologetically deep fat fried. Go get your tofu and salad somewhere else little girl. And if you’re feeling adventurous (or possibly suicidal), visit the Popeyes mecca in Lafayette at the corner of South College and Pinhook, where you can eat yourself to death at their all-you-can-eat Popeyes buffet.

The best thing about Popeyes is that it’s franchised throughout the United States, giving Cajun transplantees a nice source of comfort food when they get a little lonely for their mama’s cookin’.

#6 Getting Tickets Fixed

Speeding TicketYou’re cruising along at around 85 mph, music cranked up, when you hear a siren…you’ve just been busted for speeding pad’na! This is an experience that would ruin the whole day for most people, but a true Cajun gives the officer his info and receives his ticket with a smile. Why isn’t that couyon steaming, you ask? Cause he’s not gonna have to pay that ticket no, he’ll get it FIXED!

There are few things sweeter in this world to a coonass than getting a ticket fixed. While getting a ticket outside of Acadiana leads to higher insurance rates, all it means here is a phone call to the right person.  Just have the right connection, and it’s all good chére.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Have family in, or make friends with someone in law enforcement.
  2. Get speeding ticket.
  3. Make a phone call.
  4. Ticket magically disappears!

Louisiana has its own sort of caste system where the higher your social status, the more you can get fixed. On the bottom of the scale, just about any true Cajun can get a speeding ticket fixed. Is your daddy the police chief? That’ll get you out of a DWI. Close enough to a state representative and you can just about cover up a dead body.  And if you’re a relative of the Governor, the police will probably help you bury the damn body.

It’s no coincidence that one of our most popular governors, Edwin Edwards, is currently serving 10 years in prison for racketeering. In terms of corruption, southern Louisiana is the Mexico of the United States, and that’s the way we like it.

#5 Easter Egg Pacques Contests

Easter EggsEaster is almost here, and that can only mean one thing…it’s time to Pacques eggs! Pacques (pronounced \pä-kā\), or egg knocking, a game played by both the young and the young at heart, is a game of egg survival.

The rules are simple: two face off with their strongest, hardest boiled Easter eggs. One person holds an egg in their hand, while the opponent attempts to crush their egg with his. The one with the unharmed egg wins the round. Think of it as an all out cage match where many eggs enter, but only one may leave. The prize, bragging rights for the next year.

It’s a game of honor, but like any sport, there are cheaters (ya, I’m talking about you Daryl). Some use illegal performance enhancers like clear nail polish while others use fake ceramic eggs. Some cheaters will even ‘knuckle’ their opponents egg. It’s not a proper pacques contest unless at least one child is bawling. Toughens dem lil bastards up.