Optimum Wellness Summer 2018

Page 54


A Melting Pot

Louisiana’s Cajun and Creole cuisine draws from a patchwork of influences. BY REBECCA TREON


f all the regional cookery across the United States, Louisiana’s Creole and Cajun cuisines are perhaps the most interesting. From the late 17th century onward, the port city of New Orleans was a crossroads of trade and culture. The term “Creole” was a way to define a person born in Louisiana, but whose parents had a different heritage—Spanish, French, African, Amerindian or Caribbean. Cajun cuisine, by contrast, is the rustic, country-style cookery of the French-speaking Acadians deported by the British from Canada in the 18th century. Creole and Cajun can be used to describe people and cooking—one of the notable things the area is known for. The cooking is a blend of elements brought from all the cultures that call New Orleans and southern Louisiana home. Gumbo, a classic soup, acts as a metaphor— literally a melting pot of cultures: The roux is French, the okra is African, the peppers Spanish, and the filé (dried and ground sassafras) is native



Choctaw. Among the other nationalities lending their influence to the region’s food are Italian, German, Irish and English—some 36 different nationalities have put down roots in New Orleans. Chef Kevin Belton, a self-taught Creole chef and author of the new cookbook Kevin Belton’s New Orleans Kitchen (Gibbs Smith, 2018), credits the diversity of Louisiana cooking to the vast variety of readily available ingredients. “Where so many areas are starting to adopt this idea of farmto-table and using local ingredients, we’ve had it all along,” he says. “We have a wealth of fresh ingredients, and we have delicious, fresh seafood.”