Many native Cajuns have left South Louisiana – some for greater job opportunities, others due to a devastating hurricane or because other members of their family moved. Whatever the reason you’re no longer in Louisiana, you can still celebrate the Cajun culture through our unique culinary traditions and customs.
1. Learn to cook authentic, Cajun food
Anyone who knows anything about the Cajun culture realizes how important food is to us. What better way to remember home than by cooking some delicious Cajun dishes? In my experience, it’s not only the taste, but the smell of cooking my favorite meal that brings me right back home. The smell of freshly chopped parsley, onions browning or rice cooking brings me right back to my childhood. My grandmother would use fresh parsley in all of her dishes. I remember her every time I chop fresh parsley for my meals. Learn to make roux from scratch, get your hands on some authentic Cajun recipes and call your family to ask how they cooked your favorite dishes. My mother didn’t have any of her recipes written down, but she could talk me through the process over the phone.
For a head start on Cajun cooking, check out my 5 tips to make your Cajun meals even tastier
2. Seek out local establishments from other Cajuns living in your area
I’m amazed at how prevalent Cajun restaurants and establishments are in areas outside of South Louisiana. Atlanta is a large metropolitan area and we’re lucky to have a handful of great Cajun restaurants, we even have a Cajun meat market, which reminds me of Veron’s in Lafayette. After Katrina, many evacuees ended up settling outside of Louisiana and that’s how we ended up with our local snoball stand that sells authentic New Orleans style snoballs.
3. Continue your family traditions & introduce them to others
Just because you live elsewhere doesn’t mean that you have to give up your family traditions. Continue to paque eggs at Easter, bake King Cakes at Mardi Gras, make beignets and share Cajun meals with family & friends. A few years ago after trying to find a decent king cake in Atlanta, I set out to make my own. It was surprisingly tasty and much less expensive than having them shipped via next day air. My sister and I have hosted Mardi Gras parties for our new friends that we’ve met in our new cities. You can order beads and trinkets online – make a big ol’ pot of chicken & sausage gumbo, put on some Mardi Gras music and laissez les bon temps rouller!
Do you have kids? Make sure to pick up a few of the “Clovis the Crawfish” books to read to them. This will expose them to our language and way of life.
4. Find other Cajuns living near you and plan events/outings together
It’s stunning how many people in my circle of friends here in Atlanta have ties to Louisiana – and these weren’t people I met through an alumni organization – they’re members of my church, I met them through work, etc. Chances are you’ll find others with ties to Louisiana pretty quickly wherever you may end up. If you’d like to make a more concentrated effort, then try finding other Cajuns on a site such as meetup.com or through an alumni association at a South Louisiana University in your city. I’ve listed a few links to alumni chapters for Louisiana Universities to help you find fellow Cajuns in your area:
ULL Ragin Cajun Clubs
LSU Alumni Chapters
Louisiana Tech Alumni Association
McNeese Alumni Chapters
Southern University Alumni Chapters
5. When necessary, order Cajun products online and have them shipped to you
I’m lucky enough to be able to head to Lafayette a few times per year and I have friends/family that can bring things from home for me, but if you’re too far away, there’s always the option of online shopping. Most stores now carry some large Louisiana brands such as Community coffee, Zapp’s Chips, Tony Chachere’s and Abita beer, so check your local supermarket to see if you can score some of these basics. Specialty items like Steen’s syrup and Jack Miller’s BBQ sauce may need to be ordered from a site like Cajun Grocer or directly from the manufacturer.
I hope these tips were helpful to you in continuing to celebrate and honor the Cajun culture in the city you now inhabit. I won’t use the word “home” because I’ll always consider Cajun Country my true home.
Another post that you may find helpful: A guide to Cajuns moving outside of Acadiana
Where are you currently living? How do you celebrate the Cajun culture in your new city?
I came across this article, because as a native of Houma, LA…I feel strongly compelled to keep our culture alive. I live in Florida, about 30 minutes north of Tampa. I’ve already jumped the gun and found a great Cajun restaurant in St. Petersburg, run by the daughter of a man from Thibodeaux. They import everything; the boudin, beer and decor.
As far as cooking, got that too. Gumbo, Jambalaya and all that are thankfully part of repertoire already, and working on supply boats in the Gulf, I cook now and then. It reinforces the recipes…Woo! Lotsa fans.
I do feel compelled to mention that any Cajun worth his roux would have to dip a little further into the culture. Book up on the language, lesser known recipes, research how your family got there and what they went through. Lord! They were tougher than catfish lips. Protect and propagate our culture, keep it on the boil. We have the most beautiful culture in this country, and we can’t let those on the outside dilute it for the sake of selling “Swamp Burgers” or (sigh) box jambalaya.