Cajuns are an ethnic group consisting of the descendants of Acadian exiles and peoples of other ethnicities with whom the Acadians eventually intermarried on the semitropical frontier. Today, the Cajuns make up a significant portion of south Louisiana's population, and have exerted an enormous impact on the state's culture.
The word "Cajun" comes from the French pronunciation of Acadian (in French, the masculine Acadien, the feminine Acadienne) which is "A-Cad-jin" or "Cajin" which then became "Cajun". Acadia was the name given to lands in a portion of the French colonial empire in northeastern North America that included parts of eastern Quebec, the Maritime provinces, and modern-day New England, stretching as far south as Philadelphia.
The Cajuns retain a unique dialect of the French language and numerous other cultural traits that distinguish them as an ethnic group. Cajuns were officially recognized by the U.S. government as a national ethnic group in 1980 per a discrimination lawsuit filed in federal district court.
Cajun cuisine developed out of necessity, since the Acadian refugees had to learn to live off the land and adapted their French rustic cuisine to local ingredients such as rice, crawfish, and sugar cane. Feeding a large family, all of whose members did hard physical work every day, required a lot of food. Cajun cuisine grew out of supplementing rice with white meat, game or other proteins where available such as crawfish or any other type of river creature.
An authentic Cajun meal is usually a three-pot affair, with one pot dedicated to the main dish, one dedicated to steamed rice, skillet cornbread, or some other grain dish, and the third containing whatever vegetable is plentiful or available.
The aromatic vegetables bell pepper, onion, and celery are called by some chefs the holy trinity of Cajun cuisine. Finely diced and combined in cooking, the method is similar to the use of the mire poix in traditional French cuisine — which blends finely diced onion, celery, and carrot. Characteristic seasonings include parsley, bay leaf, "green onions" or scallions, and dried cayenne pepper. The overall feel of the cuisine is more Mediterranean than North American.
Gumbo is a full body and flavorful soup or stew. It exemplifies the influence of African and Native American food cultures on Cajun cuisine. Gumbo typically consists of two components, rice and broth, and because to the cooking time and effort it is typically made in large batches. A filé gumbo is thickened with sassafras leaves after the gumbo has finished cooking, a practice borrowed from the Choctaw Indians. The backbone of a gumbo is a dark roux, which is made of flour, toasted until well browned, and fat or oil, not butter as with the French. The classic gumbo is made with chicken and the Cajun sausage called andouille, but the ingredients all depend on what is available at the moment.
It is a type of sausage made from pork, pork liver, rice, garlic and green onion, and other spices. It is widely available by the link or pound from butcher shops. Boudin is typically stuffed in a natural casing and has a softer consistency than other, better-known sausage varieties. It is usually served with side dishes such as rice dressing, maque choux, or bread.
Another classic Cajun dish is jambalaya. The only certain thing that can be said about a jambalaya is that it contains rice and almost anything else. Usually, however, one will find green peppers, onions, celery and hot chili peppers.
Cajun French is one of three varieties or dialects of the French language spoken primarily in the U.S. state of Louisiana, specifically in the southern parishes. Other Louisiana French dialects include Napoleonic French and Colonial or Plantation Society French, spoken primarily in the parishes of Orleans, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. John the Baptist, Jefferson, West Baton Rouge, Pointe Coupée, Avoyelles, St. Mary, Iberia, Assumption, and St. Landry. Cajun French is not the same as Louisiana Creole. It is usually presumed that Cajun French is almost solely derived from Acadian French as it was spoken in the French colony of Acadia. Cajun differs from Metropolitan French in pronunciation, vocabulary and intonation.
English is now spoken by the vast majority of the Cajun population, but French influence remains strong in terms of inflection and vocabulary, and the accent is quite distinct from the General American.
Cajun - Religious traditions
Cajuns are predominantly Roman Catholic. However, Protestant and Evangelical Christian denominations have made inroads among Cajuns, but not without controversy — many Cajuns will shun family members if they convert to any form of Protestantism because of the extreme persecution the Cajuns were subjected to by Protestants during the Great Expulsion of 1755, and throughout their history for maintaining their Catholicism.