I raise the spoon to my lips and my surroundings fade away to a kitchen that now only exists in my childhood memories. I’m in my grandmother’s kitchen and she’s cooking creole. This past Christmas, I finally asked my mom to teach me how to make creole. My aunt was kind enough to send us her recipe. As my sister and I worked at making the roux (the foundation of any good Cajun dish), I found out this was really my great-grandmother’s recipe with some additions from my aunt.
While my family has Cajun roots, I can’t say that I really feel like I can claim that heritage. I was born in Texas (not Louisiana) and I grew up in North Louisiana not in the southern bayous. I’ve realized you can’t deny your roots. A spoonful of creole has me remembering the stories about my grandmother and great-grandmother growing up. I come from a long line of feisty Cajun women.
But that spoonful of creole is my food heritage. Cajun food is really not that complicated. It’s not meant to be fancy or haute cuisine. It’s derived from learning how to live off the land and having to stretch a dollar to feed your family. Having a bowl of creole, jambalaya, or etouffee will always bring back fond memories of family gatherings where everyone ate too much while catching up with relatives. And no meal would be complete without a cup of strong coffee! (I started drinking coffee as a child thanks to my dear grandmother.)
I will always miss them but I’m thankful that learning to cook Cajun dishes offers me a chance to relive those memories and recognized that this apple didn’t fall too far from the tree.