Creole vs. Cajun [split from Manhattan]
[Note: This thread was split from Manhattan at: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5975... -- The Chowhound Team].
Sorry -- I have no answer for your question. I'm sure somebody else will have one. But I was quite surprised that we didn't get any kind of lecture on Creole vs Cajun styles of cooking in last night TC. I fully expected somebody to be called on the carpet for conflating the two.
I'm no expert, but here's what I know.
Creole is more citified, more sophisticated. Originated in the Creole community, which is largely African-American, with other groups mixed in.
Cajun is more countrified. Originated in the Cajun community. "Cajun" is a corruption of Acadian -- immigrants from that part of Canada.
Something like that. But I was imagining Tom doing a whole number on one of the chefs for not knowing the difference.
Classic New Orleans Creole cuisine is the blended cuisine of three cultures -- French, Spanish, and African. The city was founded by the French in 1718, ceded to the Spanish in 1763, and returned to the French in 1803. (Napoleon sold it to the U.S. later that year as part of the Louisiana Purchase.) A port of entry for the slave trade, New Orleans had, from its inception, a large African population, and black cooks were instrumental in shaping the city's distinctive cuisine.
Creole cooking has its roots in a grand European style of cooking -- refined, well seasoned, and not particularly "hot."
The peppery dishes often associated with New Orleans are really Cajun. Cajun food is country food -- rustic, and boldly seasoned. It's interesting to note that Cajun culture wasn't associated with New Orleans until the 1970s, when Chef Paul Prudhomme opened K-Paul's restaurant in the French Quarter. The success of K-Paul's made Chef Paul a celebrity, and his cookbooks kicked off a nationwide craze for Cajun cuisine. (It seemed, for a while, as though half the restaurants in the country had "blackened" fish on the menu!)
Which is to say that New Orleans only jumped on the Cajun bandwagon when it became commercially advantageous to do so. It wasn't until the late '70s that anyone associated "Cajun" with New Orleans. (You can see from this map that the Cajun heartland is, in fact, hours outside the city: (http://tinyurl.com/9hqfu7)
Nowadays, the two cuisines borrow freely from each other, to the mutual enrichment of both. New Orleans' dining scene is better than ever!
I'm still waiting for a NYC restaurant to serve convincing New Orleans food. For some reason, we never seem to get it quite right.