Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Let's Break Down my Limited Knowledge of Creole

Everyone is fairly familiar with an area known as "New England." We talk a lot about it in July what with the whole "battle for Independence" and all.

What you may not realize, is that there was also an area known as "New France." This area was composed of Eastern Canada and Maine, where the French originally settled. New France was made up of Quebec, and "everyone else" (called Acadians). Then came the British and those pesky New Englanders and the Acadians were deported. (Obviously a very broad strokes history lesson here. There was other stuff that happened in between, but you don't really read this blog for history, do you?)

Many of these Acadians ended up in Louisiana, where they became known as Cajuns. This French background explains the language and influence that has become synonymous with New Orleans, and most importantly with Mardi Gras.

And this is where my 4 years of French can help you decipher some of those tricky Mardi Gras phrases.

Phrases like "Mardi Gras" which literally translates into "Fat Tuesday." (And explains why the holiday is held on a Tuesday, as I explained to my coworker who was convinced Mardi Gras was usually celebrated on Thursdays.) As I explained yesterday, Fat Tuesday is the day to get rid of all that decadent fat in your house before Lent. Fat, sex, soda, alcohol, chocolate, and all other methods of debauchery.

Another popular Mardi Gras phrase is "Laissez les bons temps rouler" which means "Let the good times roll." Although this is an easy one to put together. Most of us are already familiar with the phrase "Laissez faire" which means "to let do" so you know you're letting something happen here. And rouler? roulette? Well you just know something is rolling. So we're letting something roll. And frankly, does it matter what?

Believe it or not, I have never been to New Orleans. I know, it's surprising given my LOVE of Cajun food. But that love drives me to go all out in celebrating Mardi Gras in my very own home. Or to at least use it as an excuse to make something creole. I don't discriminate - jambalaya, gumbo, etouffee, dirty rice, red beans and rice, I love them all. This year I will share with you my Shrimp Jambalaya.

This is especially representative of New Orleans because it is truly Creole - a mix of the French and Spanish influences in Crescent City. This is easy and basic and just shrimp, but of course, you should feel free to add some of your favorite creole add ins - andouille sausage or okra.

Shrimp Jambalya
2 slices bacon, diced
1/4 cup celery, chopped
1/4 cup onion, chopped
1/4 cup green pepper, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cups canned tomatoes
dash of cayenne
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 spring of thyme, chopped
1 lb shrimp, cooked, shelled, and deveined.
chopped parsley
2 cups rice

1. Fry the bacon in the skillet until crisp. Drain and dry.
2. Add the celery, onion, and green pepper to the bacon fat until the onion is translucent.
3. Add the garlic, the tomatoes, cayenne pepper, chili powder, and thyme. Lower the heat and simmer 20 minutes.
4. Add the shrimp and cook until the shrimp is hot. Season with salt as necessary.
5. Mound the rice on a plate and spoon the shrimp and sauce over it. Sprinkle with bacon and parsley.


  1. There are still many Acadians in pockets of the Maritime provinces in Canada with their own cuisine and language. Cajuns took their cuisine ands spiced it up to what it is today. Those Southerners sure know how to party!

  2. This really is a lovely version of jambalya and your photo makes it look most appealing. I'd love to have a bowl of this. Have a great day. Blessings...Mary