Some folks would say that being a little bit Cajun is like being a little bit pregnant- it’s just not possible. I will concede that point- up to a point- but please allow me to share with you what I think it means to be a little bit Cajun.
Cajun, to me, has more to do with a mindset and a way of living than it does with anything else. Cajuns like to make everyday life a celebration, and any event can become a reason for a party. This is the culture that I grew up in. My family was close, and we were always dropping in on one another- no call was necessary. If the Aunts and Uncles were at Grandma’s house, we all knew it and would gather there. If they came by to see us and we were not home, they would just go down the road to see someone else- but we were usually home in those days unless there was a special occasion. (Anything going on besides a church event was likely to include the whole family!) Mom would cook extra rice and gravy or potatoes to stretch the meal if it was close to dinner time, and folks were always welcome.
We weren’t stereotypical “Swamp People” Cajuns. Our corner of Southwest Louisiana was influenced a little too much by East Texas, and my Mom’s family was from north of where we lived. We were relative newcomers to the area, beginning with my Grandpa. My Dad’s family is where my actual Cajun roots originate. Our meals consisted of a mixture of “Cajun” food and classic country cooking. We had access to fresh seafood, and always enjoyed it, but I never went to a crawfish boil until I was an adult. Mardi Gras was a foreign thing to me. I never participated in any events besides the local parade as a member of the high school marching band. Because I am not Catholic, Ash Wednesday and Lent didn’t hold the same meaning for me that it did for many of my friends.
As you can tell, growing up in Louisiana wasn’t really what most people would immediately think of, in my experience. When I graduated high school, I attended the local university for 3 semesters, then transferred to a college in Texas, where I met the man who became my husband and has been the love of my life for the past 36 years. During those years, we mostly lived in North Carolina where he grew up, near his family, and the little bit of Cajun in me got very much lost in the day-to-day life of raising children and chasing “the dream.” I still made gumbo, and our children liked the thought of having some Cajun roots, but I’m pretty sure they didn’t have a clue.
Fast forward to 2012, and my mother called out of the blue one day to tell me that she and her husband had decided to buy a small “farm.” She was excited about a new chapter in her life, but she didn’t really want to sell the home where I had grown up. Because of a series of events, our life in NC was in a place which made the decision fairly easy-we would move to Louisiana and take care of the home place for Mom while she and step-dad moved about an hour’s drive north to live their little country dream (More on that in another post).
And that, in a nutshell, is how I grew up on the edge of “Cajun” and why I am learning to embrace the culture and uniqueness of this life now that I am in my 50’s. I’ve decided that I can be a “little bit of Cajun” without sacrificing all the other things I love in life. Things have changed a lot here in the years I’ve been gone, mostly because I’m seeing things through the eyes of an adult. So now I’m sharing with you my journey of taking my little bit of Cajun and fitting into the life and culture of my childhood home- which is a lot more Cajun than it used to be!