Pursuits: Dancing, Dining and Daiquiris in Cajun Place

By William Widmer

A Highway Vacation Through Cajun Place: Sampling huge flavors and lively society on a travel through southern Louisiana.

Whenever I check out Cajun nation, in southwest Louisiana, the land of crawfish, gumbo, gator steaks and les bons temps personified, my initial quit is at a cultural icon that, in itself, elevates this area to the standing of an American touristic treasure: the drive-by means of daiquiri hut. This was my intention in mid-July however, the plane was late, and I experienced pressing business to handle midday — sampling boudin balls (deep-fried rounds of pork and seasoned rice). Boudin in these parts is what lobsters are in Maine, or crabs in Baltimore. And you find them just about everywhere — in butcher retailers, in delis, at foodstuff stands, even at gasoline stations. Much more on these — and the daiquiris — in a instant.

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William Widmer for The New York Instances

Prejean’s, 1 of the traditional Cajun eating places and dance halls in the location.

Acadiana, as the area is known as, is a fertile swath of swamps, bayous and rolling plains alongside the Gulf of Mexico. It runs west of New Orleans to the Texas border. This might properly be the last cohesive cultural enclave in the United States, obtaining preserved — or is trying to protect — its own language (a kind of 18th-century French with a good deal of diphthongs thrown in), its possess music, a celebrated delicacies and a happy and welcoming temperament that is instantly apparent to these who travel here.

I have been drawn to Acadiana for the past twenty several years, previously mentioned all for the foods and audio. In fact, right after hearing for the 1st time the buoyant, locomotive rhythm of zydeco, I returned to New York Town and started out a band of my possess — totally ersatz, but a excellent deal of entertaining. Contemplating that the main attractions are in a 20-mile radius of Lafayette, the unofficial cash town with a population of 125,000, you can effortlessly protect the highlights in a extended gastronomic weekend.

A tiny historical past: The original Cajuns — or Acadians, as they had been named — have been French Catholic settlers in increased Nova Scotia in the early 1700s. In the ensuing many years Britain and the French brawled over the territory, and it changed fingers numerous times, with Britain prevailing midcentury. The Catholics experienced small affection for King George II and refused to pledge allegiance, for which they were promptly presented the boot in two mass deportations. Some returned to Europe, other individuals to French-speaking southern Louisiana.

The best times to check out Cajun place are spring and fall, not only for the benign climate but also for the countless festivals place on by towns and cities, nearly 400 in all. One of the largest is the Festivals Acadiens et Créoles, held in Lafayette the weekend of Oct. eleven. It functions fifty bands — primarily Cajun and zydeco, but also jazz, country, blues and more an abundance of regional food items, arts and crafts and sundry cultural seminars. Admission is totally free. There is also the Crowley Rice Competition, Oct. seventeen to 20 the LaPlace Andouille Competition, Oct. 18 to twenty and the Rayne Frog Competition, Nov. six to 10. (For more pageant listings go to )

For my boudin correct I paid out a check out to the Best Stop market, in Scott, which has been a family members organization for 27 many years. Its refrigerated cabinets keep various kinds of home made Cajun sausages, smoked meats, prepared foods and all way of edible curiosities like chaudin (stuffed pig’s belly) and Cajun-design stuffed beef tongue. Robert Cormier, the semiretired founder of the shop, instructed me he goes through 12,000 lbs . a week of boudin sausages and boudin balls. In my intemperate background of boudin ball tastings, I price his tops — crunchy outdoors, creamy inside and with an afterkick of peppery seasonings. If you dare, take property a grease-stained brown bag of cracklings, those gastronomic leg weights of deep-fried pork pores and skin.

Do not overindulge on these specialties, for it is now time to head into Lafayette for a nonpareil po’boy at a quaint minor industry known as Olde Tyme Grocery. Most every little thing is great — shrimp, catfish, barbecued ham, poultry — however, I advise the po’boy stuffed with plump, crunchy fried oysters.

Possessing availed myself of two Cajun specialties, I was in need to have of some workout, however nominal. Visitors who are curious about regional background — I conveniently classify it as “B.D.” and “A.D.” (Ahead of Daiquiri Huts After Daiquiri Huts) — can drive south via expanses of pale inexperienced sugar cane and sumpy rice fields to St. Martinville, one particular of the oldest cities in Louisiana, a 50 %-hour’s push southeast of Lafayette. Right here you discover the Longfellow-Evangeline Point out Historic Internet site (named soon after the passionate poem known as “Evangeline,” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, in which he depicts the Acadian diaspora). Established amid enormous reside oaks, pear trees and emerald lawns is a historic village symbolizing Cajun existence in the early 1800s, in which an ethnic gumbo melded Spanish, French, Creole and African-American settlers. Our buoyant tour guide, who described herself as Debbie ”Once you get me began I can’t stop talking” Savoy, left no historical stone unturned.

Bryan Miller, a previous New York Moments cafe critic, writes about meals and wine and performs guitar in a zydeco band.

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