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Creole vs. Cajun: A Spice Story

Posted February 18th, 2013.

Unlike our first day in New Orleans, which ended with food, this day started with food. With a cooking demonstration at the New Orleans School of Cooking! Xtina is a great cook, but me – let’s just say, my kitchen is a bit of an “amateur hour”… (remember, I work at Boloco HQ, not in the restaurants, so your burritos are safe from me!)

I originally scheduled us to take the class to learn about New Orleans food – how to cook it, some of the main ingredients, etc. And the class was definitely educational in that regard. But what I wasn’t expecting was all the information our instructor, Sanda, gave us about the history of New Orleans and the Louisiana countryside. She told us about each group that migrated to New Orleans, and the different ingredients they brought to the city, changing the culture and the cuisine.Unfortunately, one historic fact she told us threw us for a little bit of a loop…

You see, up until this point, we had come to New Orleans with the assumption that Cajun foods originated from the city of New Orleans. For almost 16 years, all of us at Boloco had pictured the Mardi Gras colors of purple, green, and gold whenever we bit into a Cajun burrito. That’s where we drew our inspiration!

But Sanda told us the truth: the Cajun people came from the Louisiana countryside, the Creole people came from the city.

As the creator of all Project Globally Inspired videos, and the planner of this trip, you can probably imagine the kind of thoughts that began running – no, sprinting! – through my head when I heard these facts. My brain entered “crisis mode,” and my head was spinning around, searching for ideas.

Cajun food didn’t come from New Orleans? Why are we here?? What the heck is this video going to be about???

I called Jason (one of the founders of Boloco, who originally created the recipe for the Cajun burrito), to verify that he was, indeed, inspired by New Orleans in the creation of this video. I told him what we’d just learned in the cooking class, and he was as shocked as I was! But he agreed – even if that’s not where Cajun cooking stemmed from, it IS the city we were INSPIRED by! So *phew* crisis averted, right?

With an adapted plan for our quest, we headed to our next stop, which we hoped would give us more clarity on the whole Cajun vs. Creole thing. This next stop was Kitchen Witch Cookbooks, a “small, but purrfect, book shop in the heart of the French Quarter in New Orleans” (their own words).

It opened in aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and its 5,000 cookery book inventory is based on owner Philipe LaMancusa’s personal private library years ago. I heard about it from my friend Naila, who regrettably didn’t have time to visit the shop when she visited a couple months ago. The minute we entered the show I knew why Naila was so bummed she didn’t come see this place. It’s so quaint, homey, and educational! The decorations are so unique, combining paintings with Christmas lights and directional signs.

Here we got to interview Philipe himself, who seems like a shy guy, but the moment we turned the camera on, he lit up telling us all he knows about New Orleans – clearly he cares a lot about this city. He told us that today, food in New Orleans is a marriage of both Cajun AND Creole cuisine, and that this marriage started in 1972, when the famous American chef, Paul Prudhomme, brought his spice mixtures to New Orleans. Chef Paul started working at Commander’s Palace, a Creole restaurant, but with his spice mixtures, he perfected combining Creole and Cajun cuisine. I also asked Philipe how he thinks the restaurant industry was affected by Hurricane Katrina. Surprisingly, he said he actually thinks it helped! Apparently many of the younger chefs who were displaced by Katrina decided to start their own restaurants. A mindset of “bad things can happen at any moment” took over, inspiring those who loved the city to stay there and do something positive.

With lots of knowledge under our belt, our day was not near over…! Philipe helpfully told us that there was a spice shop just around the corner from us, so we immediately headed in that direction! Clearly, spices have a LOT to do with our Cajun burrito, and with Cajun culture in New Orleans!
The Spice & Tea Exchange of New Orleans did not disappoint. Walking in, it smelled just as you would expect – SPICY! And Robin, the proprietor of that location, was mixing up a spice mix before our eyes!

In this shop, there is literally any kind of spice you could imagine! Personally, I bought a Cajun spice mix, a Bloody Mary mix (yum!), and a Thai Coconut Curry mix. Needless to say, I was pretty excited to take those home and mix ‘em up in some things!

With enough footage of spice mixtures to last us a lifetime, we continued on to our evening plans, which we’ll tell you all about in our next blog post! But if you want a hint… just know it included some Super Bowl fun, and lots of haunted history! BOO! ;)

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3 Responses to “Creole vs. Cajun: A Spice Story”

  1. jennifer says:

    They offer a good sample of cajun food restaurant. Service is adequate.

  2. cassidy says:

    Thanks, Jennifer! :)

  3. cassidy says:

    Thanks, Jennifer! :)

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