A Cajun Crisis
My only regret about moving to Texas was leaving behind all of my beloved Cajun traditions and culture. My family and I try to make trips down to Louisiana as often as we can, and because we still have doctors that we have yet to change and friends too close to forget about, it makes the occurrence of these trips a little easier. This week, we took a trip down to my former home, Lafayette, Louisiana, and I could not help but think of all the minor things that I either had to adjust to, I noticed, or merely missed. Here is a short list of those things that I’ve compiled while on the drive back to Texas —
Accents & Name Pronunciations
I’ve tried as hard as I can to explain to my Texan friends the feeling of relief as I pass the state line. It’s a running joke within my family that every time we enter Louisiana, I start speaking “Cajun”. I’ve never had a heavy accent or can speak full cajun french or anything like that, but I will say that I had to clean up the way that I speak when I moved to Texas.
I’ll never forget the first day that we had moved here, my mother and I were in the store, and I was speaking full-on “Cajun”. I said something along the lines of, “Mais sha, tell her to get down at da store wit me, feet pue tan!”. I glanced over at two old ladies shopping within the same aisle as us, and they were looking at each other with a look of pure mortification. I found it a little funny — and by a little, I mean a lot — but my mother sure didn’t. She had the same mortified look painted upon her face as those two old ladies did. Since then, I’ve learned to clean up the way I speak, but if I want to embarrass any of my family just for the giggles, I’ll gladly speak in my native tongue.
Pretty much every single person I’ve encountered in Texas, besides a select few, pronounces my last name wrong. I don’t take it personally or anything, I just find it kind of funny. My favorite part is asking them how they think my last name is spelled. I found this chart a few weeks ago and thought these were all just common knowledge, but I guess not.
Cities, bayous, and last names from Louisiana are my favorite to watch non-natives completely butcher the pronunciation.
Some things that may seem incredibly minor took forever to adjust to. For example, a few years ago, some friends drove in from Texas for a party and complained that too many people run yellow lights in Louisiana. I was so confused, and this is something that I didn’t fully understand until I became a Texan myself.
After renewing my license, I was driving and reached a yellow light. I thought that I had enough time to proceed through the intersection, but was sorrowfully mistaken when it flashed to red before I even reached the line. I slammed on my brakes, and am pretty sure I gave my mom an out-of-body experience.
See, where I’m from, yellow lights are normally five to six seconds long. This gives you enough time to either slow down for the red light, or gun it, put the pedal to the metal, and pray you make it through the intersection. (The second option is usually what we do.)
Well, let’s just say Texas’ yellow light durations are a few seconds shorter, and I may or may not have slammed on my brakes far too many times or held my breath and floored it a few times too.
One thing that I love about revisiting Louisiana is seeing columns. Yes, columns. While house hunting when we moved to Texas, we turned down every single house — regardless of price or convenience — if it did not have columns. It’s something that I thought was incredibly picky of my parents to critique and even decline purchasing a house because of it, but now, I understand the mentality. Without them, a house just looks so dull and lacks charisma. There’s nothing more charming than a house with columns.
I love going through the little towns like Breaux Bridge, Scott, and St. Martinville and seeing the cute Acadian style homes that I took for granted while living there.
Some of my favorite memories are from the week-long celebrations that occur during Mardi Gras week.
Normally, my family and friends would have a private RV spot at UL and attend the parades throughout the day. Zydeco sounded the air, gumbo and jambalaya were always cooking underneath our tents, and bottles of liquor and solo cups stacked free for the taking. Along with that, daiquiris were blended, drinks were mixed and served to parents and whoever granted permission to their teenagers to have some.
In between the parades, it was pretty much free reign. We were allowed to walk miles down the city along the barricades, occasionally meeting and catching up with friends.
My most memorable Mardi Gras moment was when I heard my name being called in a groggy, slurred way, and I turned around only to see my teacher with beads weighing down on her neck and a brown bag in hand, clearly drunk. My P.E coach and a few other staff members from my school were there along with her. She walked up to me and asked to be on my Snapchat story and I laughed, not realizing that she was being serious. The following week when school resumed, I made a joke about seeing her and she claimed she didn’t remember that happening. It was Mardi Gras though, so it wasn’t unusual for that kind of encounter to occur. I had that teacher for all of my middle school years, and on my last day of school in eighth grade, I mentioned it, we laughed, and said our goodbyes.
I think the most laughable part about Mardi Gras as a whole is everyone doing the unmentionables on Tuesday then the next day all the Catholics lining up to get their ashes printed on their foreheads for Ash Wednesday. Like we know what you were doing down bourbon street last night, don’t try to fool everybody in this church.
I’ve never gone through a Mardi Gras without celebrating, so I’m sure that this year will feel a little empty.
Cajun cooking is the glue that holds Louisiana together. Even as someone born and raised in Louisiana, I will say any day that there is nothing exciting about Louisiana, besides Mardi Gras, or if you’re willing to brave the streets of New Orleans in the heat and see a plethora of drunks, then that’s about it. But one thing I pride ourselves in is our cooking.
Cooking is just a cajun’s way of life. First cool front? Gumbo. Guests coming over? Étouffée. Nothing to make for dinner? Jambalaya. Extra trinity in the freezer? Sauce Piquant. It’s just common sense.
When I moved to Texas, it was such a culture shock when I realized that most people didn’t know what these foods were. Some people had heard of them, but most had never tried them. And the very few people that had claimed they had tried Cajun food, it was normally from a restaurant. And we all know that Cajun food from a restaurant is a complete joke and a disgrace to Cajun culture.
My short trip down to Lafayette certainly surfaced some nostalgia. I can’t really say that I prefer Louisiana over Texas, but I still miss the memories, culture, and little traditions. Being a Cajun is far too ingrained in my roots to deny, so there’s always a little piece of Louisiana within me — even if that means I’ll shout cajun french phrases a little too loud while in public.