Acadiana is a region of Louisiana, in the south and south west of the state. It is sometimes called "Cajun Country", noted for its distinctive culture. This is the birthplace of Cajun cuisine, Cajun music, and Zydeco music.
Acadiana or "Cajun Country" spreads over the prairies and bayous of SW Louisiana.
Acadiana is a reference to the large population of Acadians, descendants of French speakers expelled from Nova Scotia by the British. These Louisiana Acadians are known as Cajuns an English corruption of Acadiens.
While the Cajuns are the dominant population of the region, since early in its history the region has also included Native Americans, Germans, Spanish, French Creoles, and Creoles of Color, all of whom made their contribution to creating Acadiana. Many more people have contributed more recently to the vibrant region with its unique culture, dialects, and food.
While locals were long proud of their traditions, in the early 20th century Cajuns were often looked down on. A fortunate change came about in the last third of the 20th century, when a new widespread appreciation of Cajun culture developed, especially for its music and food.
Acadiana is home to the majority of Louisiana's Francophones. The vast majority of people in Acadiana can speak English, though some older Cadiens in rural areas may only speak French. While most can speak English, many Cajuns are bilingual, and around 30% of Acadiana residents can speak French (as opposed to 7% statewide in Louisiana). Visitors from other English or French speaking regions may struggle with stronger local accents.
The local English accent incorporates many basic French words and unique pronunciations.
The French accent is very similar to the Acadian French spoken by our cousins New Brunswick. Communication between Cajuns and French, or Cajun and Quebecois, usually requires some effort.
Local street signage in the downtowns of many Acadiana cities are bilingual in both French and English, with French being more visibly prominent. However, locals will often refer to a street by its English name rather than French name. As of 2013, the Louisiana legislature has also approved of a bill requiring highway signs to be bilingual in both French and English.
Listen -- and dance to -- some Cajun and Zydeco music. There are dance halls and clubs in cities and towns, and some scattered in more remote locations people drive for miles to get to. A few of the more noted ones are:
Real Cajun food! Acadiana is the birthplace of Cajun food. Much of what is labeled "Cajun" elsewhere has little to do with the delicious real thing.
Different in many respects from the Creole style of New Orleans cooking, Cajun food is more provincial and less glamorous that its counterpart to the east. Equally rich to Creole food, Cajun dishes are often spicier as well. Cajun food also does not rely on the Tomato to the same degree as Creole food, and in foods common in both cuisines, the Cajun version is often a brown color compared to the Crole's red version. Some of the more notable Cajun food that visitors should sample in Acadiana are:
In addition to these several true Cajun dishes, there are many other items which are unique to Acadiana and can be found, at least in an authentic form, no where else in the world, as well as beloved Southern dishes such as fried chicken and frog legs.
Many enjoy a cold beer with Cajun food or music. Lafayette's Parish Brewing Company concentrates on quality small batch brews, including the popular Canebrake wheat beer brewed with local sugarcane. The Bayou Teche Beer company in Arnaudville sells multiple varieties brewed at the Mississippi brewery Lazy Magnolia. Also popular in Acadiana is Abita Beer, from Abita Springs in Acadiana's neighbor to the east, the Florida Parishes. Whiskey is, like in all of Louisiana, is also enjoyed.