As late as the 1800’s Creole was the term given to peoples that were indigenous to Louisiana, it provided a description of geographical location and nothing more. But one hundred years later the term had racial connotations to it.
Creole was re-invented as a white identity and black people or peoples of mixed race were excluded from the terminology. Today many people consider Creole as a mixed race, but this is fairly modern thinking that came in the 1960’s.
The term now also carries connotations of multiculturalism and romanticism. In this blog we discover more about Creole and what it is truly like, we see what the food of Creole means to its people and how it defines them, but first we must understand the roots.
Definition of Creole
Creole has multiple definitions and perhaps the simplest but necessarily accurate is a person who was born in the colonies. Creole really started to refer to people of European descent who were born in the Spanish or, more particularly, the French colonies. This is where the addition of African and black peoples came from.
Today in Louisiana you can still hear the terms white Creoles or old-line Creoles which talks about descendants of the original French settlers. And when Creole is applied to food, it is normally gourmet meals with French influences they are talking about.
If you are in New Orleans, Creole means sophisticated and Cajun refers to things a little more rustic. If you happen to be in Acadiana, then Creole means black and Cajun refers to white people. Either way, if it is food you are after, both are quite superb.
Black Creole people from the prairies of Louisiana create a wide range of music, that includes some Cajun influences and even the blues. Creole music was different if it came from the towns and cities or the rural areas. The more rural Creole music is called Zydeco and is close to the music from the French colonies.
Whilst at the same time in New Orleans and bigger towns in the theaters, opera houses and dance halls musical influences were different with a far greater creativity. There was blues, jazz and gospel, all influencing the original Creole music.
The Creole language is a French based vernacular language that was formed on the sugarcane plantations of the Mississippi Delta and Louisiana, when these two particular areas were actually French colonies. Later the language was further influenced by the slaves that came over from Haiti.
Louisiana Creole is more associated with black Creole people, who were the African/American descendants of the slaves who worked on the plantations. Neither Louisiana Creole or Louisiana French can be easily identified as a metropolitan French dialect at all.
Creole continues to be difficult to pigeon hole in many respects, even in its actual definition. The language, culture, music all have variations depending upon where the actual Creole people are living. In part two of this blog we concentrate more on Creole food to see if this clarifies the situation any, and to see the influences that have developed this particular famous cuisine. It has been said you can often define a people by what they eat, so hopefully we will get some clues.