“We exaggerate the failings for a laugh and we downplay the heroics through humility.“
My Dear Friends & Family (Mes Chers Amis et Famille),
I wanted to say a big THANK YOU for the fun times we’ve shared and the support you’ve given “The Easy Cajun” Facebook page. Now, we're here on our very own website and have complete autonomy. Without all of you to help spread the word with you generous SHAREs and LIKEs, we could not have enjoyed the growth experienced since I got started on this project in earnest on Mardi Gras day, 2013.
Why are we here? Why are we coalescing in this little digital community? Well, it seems we all have a significant penchant for laughter. No, the jokes we’ve shared are not the only adhesives that have kept us tacked together, but they certainly are perhaps the stickiest of the various recipes served up on The Easy Cajun page. But . . . along with the smiles, we’ve glanced longingly at scenes from places we love, honored some people we’ve admired, listened to the sounds we grew up with, and salivated over more than one photo of food that inspires our desire to grab a fork. The various recipes for this website’s contents are perhaps still in the developmental stage, but I’m willing to bet that the ultimate goal for all of us is metaphorically etched into a hard oak cutting board.
The modern Cajun community is comprised of so much more than just the “pure bleed” Cajun population that gave South Louisiana culture its spicy, and at the same time, extremely endearing flavors. Recent decades have seen the love, the laughter, and yes, the cuisine of our people spread mightily throughout the USA along with a healthy smattering of Cajun footprints permanently left around the world. The community, both physical and digital, is made up of everyone that has ever tasted the gumbo that South Louisiana living has to offer. This includes, of course, those born and “raised” in South Louisiana; whether or not they have been able to continue to reside there throughout their lives. It also includes those that have parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, or cousins who are residents of Cajun country. People who make friends with residents, or have working and/or business relationships with residents, have savored some of the quirks and cliques of our bayou people and, almost without fail, become members of this community as well. And just ask any visitor that has toured the cities and swamps of our state if they have not indeed taken a little part of Cajun living back with them to their particular coordinates on the third rock. All of these groups, now scattered around the globe, are part of our growing Cajun community.
The vast majority of these groups relishes their Louisiana experiences and is quite desirous of holding on to the fond memories of sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and activities of Cajun country. These pleasurable memories are placebo-like endorphin producers and everyone in our community craves them with addictive abandon.
And that, my friends . . . is truly why we are here . . .
We gather electronically to mine, to harvest, to reap, and to sow our digital crops of love, laughter, music, fun, food, (and flying). We giggle at ourselves while at the same time honoring the strength, courage, and determination that are staples of the Cajun psyche. We exaggerate the failings for a laugh and we downplay the heroics through humility. We inflate the shortcomings to get smiles and we restrain the swagger out of respect. We don’t mind that we are sometimes perceived as jesters by many who really have no clue, because we are actually very patient diplomats of a historically unacknowledged caliber.
Those of us old enough are aware of a time when there was nothing kind about the way Cajuns were perceived and treated by the “outside” world. As a group, we were once not ranked high enough to be allowed entry into even so much as second class citizen status. There were external forces constantly striving to have us feel ashamed of our language, our schooling, our food, and our music. I was once married to a lady whose mother (I later found out) warned her to avoid mentioning my Cajun ancestry for fear it would soil others’ perception of my potential. As a group, Cajuns were shortchanged by society before we even got to the gate. But, as the old saying goes, it was all like water on a duck . . . the innuendo and negativity just kept rolling right off the backs of the people from South Louisiana.
My parents tell stories of being punished in class for speaking French in the school yard. Northeastern U.S. ethos at the time tried to quash our Cajun language and our Cajun culture with their “proper” educational techniques and their “superior” governing methods (more suited for “city folk” than for the farmers, hunters, trappers, and gatherers of Louisiana’s rural population). The behavior of the ruling class back then would appear schizophrenic by today’s standards. Government entities and schools were not required to accommodate Cajuns with documents published in our language; nor did they have bilingual teachers in the schools. And there certainly were no signs in the retail establishments printed in the bilingual fashion we see today. The atmosphere was just the opposite! They frowned on the use of French in public and discouraged it forcefully. The elitist mentality of the Northeast (sound familiar?) also encouraged the “dumping” of dirty, but necessary, societal chores like oil production and chemical manufacturing on our state’s rural population (with its cheap and abundant labor paving the way to fatter profits for their “Yankee” stockholders).
But again, like the very real water rolling off the very real ducks (as opposed to any proverbial fables), Cajuns treated all natural and synthetic challenges as they did every other aspect of their daily existence. They continued, with an incessantly positive attitude and a happy disposition, to pull up their work boots and never, ever stopped toiling to feed and protect their families. Their superior work ethic, along with the promise of more jobs and the potential for local prosperity, inspired a steady effort to attract more manufacturing and diverse industrial activities to Louisiana. An ever increasing inflow of investment in this area of the country provided a sturdy platform on which Cajuns could thrive and reach up for new levels of success in the constantly growing complexity of modern times. Long story short . . . we succeeded like our ancestors always have. We never whined, we never quit, and we never backed down from a challenge. Cajuns are a part of modern society in an unlimited cornucopia of positions and occupations. We are still farmers, hunters, trappers, and gatherers . . . but we are also highly skilled workers, we are talented business people, we are professionals in all manner of disciplines, and we are now all over the planet.
My Facebook page and now this website has not been, and will never be, one that delves constantly into politics. But I wanted to write this today for the purpose of explaining why we are gathering here, and I felt that cannot be addressed adequately without a synopsis of whence we came. We will proceed with our eternal efforts to create and to nurture. We will keep spreading the natural graciousness and the innate desire to be hospitable to one another. That extremely patient diplomacy that is part of our DNA will allow us to keep reaching out to the rest of the world with open arms and helping hands. As a group, we will SHARE and we will LIKE those things that make us laugh and those things that make us cry. We will sing; we will dance; we will celebrate. We will cook together and we will serve together. And we’ll certainly always try to make each day great.
Why are we all here? We’re here because our common goal is indeed carved into that hard oak cutting board of our lives. We may slice and dice many comings and goings of modern day living, but we’re gathered at this particular spot and at this particular point in time to never let whither all the things we love and all the things we cherish about our past, present, and future Cajun connections. We’re gathered to keep breathing life into the memories and the present day activities of our Cajun culture’s personality. We’re here to keep something near and dear that is intensely extraordinary . . .
. . . and there is absolutely nothing more extraordinary than our culture’s warm Cajun heart and noble Cajun soul.
The Easy Cajun