by Trevor Johnson, features editor
In South Louisiana, if we put on a blindfold, spin around three times, and throw a rock, we’ll probably break the window of a great restaurant with decades of rich history. However, vandalism is generally frowned upon, so normally it’s best to just eat at those restaurants instead. But what should someone do if they only plan to visit the Bayou Region on vacation, or they’re only in town to attend a family reunion at Cousin Boudreaux’s house? Luckily, there are many dishes and desserts made in Louisiana that can be taken home for whenever there’s a hankering for that one-of-a-kind taste of the bayou.
Louisiana’s deep and diverse history may play a part in that one-of-a-kind taste for which Cajun food is so popular.
“Food is such an integral part of our tradition,” says Chef Marcelle Bienvenu, a culinary historian, journalist, and instructor at Nicholls State University. “What I think happened is that the best parts of German food, Italian food, African-American, the British, the Spanish— the best part of what they had ended up in our pot. Aren’t we lucky?”
King cake, which is said to have a French origin, has become synonymous with Mardi Gras, but there are ways to obtain the frosting-topped treat year round. Cannata’s Family Market has served the South Louisiana area and abroad with their king cakes for almost 90 years. There are three locations in Louisiana— one in Morgan City, and two in Houma. However, anyone from around the country can order Cannata’s king cakes, whether or not it’s Mardi Gras season.
“In many ways, King Cakes have become the unofficial mascot of Mardi Gras,” says Joni Blakeman, the sister of Vince Cannata, the owner of Cannata’s Family Market. “When people can’t attend the festivities, king cakes at least give them a little piece of the party.”
Liza Verda manages In the Mix, a bakery that she runs from her home in St. Charles Parish, Louisiana, where she bakes cakes, king cakes, and cookies to order. Since In the Mix is a personal endeavor, as opposed to a corporation like Cannata’s, Verda is able to directly interact with the community.
“I think king cakes remind people of spending time with family and friends, the people you care about most, and just having a good time,” Verda says. “Like the saying goes, laissez les bon temps rouler— or let the good times roll!”
Tasty, portable Cajun eats come in many forms. King cake is arguably the most recognizable and iconic Cajun dessert, but there are other deliverable Cajun dishes and snacks deserving of attention— Zapp’s, the original “spicy cajun crawtator” chips, which come in easily packaged bags; Abita beer, which is brewed in its namesake Abita Springs, Louisiana; or Tabasco, the world famous hot sauce that calls Louisiana its home— that all play an important role in shaping the perception of Louisiana food at home and abroad.
So, if someone should ever find themselves in the heart of Cajun country, whether it be for a week or just a few hours, they shouldn’t forget to take home a taste of the bayou.