The American Bayou

Have you ever been to the Bayou? “Bayou” is a Franco-English term used in America to describe a marshy wetland. Between Alaska, Hawaii, California to the New York Islands (as Woodie Guthrie’s put it in his 1956 tune), the U.S. has a vast array of landscape ranging from dry and sandy deserts to cold and snowy mountains. The Bayou can be found on America’s southern coast, from Georgia, to Florida to my home state, Louisiana.

This week my significant other, my daughter and I will be taking our first trip as a family there to visit my parents, siblings and other extended family and friends. Though I do dread the long flight with my not quite two year old, I know it will be worth the trip. I’m excited to share with my S.O. and daughter this unique piece of American culture, unlike any other state.

Louisiana has a rich history. It was a French state, inhabited by those from France and some that had in the 17th century been exiled from Canada. It was also inhabited by their African slaves and Native Americans initially. Most people living in Louisiana today are descendants of members of these three groups, who have very much “intermingled” throughout the generations. These Louisiana-French descendants are often referred to as Cajun. Cajun French is a French dialect spoken by some of the people living in Louisiana, and Cajun cuisine refers to what I consider to be some of the best food served in the country.

Some of my favorite foods in the cuisine are Gumbo, a spicy rice stew that can be made with sea food, chicken or sausage. Other favorites of mine include Jambalaya and E’Touffee which are also sea food and rice dishes. If you are visiting and want to try something new, Craw Fish is very popular and exclusive to Louisiana. A crawfish looks like a small lobster but takes on the flavor of the seasoning it is prepared in. If you care for something exotic, it’s quite fitting that frog legs and alligator are served in a variation of ways in the bayou. Give it a try!

Louisiana is also famous for its music. New Orleans, which is its most popular city (but not the capital, that’s Baton Rouge), is known as one of the most famous cities in the country for its jazz and soul music. Cajuns love the sound of brass. Louisiana also has a very unique style of music, Zydeco, which usually features an accordion. There is also a style of dance that goes along with Zydeco which I have to admit, I can’t dance. If you are curious to know what that might look and sound like, see the video.

You can see in the video that the Cajun style of dress is very similar to that in Texas. Louisiana shares a boarder with Texas and Louisiana has cowboys and girls too. In more rural areas you’d be surprised at how many people you will see on horseback.

What I miss most about being away from my home state is what American’s refer to as “Southern Hospitality”. You don’t have to fear speaking to or be surprised at being spoken to by strangers in America’s south. People you’ve never seen before in your life will smile and wave at you. Your waitress is likely to refer to you as “honey”, “sweetie”, or a Louisiana exclusive “Cher”.

If you want to visit the U.S. and experience something genuine, and not over-commercialized or aimed specifically at the tourist population, I’d say come to the bayou…