Friday, April 10, 2015

How to Speak Cajun

(A tip of the hat to my niece who calls up and says, "…Hi Annie (Auntie) Helen, how ya be darlin'?")

If you are "fixin to" go to yo (your) timeshare in “Looziana”, (Louisiana) you need to understand the local dialect in order to communicate yo (your) needs clearly. Here's a quick guide...

In Hotels

1. Mash not push: When stepping into an elevator at your timeshare, don't ask a local to "push" the button of the floor you want, you ask to mash it, like "…Mash number four please!"

2. Fixinto: Most sentences begin with fixinto mean "I was going to do it eventually" or "I was getting around to it", such as "I was fixing to begin dusting, or fixin to go to the pool." ...So when your wife says, I want to go shopping, remind her that she is fixinto go shopping.  

3. Lights and Lightbulbs: You don't turn them off and on, you "cut them off and on".  To the hotel clerk, "I was fixin to cut on the light above the desk in my room, but it won’t work. Can you send me a new bulb?"

Driving Around

1. Fresh air: You "crack" a winder (window), not "open it." Try, "It's hot in here, crack yer winder wouldja?"

2. Asking for directions: Don't ask how many miles it is to the nearest bait shop. It's all in minutes - "Bill's Bait shop is 5 minutes down the road. Or, you can go to Fontaineau's which is about six minutes the other direction.You fixinto go fishing?"

3. Backwards and Forwards: When a local says he knows you backwards and forwards that means he knows everything about you.  "Oh you fixinto go fishin today? Well that new reel and pole tells me backwards and forwards how experienced you are. Wan a book guide to fishin in Louisiana? Or a guide on how to rig yo line, or if y'all can wait about an aire (hour), I will be yo guide!"

In Cafes

Be aware that two types of "food" exist in Louisiana: Cajun and Creole. A common joke among the locals is that a Creole mama feeds a family with three chickens, whereas a Cajun family feeds three families with one chicken. Gator is a most delicious substitute for chicken, and most of the meals include okra. Creole's were generally looked on as the "rich" folks, who had access to markets where fresh foods were displayed and purchased but Cajun families often ate off the land and grew their own vegetables - usually onions and okra (the "french fries" of Louisiana). Single women, when assessing a male partner for the future, ask "is he a creole or a cajun boy?"

Another major difference between Creole and Cajun food is the type of roux that is used as the foundation of most food - which is usually in a "sauce". Butter and flour are the basis for Creole roux, while Cajun roux is made from lard and flour.  Cajuns often didn't have access to butter so they slaughtered their pigs and other animals and made lard from the skin.  

Gumbo is found in both cuisines. Creole gumbo has a tomato base (usually ketchup) and is more of a soup, while Cajun gumbo is more of a stick-to-your-ribs type of stew. Most everything has a distinct red base color.  

There are only three flavors in Louisiana: hot, hotter, and hottest. These are powered by Tony Chacherie's spice mix (right on the tables with salt, pepper, Tobasco, chili pepper and ketchup. It's not "cha-cherry" but "sash-er-ee". Pepper comes in colors in Louisiana: black, red, white, green and pink.  There is hot food, hotter food and "just the way I like it". Tourists can be identified wiping their foreheads as they eat, and locals will punch each other in the arm and snicker when they see these "sissies" eating their food. 

Favorite Phrases in Local Cafes

1. Jeet: Meaning, "you are hungry and want something to eat?" You will hear jeet a lot - this is short for "did you eat?"

2. Hey darlin’/bon ami: the waitress calls everyone darlin' in her cafĂ© - "jeet here bfo (before) darlin'?" Men call you "bon ami" - meaning good friend. "Ayyy bonami… jeet? Yo ere to camp? (spend some time in a vacation home or timeshare)?"  

3. Buster: A buster is a soft shell crab that just shed its shell. Don't be surprised to hear, "ay ave a good buster for lunch today!"

4. The other white meat:  Fried catfish is considered the "other white meat". Pork and gator are numbers one and two, and often accompanied by fired okra. Mudbug is another tasty delight served in many cafes - it's crawfish, boiled or fried.  

5. Food preparation:  "Ay mon ami, we have fried, bolled (boiled) deep fried, brolled, (broiled) or baked, which ya want?  The Chef was fixin to make a new pot of bolled coffee if y'all can wait for it!"

Local Activities

Major local activities involve gator hunting, crabbing, and "fais do do".  Gator heads mounted as trophies on the wall are not prevalent in the Bayou - instead, they're often used for various purposes. Many Cajun families make necklaces of gator teeth to sell to tourists. It used to be that you could take a boat down the bayou to see the gators. Guides would stick marshmallows on the end of a stick and gators would fly up out of the water, grab the marshmallow and fall back into the bayou. That was until a gator landed in the middle of a boat and then the tourists became gator food.  It is now against the law to "marshmallow" gators.  

Cajun families often feed their families by crabbing - they stick a piece of bacon on a string and lower that into a crab mud hole to entice it to come out for "dinner". 

 If you are invited to attend a Fais Do Do, be sure to go!  It is a wild party that lasts until morning. 

 “Laissez les bon temps rouler!”  

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This article is by guest author Helen Sabin. Helen Sabin is a timeshare traveler and RedWeek member from Colorado Springs, Colorado.

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