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  • Writer's pictureToby

The Prayer

Jourdan Thibodeaux est Les Rodailleurs are trying to save Cajun and Creole culture. I've been following Mr. Thibodeaux for a while now and If anyone is going to do it, it would likely be him and Cedric Watson. In their video La Priere, he beseeches us to try and learn our language. He reproaches us for not knowing our history and where we come from. The part of the song I particularly like is where he challenges our right to own our identity: "Mais ils sont si fier du titre, Mais quand les vieux sont tous gone, Et y a rien qui reste à vendre, Peut être ils vont voir, Que les piments suffisent pas/ but they are so proud of the title, Yea, but when the old ones are all gone, and there is nothing left to sell, maybe they will see, that the peppers don’t suffice."

This song asks, no, prays, for the same answers I spent an entire novel looking for: what does it mean to be Cajun? I'm still looking and considering going into it all over again in another novel. From my own searching I agree on almost all points with J.T. and Les Rodailleurs. I love that last line from above because it shows how we have commercialized our identity to the point where others start to own it more than we do. How many times have you seen something "Cajun" on a menu and it just means it's too spicy or they burned it? Did the person cooking it ever meet someone with the last name Broussard or Trahan? And then there is our language. I'm so glad Jourdan can still speak our Louisiana French. I'm one of the people who it got too late for (though I still try to talk to my mom in French; my kids know they are tetes durs too). Without our history, our language, it's true our culture dies a painful death, just as Mr. Thibodeaux predicts.

Or does it? Culture, language, and cuisine are not static things. Look no further than the lines above. Notice an English word embedded in the French lyrics? Modern linguists have said that Southern Louisiana English is actually its own dialect. Louisiana "Cajun" cuisine did not come from Acadia. It was influenced by our Canadian ancestors for sure, but its flavors and methods are combinations of African American, Native American, and Acadian people (jambalaya: Jambon [French/"Ham"] and Laya [Choctaw/"Long"]; the dish was a way to stretch your ham). We are constantly evolving. I am certain the future of Louisiana culture looks nothing like what you see today. And that could be ok. My own prayer is not that we don't change. It is that we are deliberate about our changes. So much of my heritage about looking back. How do we create new Louiaiana French words? Don't try and convince me that a ouaouaron is a frog in France. They don't know that word there. How can we make our dishes but still be part of the greater culinary world (hint: there are lots of chefs doing it if we just give them a chance). I propose we look forward so we can choose how to be Cajun intentionally.

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