Cajun and Creole Food: From Criollo to Creole

Appears in

Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America

Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America

By Andrew F. Smith

Published 2004

  • About

Proper use of the term “Creole” has sparked countless discussions and debates among residents and historians of Louisiana alike. The word is derived from the Spanish word criollo, which means “native to the place,” and was probably first used in the sixteenth century to describe pure-blooded Spanish children born in Spain’s South American and West Indian colonies. In Louisiana, the term was used in the same manner to identify the children of French, and later Spanish, colonists who settled there in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Over time, “Creole” would also distinguish slaves born in Louisiana from those brought to the colony, describe children born of both African and European lineage, and, in its broadest meaning, designate anyone from New Orleans. Creole also refers to the original cuisine of New Orleans, which finds its roots in classical French recipes and techniques that have been adapted and shaped for more than three hundred years by the diverse peoples who have passed though the city’s ports.