If you have ever traveled through New Orleans and other parts of Louisiana, you may have thought you had been suddenly transported to France. The European flair throughout the region is unmistakable, and much of it traces back to its Creole roots.
Many people do not realize that the term Creole is used to describe a culture as opposed to a religion or a race. While many people associate Creole culture with African Americans, there are white Creoles, European Creoles and even Asian Creoles.
In the case of Louisiana, Creole culture has many of its roots in the French aristocracy. That is because some of the first settlers in what is now Louisiana were French aristocrats in search of new adventures in the newly settled lands of North America. It was those original French settlers who brought their distinctive cooking style and helped to create the unique cuisine for which New Orleans and Louisiana are famous.
Of course it was not just the moneyed elites who founded Louisiana and began the Creole culture. As with so many other parts of the world, those French aristocrats were accompanied by a host of servants, from cooks and chefs to household slaves. Many of those black slaves went on to play an important role in Creole culture, and the current state of Louisiana owes a great deal to these reluctant settlers.
The term Creole dates back to the Colonial days in Louisiana, and it has been used ever since to describe those individuals who were born in the colony instead of the old world their ancestors had left behind. Many of those colonial settlers were French, as is evident in everything from the cooking style and language to the architecture of the region.
Those early settlers of Louisiana spoke primarily French, although Spanish was widely spoken in the region as well. The influence of the French language and culture is evident in modern day Louisiana as well, in everything from the famous Mardi Gras celebrations to the names of the streets to the famous landmarks that dot the region. It is obvious to even the casual observer that those French settlers brought much of their language, and a great deal of their culture, with them to the new world.
Some of those early European settlers used the term Creole to refer strictly to those of European heritage, pointedly overlooking the strong African tradition of those early slaves and household servants. The practice of referring only to whites as Creoles was particularly prominent in the years just after the Civil War, when racial tensions were at their height.
As time went on, however, the term Creole broadened out to provide a more accurate reflection of the history of Louisiana and the entire region. Today the term Creole refers to the entire culture, including those individuals who trace their heritage back to those first French and Spanish settlers, as well as the black slaves who helped to found the region.
In modern Louisiana, much of the Creole culture is centered around the city of New Orleans. In fact, the strong Creole culture of the city is one of the big drawing cards for tourists, and it is evident in everything from local restaurants and bars to the famous parades that line the streets during the Mardi Gras celebration.
Creole cooking is a staple of life in Louisiana, from the busy restaurants of the French Quarter in New Orleans to the smaller towns and cities in the region. Many visitors and tourists owe their first impression of Creole culture to the many fine dishes served in those restaurants. The Creole influence is evident in the cuisine, which relies heavily on traditional French and Spanish cooking while bringing its own twist to those classic tastes.
The architecture of Louisiana is also heavily influenced by the French and Spanish settlers that helped to create the Creole culture we know today. The famous balconies of New Orleans are just one example of this European influence. There are many places throughout the state of Louisiana that appear to have been transported directly from the old cities of Europe. This European heritage is evident throughout the state of Louisiana, and it is one of the things that gives the region its unique charm.
The history of Creole culture in Louisiana stretches back hundreds of years to those first French and Spanish settlers, and its rich traditions and heritage continue into the modern world. While many other parts of the United States boast large numbers of Creole citizens, Louisiana is home to one of the largest concentrations of Creole culture anywhere on the planet.