Heart of Louisiana: Cajun culture in the town of Eunice
EUNICE, LA (WVUE) - When it comes to experiencing Cajun culture, you can do some one-stop shopping in the town of Eunice. And the music, the dancing and the cooking demonstrations are all free.
The small stage looks like a front porch. It adds to the feeling that you're dropping by a Cajun open house. The audience is a mixture of locals and visitors, and if you're not sure how to do the Cajun two-step or waltz, someone will gladly show you the steps.
"I find it as a blessing that we can share our Cajun culture with everyone around the world," said Bubba Hebert.
Hebert, a 17-year-old band leader, descends from Cajun music royalty. His great grandfather, Iry Lejeune, was a famous Cajun accordianist and recording artist.
"I love the music, so I get joy out of it," Hebert said.
They do this every Saturday afternoon at the Prairie Acadian Cultural Center in Eunice, which is part of Jean Lafitte National Park.
The museum tells the story of the prairie Acadians who took advantage of the grassy flatlands of Southwest Louisiana to farm and raise cattle.
"Those that settled in the prairie area, they borrowed a lot of skills from those who were already here," said Angelle Bellard. "Some of the Creoles, some of the Native Americans, some of the Germans, to establish what we now consider the prairie Cajuns."
Park ranger Bellard also coordinates a Cajun cooking demonstration that follows the music and dancing.
"I have half and half," said Camille Reed. "And I have a little bit of dried mustard. I'm going to slowly pour in my half and half."
You can smell the garlic and other seasonings as local cook Camille Reed shows how to make crawfish macaroni and cheese.
"I'm going to go ahead and slowly add in the macaroni to it. Learn the season," Reed said. "You food learn the culture, learn what it's all about before you try to cook it."
"And you're not going to find a lot of fancy culinary skills in this kitchen," Bellard said. "That's not what we're looking for. We want local people who can make magic with simple ingredients. The way it's been done for the past 50 to 100 years."
And there's enough magic in the kitchen for everyone to get a second helping of crawfish mac and cheese. It's the relaxed, friendly atmosphere, the great food and the music that pulls couples to the dance floor. All of the ingredients of a Cajun house party on a Saturday afternoon.
If you still want to experience more Cajun after an afternoon at the museum, you can walk next door to the Liberty Theater in Eunice for a live Cajun music radio and TV show.
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