Irish and French Acadian Immigrants Arrive in Louisiana
While the Catholic traditions of Louisiana were a strong draw to the immigrants from both Ireland and Acadia, a connection almost as binding was the anti-British feeling they shared.
The--I hesitate to use the word hatred, but--hatred felt for the English by both the Irish and the Cajuns gave them a commonality that transcended politics, culture, and even religion.
The Irish—The Green Isle to the Crescent City
My Irish grandmother used to speak of the English school inspectors who travelled through Ireland during her childhood, stopping at the grade schools to make sure religion was not being taught. Students, on a rotating basis, were stationed at the classroom window watching out for the inspector.
When he was spotted coming up the road, the well-trained students gathered their religion books in one swift movement, lifted the rug covering the trap door in the floor, deposited their religion books in the hiding place, then closed and covered the trap door. Math books were quickly pulled out and in place by the time the inspector arrived at the door.
Irish immigrants, attempting to flee British persecution, began appearing in New Orleans at the end of the 1700s. Even larger numbers of Irish started arriving in the 1820s when the famine drove them out of Ireland. The passage from Liverpool to New Orleans was cheap, so many Irish immigrants looking for a better life ended up in the Crescent City, though living conditions were less than ideal once they arrived.
The Irish left their stamp on New Orleans. There is even an area called the "Irish Channel," which is uptown, near the Garden District. This is the center of many St Patrick's Day festivities (see [Link] St. Patrick’s Day Parades in Cajun and Creole Louisiana [Link]).
The Cajuns—Acadia to the Bayous
My Cajun grandmother shared this abhorrence of the British. To her dying day, she spoke of the cruel tragedy of the expulsion of the French Acadians from their homeland in Acadia (now known as Nova Scotia). Husbands were separated from wives; children from parents; siblings from each other; and families literally wrenched apart--physically pulled out of each others' arms and placed on different ships, often to never see each other again.
The Cajun people began arriving in Louisiana after they were expelled from Acadia by the British, in 1755. Many displaced Acadians sought out New Orleans, as there was already a large population of French people living there. However, the Cajuns’ soon came to realize that the French in New Orleans were a different breed—more sophisticated and citified—with whom they had little in common.
Consequently, the Acadians ended up in the areas south and west of New Orleans in the swamps and bayous no one else wanted. There they made successful lives, building farms and communities and forging inter-related lives, helping each other with everything from barn building to the slaughtering of the animals. They would prepare the various parts of the animals for use during the coming winter and all share in the results, thereby stocking up their pantries. As Cajuns’ do, they made a party out of the shared day of chores by ending with dinner, dancing, and music—all traditions that are still alive and well and thriving in Louisiana, and traditions that continue to bind the Irish and Cajun people.
Also alive, well, and thriving in Louisiana are a plethora of St. Patrick's Day parties and parades (see [Link] St. Patrick’s Day Parades in Cajun & Creole Louisiana [Link]).
See other Irish recipes that are favorites in Cajun Country and in New Orleans:Queen of Puddings
Corned Beef, Home-Cured
Irish Rarebit with Tomatoes
Irish Soda Bread
For delightful stories on 'Irish in Louisiana' see:When Nana Cooked for St. Pat's Day
St. Patrick’s Day Parades in Cajun & Creole Louisiana
More St. Patrick's Day FoodTop Corned Beef Recipes
Leftover Corned Beef Recipes
A Variety of St. Patrick's Day Recipes