I’ve spent the past few days in southern Louisiana, where I grew up. It’s known as Cajun country. I don’t want to get into an entire explanation of what Cajun really means. I get asked about it all the time. People want to know if it’s a nationality, religion or just a style of food. The answer could be yes to all of these, but it’s not that simple. By definition, Cajuns are an ethnic group of the descendants of Acadian exiles (French settlers from Acadia). Cajun culture has had a huge impact on southern Louisiana. Cajun is a way of life to people here no matter their race, creed or blood type. So even though I’m full-blooded Italian, I’m still considered a Cajun because of the culture. I liked growing up in such a culture. Meals were always great in my house. You never knew if it would be shrimp fettucine or crawfish etouffee. But I moved away from the South. One of the main reasons was the weather. I also love mountains and deserts. My hometown receives over 100 inches of rain per year. Strictly speaking, it’s almost a rainforest. The other reason I moved is because I’m more open-minded than the average southerner. This could be a whole conversation I won’t get into to. If you don’t think exactly like everyone else thinks, you’re considered a rabble-rouser, eccentric, or just plain weird. It doesn’t matter, I love the people and the culture. They may be the nicest people on the planet. They go out of their way to help you and do anything for you. That’s not something you get much in Los Angeles. To be honest, when I hold the door open for a woman in L.A., they act like I’m on crack. Sometimes they don’t even acknowledge it. But I digress. I get a kick out of the Cajun folks because no one wants to buck the system. They all drive the same type of cars, all dress the same, and God forbid someone do anything different. Generally the men these days all wear camo-colored clothing. Basically they dress as if they’re going off to Desert Storm. Their hats are covered in foliage. If it’s warm you will see them in camoflage T-shirts. If it gets cold, you will see a windbreaker or coat with camo. I actually saw camo seat covers in a guy’s truck. I say all of this to make a point. They will not buck the system no matter what. If one is doing it, they’re all doing it. I told you that to tell you this. There’s something else about the Cajuns that run across the board, men and women. They’re fat. It seems to run across every ethnic and socio-economic group. Most men look pregnant and have bloated faces. The women are no different. I run into people my age who not only look years older than they actually are but move like elderly people due to the loss of flexibility and the lack of exercise. As I began writing this, my first question was, “What’s causing this?” My answer was simple. Nothing is causing it but the culture. My reasoning? It’s not the big obvious things like fried foods that make the people fat, or the fact that most of their meals start with a roux. It’s simple things. If you order tea in a restaurant, it will automatically come sweetened unless you ask for it without sugar. If you order fish, it will come fried, unless you specifically ask for it broiled or baked. Once I actually asked for a broiled piece of fish, not drowned in butter. When my entree showed up the fish was swimming in butter. I politely reminded the waitress that I wanted it plain. She replied, “Oh, I heard you. You just wouldn’t like it that way.” The one thing I can surmise out of my whole trip to the South this year is that there isn’t one reason why the entire culture is fat. It’s a bunch of things that all add up.
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