Made in Louisiana: Flavors of Lafayette and Cajun country

(Photo: Wendy Pramik, for USA TODAY)

Lafayette, La., in the heart of Cajun country, requires but one contribution from its visitors: a healthy appetite.

For this swampy sliver of southern Louisiana is our nation’s epicenter of Cajun spice: chicken-and-sausage gumbo, crawfish étouffée and corn maque choux. It’s where boudin began, where catfish rule, where King Cake is king.

And where nobody rests on their laurels.

"There’s always a whole new twist on something old," says Marie Ducote-Comeaux, who operates Cajun Food Tours in Lafayette. "One of the things that makes Cajun Cajun is that people have always adapted. As the natural resources change and people move in, we get new flavors."

Lafayette’s chefs are bold, even brazen. That might seem to fly in the face of the history of Cajun country, first settled by exiled Nova Scotians in the mid-18th century. Influenced also by French, Germans, Scots and native Americans, the rich, sometimes zesty cuisine in Acadiana can be described as a melting pot of flavors past and present.

Having a distinctive blend of food, music and culture gives people a lot to feel happy about. In 2014, Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch named Lafayette the "Happiest City in America."

Visitors will find bliss in a crunchy catfish po’ boy, a steaming plate of red beans and rice, or a sweet potato beignet.

"It’s hard not to be happy when you’re surrounded by coffee and gelato," says Rick Rowan of Carpe Diem! Gelato Espresso Bar in Lafayette.

So, laissez les bons temps rouler (let the good times roll)! Here’s to experiencing all the fine cuisine that Cajun country has to offer.

See the photos above for a tasting tour of Lafayette, La., and see more Louisiana flavors below.

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