Cajun Holy Trinity
Cajun cuisine is an amalgamation of many different national and regional cuisines. The “Holy Trinity” of Celery, Onion and Bell Peppers demonstrates this well. With roots in the French mirepoix (Carrots, onions and celery) and the Spanish sofrito (Garlic, onion, peppers and tomatoes) this mixture of vegetables forms the basis of many Cajun and Creole dishes. The Holy Trinity is usually lightly sauteed to release the aromatic qualities of the vegetables before the other ingredients are added.
Origin and name
The Holy Trinity likely originated during the French colonial period of Louisiana, when French immigrants were attempting to emulate the cuisine of their homeland with local ingredients. Mirepoix acts as a base to many traditional french soups and stews.
The name Holy Trinity was first coined fairly recently in the 1970’s by the late great American chef Paul Prudhomme who helped bring cajun cuisine from a local delicacy to a widely appreciated tradition of cooking. The name Holy Trinity is of course derived from the Christian Holy trinity of The Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit. Garlic, which is sometimes added to the trinity, has been referred to as “the pope”.
Geography and Rustic cooking
Cajun food originated in rural Louisiana following the deportation of French Acadians from Acadia, a maritime colony of France in what is now Canada. The Acadians migrated to Louisiana due to the existing French colony. The climate of their new home was significantly different from France or Acadia and with a different climate comes different ingredients. Carrots were not widely cultivated in North America at the time so were replaced in the mirepoix by the more readily available bell peppers which had been cultivated by indigenous peoples in the Americas for centuries and been widely adopted by the Spanish settlers in Central and South America.
The displaced Acadians had to adapt to a new rural lifestyle in the unfamiliar wetlands of the southern USA. They soon developed a hearty local cuisine based on the readily available local ingredients. This cuisine took further influences from west African and Spanish cuisine, informed by the other rural poor populations in louisiana. This style of simple cooking with local ingredients is known as rustic cooking.
The Holy Trinity is an important part of many of the most famous Cajun and Creole dishes. Gumbo and Jambalaya, the two dishes most evocative of Cajun cuisine both include the Trinity, as does pretty much any soup or stew in the Cajun tradition. The aroma of the lightly cooked aromatics is a common smell in rural Louisiana and in the bustling cultural hub of New Orleans.