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Bad Habits #8 – Blobs On the Bayou: Why Louisiana is So Obese

When I wrote a piece on why my home state of Georgia is obese, I looked at a map of the country showing each state’s relative obesity.  There’s a big blob of obesity (bad pun intended) in the South and Midwest.  Including the state where some of my favorite cuisine is made, Louisiana.  Louisianans are a bunch of porkers.  And their cuisine appears to play a big role in that.

I love the food of Louisiana, especially the Cajun stuff.  Although it can be a bit strange.  Like Jeff Foxworthy said “Louisiana has, guarantee you, the best food on this planet as long as you don’t ask too many questions about what you’re eating.”  And some of the strange things they eat can make the gut expand.

Take…alligator, for example.  The scourge of golfers and fishers and also drug dealers who hide in the Everglades.  Now, in my last piece I noted that normally this is quite good for you.  But Cajuns tend to fry their alligator half to death.  Not to mention infuse it with enough spice to set your digestive system aflame.  Alligator may be a low calorie meat in its normal form, but when it’s fried, we’re adding lots of calories without much extra benefit.  Breading and frying can double the calories sometimes, which can double the waistline if we’re not careful.

Alligator is hardly the strangest thing they eat. Cajuns also like frog’s legs. Which makes me wonder, were Cajuns desperate back in the day and forced to eat this strangeness to avoid starvation?  The same likely reason the Scottish ate haggis?  Or are they just weird?  Or maybe it’s an outgrowth of too much cousin love?  It seems like the most inbred people do strange things with amphibians.  Cajuns eat them, hillbillies lick them to get high, etcetera.  The examples are endless.

Anyway, frog’s legs are a generally low calorie food, with about the same calories and nutrition as alligator meat in a similar sized serving.  It would be a healthy (but odd) choice, except for the Cajun’s obsessive need to fry everything into submission while dousing it in enough spice to turn your brain into a bonfire.  So these two Cajun “delicacies” are already showing us why expanding girth is a problem in the Pelican State.

And even when Cajuns have an opportunity to be healthy, they blow it.  They eat all sorts of vegetables common in the southern diet.  But they fry them too.  Like fried okra or fried squash.  Two things that are normally healthy (although slimy, gross, nasty, and an affront to decency) are made unhealthy by frying them into oblivion.

Fortunately, there are healthier options.  Take crawfish, which is basically a poor man’s lobster.  It has roughly the same in calories and nutrition as lobster meat, including generous doses of vitamin B12, selenium, copper, and omega-3 fatty acids, amongst other nutrients. The main problem is the effort involved.  Removing these from their shell takes about twice as much work as a lobster, with a fraction of the meat as a reward.  But if you want Cajun food without Cajun fatness, this is the way to go.

Cajuns also have things that look like food, but really aren’t.  Take boudin balls.  These are balls of pork, liver, and assorted veggies, like onion, peppers, and celery.  Most of this seems harmless.  The problem here is the liver part.  I already mentioned how offal is awful in a previous post. 

And the people who make these also succumb to the urge anyone who lives south of Virginia and east of Texas has.  Which is…to fry.  Fry all the things.  These balls of normal goodness plus awful offal are breaded and fried into a little ball.  And that extra frying, naturally, adds a bunch of calories.  So you’ve got heart-stopping levels of cholesterol, and crazy calories from the frying, with maybe a few decent nutrients from the one or two vegetables in the mix.

And when it’s lunchtime, Cajuns still manage to stay unhealthy.  Instead of sandwiches, they eat po’boys.  Which, to the untrained eye, looks like a hoagie.  Hoagies aren’t the healthiest thing.  Not because the ingredients are inherently bad, but slamming a foot of stuff into your mouth tends to add up calories-wise.  But the Cajuns feel an urge to make it worse.  A po’boy is a hoagie with fried things (fried shrimp, oysters, whatever) crammed into a foot long bun with mayonnaise and other fatty stuff.  This is what you eat when you want to dare heart disease to take you.

I don’t want to sound like I’m slamming Cajun food though.  It is good, although not good for you.  For example, let’s think about the greatest of all Cajun dishes.  Jambalaya.  This typically consists of chicken, Andouille sausage, shrimp, and tomatoes and other various veggies simmered and spice to perfection and served over rice. With enough spice to set your hair on fire.  

Most of this is fine.  Yes, Keto-bros, the rice is fine.  And chicken and shrimp aren’t going to break the bank calories-wise either.  The trick here is the Andouille sausage.  It’s good, don’t get me wrong, but a single link usually has about 250-350 calories.  And they generally put more than one link in there.  Although I guess Cajun Andouille is preferable to French Andouille. The French version is made from guts.  It’s the French form of haggis.  Anyway, the point is that even the greatest of Cajun dishes can fatten you up.

Speaking of Cajun things with carbs, there’s etouffee.  This can be made with shrimp, crab, or crawfish over rice.  It doesn’t seem bad, but there’s a problem.  It’s cooked in roux, which is literally sauce made from fat and flour.  It’s fat soup with carbs.  A concoction both vegans and low-carb bros would be horrified by.  I think my arteries are hardening just thinking about it.

And then there’s gumbo, the classic Cajun soup.  It could have sausage, shrimp, celery, onions, or literally anything else.  And sometimes they make it fattening by adding stuff like roux.  For those of you who think soup is a low calorie option, don’t include gumbo in that calculation.  This stuff can fatten you up just as much as the other options I’ve listed here.

But there’s a worse thing.  It’s easy to come across gross gumbo.  For one not commonly known reason.  Gumbo is, in reality, just an excuse for a Cajun chef to clean out the back of his fridge.  You have no idea what’s in there, or what’s been growing on it while sitting in the fridge.  They must figure that rather than let things go to waste, they’ll just put enough spice in to kill off any microbial life and serve it to unsuspecting tourists..

And after getting morbidly obese by frying things that would otherwise be healthy, Cajuns have fattening desserts to top it off.  Like pralines. Which are pecans, sugar, cream, butter, and vanilla.  So once you’re done getting fat off of strange, alien, fried things, carbalicious soup, and really fattening sausage, you can dose yourself with enough sugar to turn a kindergarten class into raving, hyperactive lunatics.  Sure, not everything about this is unhealthy. I mean, nuts are good, but dessert is generally not.

One thing I’ve learned that as I’ve started carefully analyzing my diet is that everything that I love is bad for me.  This included fried things and dead pigs (two staples of the Southern diet), and also now includes Cajun food, one of my favorite forms of food, and possibly the most unique cuisine in all of America.  But sadly, it’s not that great for you.  So don’t be a bunch of fatties like the Cajuns.  An occasional indulgence is fine, but if you eat this every day, you’ll be a bloated piece of alligator bait.

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Published by drilldowndiet

Formerly obese CPA/health humorist using Cronometer and FitBod to lose weight. Sharing assorted life hacks to squeeze nutrition and exercise into a busy schedule. Also on Twitter at @drilldowndiet and Facebook.

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