"Cajun" chef Justin Wilson
September 6, 2001 2:46 PM   Subscribe

"Cajun" chef Justin Wilson is dead at 87. If you've ever wanted to know how to cook a good crawfish etouffee, you'll probably miss him. If you're a self-respecting Cajun, you probably won't.
posted by crabwalk (22 comments total)
I'm one of many Cajuns who viewed Wilson as an unwelcome symbol -- the Louisiana equivalent of Amos 'n' Andy. The exaggerated accent, the intentionally broken English, the demeaning ethnic jokes -- he profited handsomely from his schtick, but he reinforced a lot of unfortunate stereotypes. (It's particularly galling coming from Wilson, who was only 1/4 Cajun.)
posted by crabwalk at 2:52 PM on September 6, 2001

If there's one think I can't stand, it's an uppity Cajun
posted by BrownEyeWink at 2:57 PM on September 6, 2001

As a Louisiana native, I always took offense at how much hot sauce he added to his dishes. Sure, that's fine if you want everything to taste the same, but he'd be tossed out of any self-respecting Cajun's kitchen if he tried that.
posted by ColdChef at 3:01 PM on September 6, 2001

Still, anyone who could measure out exactly a teaspoon of salt in his hand (then prove it with a measuring spoon) can't be all bad, right? Right?
posted by zedzebedia at 3:10 PM on September 6, 2001

I'll miss him saying 'pick-em-up-truck'.
posted by justgary at 3:14 PM on September 6, 2001

To those who are or were offended by the image of Cajuns that Wilson purveyed -- grow a skin, dammit! I'm so sick of hearing everyone freaking whine endlessly about how offensive it is when any demographic is portrayed with anything but glowing colors. Cripes, does it matter THAT much? No, it doesn't. So he made Cajuns sound dumber than they actually are -- who cares?

Guess what: I'm Ukranian and, if there's a cultural group that has been the ass of more jokes, I haven't found it. I TELL more Ukranian jokes than most people I know. Why? Because they're often funny, regardless of legitimacy or how it makes me "look".

Wake up, people. I'm not racist or a xenophone because I routinely make obvious fun of various cultural groups (including my own), nor was Justin Wilson for his over-the-top Cajunisms. Not everything needs a deeper meaning or a political motivation.
posted by Electric Jesus at 4:31 PM on September 6, 2001

Why, that's Cajunism!
posted by Kafkaesque at 4:40 PM on September 6, 2001

my next door neighbor looks just like him, so I won't miss him at all. That, and the fact that his show always looked like it was filmed in the 70s...
posted by hotdoughnutsnow at 4:54 PM on September 6, 2001

So whats a good Ukrainian joke?
posted by Doug at 5:04 PM on September 6, 2001

At least he was from Louisiana and was part-Cajun, which is more than a certain Portuguese-French fellow from New Bedford, Massachusetts can say, I ga-ron-tee!
posted by briank at 5:18 PM on September 6, 2001

eJesus: I can't really speak to the Ukrainian experience, having never heard a Ukrainian joke (with the possible exception of a rogue chicken Kiev reference in some old Shecky Green bit). But all I'm saying is that most people can picture only one representative of Cajun culture, and it's a shame it's an professional engineer who faked an accent and went out of his way to sound like a jolly but stupid oaf.

(Actually, most people can now picture another representative of my culture, Adam Sandler's Cajun Man/The Waterboy. But don't get me started...)

Cajun Power! [crawfish-holding fist thrust into the air]
posted by crabwalk at 5:34 PM on September 6, 2001

As a Louisiana native, I always took offense at how much hot sauce he added to his dishes.

Me too! I never met a cajun who used so little...who was he cooking for, 2-year-olds?!?
posted by rushmc at 5:53 PM on September 6, 2001

The closest I ever lived to cajun country was Pensacola but some of the people and culture did drift thru(Louisiana wasn't THAT far away...)...pardon my french but the cajuns called themselves "coonasses".....they had tempers hotter than tabasco sauce but 5 seconds after threatening to whup your *** they would calm down and be your friend(I speak from personal experience).

Justin Wilson was of a different generation....we southerners know folks like him, he was "cajun" but there are Georgia and Carolina and Alabama varieties etc........just funny old men who mean no harm and are just themselves.......you just "got to know how to take em"......

Sometimes we just got to relax and pour a little wine into the pot........
posted by bunnyfire at 5:53 PM on September 6, 2001

Dear Crabwalk,

Look at it this way: if someone sees Justin Wilson and assumes that all Cajuns are incapable of forming a complete, coherent sentence, what is their overall opinion really worth? Let the dummards glean what they will from ridiculous examples... what difference does it make?

All I'm saying is that there's too damned much pissing and moaning over inaccurate demographic representations. I am also Canadian and couldn't care less if people think it really does snow here all year round... there's no payoff convincing them otherwise and instead of wasting my time doing so, I enjoy the warm summer sun.

The Electric Jesus
posted by Electric Jesus at 7:02 PM on September 6, 2001

bunnyfire is right about the funny little old men. Growing up part time in Louisiana in the late 1950's I use to see a lot more of them. They did speak broken english, mostly to throw off people asking too many questions about the Cajun culture. They remembered when it was not "popular" to be Cajun and have their culture suppressed.
posted by bjgeiger at 7:35 PM on September 6, 2001

pardon my french but the cajuns called themselves "coonasses"

Only some of them. I read something recently about how some southwestern La. group of Cajuns were highly offended. Ahhh yes. The C word becomes the N word...


My Gram would have said "Cher, don't pay them no mind", except she would have said it in barely intelligible Cajun French.

We all collectively (everryone, not limited just to Cajuns) need to grow a thicker skin...
posted by fooljay at 8:29 PM on September 6, 2001

That, and the fact that his show always looked like it was filmed in the 70s...

It probably was. I interviewed Wilson on the phone in 1999. He produced shows out of a studio in his house, and he would film a bunch of episodes in a short period of time (a couple weeks) and then stop production for a few years.

Wilson was also a grumpy, funny old coot in my limited dealings with him. I chased him down for a reader Q&A column because viewers were concerned about his health, since he looked more frail in recent episodes. The reason for this was an eight-year difference in when the shows were taped -- PBS plays pretty fast and loose with the laws of time and space.
posted by rcade at 6:06 AM on September 7, 2001

There's sun in Canada!?!?

*packin my bags*


ps wasn't Foghorn Leghorn the most famous Cajun ever?
posted by Kafkaesque at 8:58 AM on September 7, 2001

For some reason I keep reading this thread's headline as: "Cajun" Chief Justice Wilson...
posted by kindall at 9:07 AM on September 7, 2001

Foghorn Leghorn isn't supposed to be a Cajun, he's a parody of a character from Fred Allen's radio program "Allen's Alley" named "Senator Claghorn" -- a loud-mouthed Southerner for sure, but not a Cajun necessarily. Claghorn, in turn, was thought to be a parody of U.S. Senator Everett Dirksen.

This concludes our MeFi Educational Moment of the Day. You may now resume your petty bickering.
posted by briank at 9:52 AM on September 7, 2001

Wow, that's cool, briank. Thanks for the info. Any other cartoon chicken facts I should know about?

posted by Kafkaesque at 10:24 AM on September 7, 2001

Well, K, how about a recipe for Cajun chicken?
posted by briank at 10:53 AM on September 7, 2001

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