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Cajun accent spices up typical Texas cook-off

DANIEL CLIFTON • PICAYUNE EDITOR

MARBLE FALLS — When Charlotte Nichols and her husband moved from the Abilene area to the Highland Lakes a few years ago, she soon realized she was missing something that meant so much to her from the high plains town.

Cajun cooking.

While Abilene isn’t exactly known as a hotbed of Cajun cuisine, the folks in the Big Country area of Texas love some jambalaya and gumbo as much as the next town. In fact, Nichols helped usher in a Cajun cook-off in the West Texas town about 11 years ago. She and her husband moved here just as the event was celebrating its ninth year.

“And I missed the Cajun cook-off,” she explained. “So, I began looking for some way to have one here.”

As part of the Marble Falls VFW Post 10376 Ladies Auxiliary, Nichols approached the other members about holding a Cajun cook-off as a fundraiser. With the “OK” given, the auxiliary is holding its first Wild Cajun Cook-off on June 28 at the Marble Falls VFW Post, 1001 Veterans Ave. The all-day affair celebrates all things Cajun, but mainly the food.

And Nichols said people might be surprised by what counts as Cajun.

“It really can be anything,” she said. “It’s all about the spices. You can even have Cajun cakes and Cajun pies.”

In fact, there’s a category for desserts in this cook-off.

While everyone immediately envisions bowls of jambalaya and gumbo, Nichols said those aren’t the only entry categories, though they are part of the contest. The one category that opens things up is, well, the open category.

“There are so many things you can do in Cajun cooking,” she said. “You can have Cajun brisket and Cajun beans.”

She explained one of her favorite Cajun dishes features a mix of chicken and shrimp — with appropriate spices — in casserole form.

“It’s all up to your imagination,” Nichols said. “That’s what I want, people to get creative. That’s why we have the open category.”

The categories include beans, desserts, gumbo, jambalaya and open. The entry fees are $15 for gumbo and jambalaya and $10 for beans and desserts. Open entry is $20. For somebody who wants to try his or her hand in each category, there’s an all-inclusive entry fee of $70.

Entry registrations are accepted until 8 a.m. the day of the cook-off.

Along with the cook-off, there will be additional activities, including children’s games, a washer toss, horseshoes and prize giveaways. There’s even Karaoke with Dawn starting at 7 p.m.

But one of the other big attractions likely will be the chicken bingo.

“If you’ve never seen chicken bingo, you really need to come by and check it out,” Nichols said. “We basically have a big bingo card, and we let a chicken go on it, and whatever square, well, it goes on is the winner.”

Chicken bingo will be played throughout the day.

In an area known for barbecue and chili cook-offs, Nichols thought throwing a Cajun one into the mix would spice things up a bit.

“And if other groups want to hold one of their own, I think that would be great,” she added.

Call Nichols at (325) 864-4279 or Betty Collins at (830) 265-8692 for more information.

daniel@thepicayune.com

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