Tucked into a landscape of big woods, ricefields, and sugarcane, Ville Platte (pop. 9,000) lies about 30 miles northwest of Lafayette. It's the seat of Evangeline Parish, named for the doomed heroine in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's epic poem of the early Acadians, Evangeline. The Acadians were French-speaking Catholics that the British expelled from Acadia, a French colony of Nova Scotia, and deported to Louisiana in the mid-1700s. Their descendants are known as Cajuns, and these days, Cajun culture is big business in Louisiana. Crawfish restaurants and Cajun dance halls are everywhere, and gas station and grocery store checkouts are piled high with Cajun bric-a-brac from dried alligator heads to cookbooks. But in Ville Platte, Cajun culture has yet to be caricatured or commercialized. It's a place where the old women still speak Cajun French and the old men still cook in black iron pots and even the youngest children know how to bait a trotline.