Christian’s Crawfish Adventure
Some call them mudbugs, crawdads, crayfish, or crawfish. Most people in Louisiana would call them delicious. Whatever you call them, when Spring saunters into the Bayou State, visions of the dirty red critters start dancing in people’s heads. As the air turns from crisp and biting to warm and fragrant, this question drips off hungry lips:
Is it crawfish season yet?
For Christian Macklin, that certain spring anticipation didn’t come. Christian, an out-of-state senior finance major at Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, had never been swept into the excitement of crawfish season. He had never known the joys of boilers, coolers, bags, and over-stuffed plates of little beady-eyed, scarlet crustaceans. For four years he’d watched friends and schoolmates devouring mudbugs while the process remained a mystery to him.
“You know, they have the crawfish boil on Tech campus. You see a lot of people. They’ve been eating these things for years,” Christian says.
These seasoned veterans can dismantle and inhale a crawfish so fast, they leave beginners like Christian with heads spinning, wondering what just happened. “I really can’t ever see what they’re doing. All I know is they’re sucking on certain things and they’re eating another piece. And I’m like ‘Oh, ok…’”
The City of Ruston. Home to Louisiana Tech University and several crawfish spots.
This year, however, Christian is making his entrance into that spicy, dizzy world. On a gorgeous azure Louisiana day, his roommates take him on his first outing to buy crawfish. In Ruston they have several options for their purchase – from established restaurants specializing in Louisiana cuisine to roadside stands. Each source presents its own unique blend of seasoning and sauces. The old saying about snowflakes rings true for crawfish recipes: No two are alike.
The group chooses a vendor situated on the side of a Chevron station near the university’s campus. The dry erase board outside the closet-sized stand instructs patrons to pay inside. Christian and his companions follow these instructions and pick up some refreshing Icees on the way – peach, strawberry/peach mix, Coke, and Dr. Pepper flavors. As part of his rite of passage, Christian places the order. “Twelve pounds of boiled crawfish,” he says. The cashier repeats the order and exchanges $55.86 for a receipt. Christian takes the receipt in hand like a golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. He walks out the store. As he turns the corner and emerges from under the store’s awning, he is bathed in radiant light of the sun. He hands his receipt to the vendor. He waits. When he accepts the crinkled tan paper bags, he takes into his hands his own piece of Louisiana heritage.
According to the Louisiana Crawfish Promotion and Research Board’s website (http://www.crawfish.org), the crawfish has been an “inherent part of Louisiana culture” since the days of Native Americans and early settlers. In this state, crawfish aren’t just food but also a communal experience. The site notes “crawfish season in Louisiana is still exciting, with crawfish boils and backyard parties a time-honored tradition.” As more people, like Christian, are exposed to the culture at home, school, work events, etc. the tradition will be upheld season after season.
Back at home, Christian’s roommate shows him how to extract the tail meat and pockets of savory juice from the crawfish. In this learning experience, Christian crosses the threshold from bewildered spectator to skillful participant in the culture. His take on his first true crawfish season is that it was a positive experience. <
“It was good,” he says. “I see why you guys eat them.”
When asked if he’d eat crawfish again, he answers quickly with a grin.