I have been living in Texas for over 30 years now, and besides my family and friends, what I miss most about Louisiana is the food, and the food I miss most is the crawfish!
One of my favorite childhood memories is our annual Good Friday crawfish boil / family reunion in Indian Village at my Grandma Keller’s camp on the Calctsieu River. Long tables were set up and mountains of crawfish were boiled for over a hundred mothers, fathers, kids, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, and cousins. As Catholic Cajuns we were not allowed to eat meat the Friday before Easter, so even though that’s supposed to some sort of sacrifice, I saw it as a wonderful time to get my fill of my favorite food that day! Just like Cajuns to turn their penance into a party!
During the crawfish boil, no one sat to tackle peeling those spicy mud bugs as fast as they could. I remember as a kid squeezing my way in and standing between beer-drinking adults. The crawfish were poured steaming hot in the center of the newspaper-covered tables with boiled potatoes mixed in. I never bothered with the vegetables. Getting to the succulent tail meat was my mission, and I became fast at peeling them. I wasn’t as quick as cousin Jaimie who could simply suck the tails out whole, but I held my own. Also, besides the 10 oz. cans of Schiltz beer, we had little bowls of spiced-up vinegar set out. Dipping the delectable tails in vinegar is still the best way for me to savor the precious crawfish.
Later after Grandma passed away, the Keller family was not as tight-knit – no more Good Friday crawfish boils or Christmas Eve parties. Grandma really was the social glue of our large family. However, a few years after she died, my dad resurrected the Good Friday crawfish boil first in our large backyard on the outskirts of Eunice and then at Grandma’s two-storied home he bought downtown. Again we enjoyed excellent boiled crawfish (and some fried catfish) though with fewer Kellers than in Grandma’s glory days.
Now my brother continues the Good Friday tradition at his home in Dallas. Since heathen Texans don’t always get Good Friday off work, he has moved the boil to the Saturday before Easter. Emile buys about two hundred pounds of Louisiana crawfish, and then Daddy, Emile’s three grown children, five grandchildren, Yvette’s (his wife) family, and me and my crew show up. My brother also invites his many Dallas friends and his children’s friends who had to be taught how to peel the mud bugs. Now some of the non-Cajuns wrinkle their noses at having to eat such messy seafood, and a few grimace when someone starts sucking crawfish heads. But I ignore the prissy-pots and dive right in.
Nothing makes me feel at home, nothing makes my mouth water and my heart sing like eating hot boiled crawfish with a cold can of beer nearby and fellow crawfish-lovin’ Cajuns at my elbows. And we eat and laugh and tell stories and share jokes and savor the spicy sweetness of fresh crawfish, and we wrap ourselves in the easy times with good friends and family who are connected by food and culture and the best crawfish tails/ tales around, cha!