Wednesday, September 11, 2013

a brilliant disguise

I moved to Louisiana around the new year, just in time for the start of crawfish season. My second week here, D's colleague A and his wife J, natives of the region, invited us to go out for boiled crawfish at a place in town called Louisiana Crawfish Time. They said that this early, the crawfish tended to be younger, sweeter, and smaller than they get later in the spring. Plus, they speculated, it had been a mild winter. The crawfish hadn't had to molt, so their shells would be softer and easier to get into.

When we walked into the restaurant, we were greeted by a cloud of brine- and spice-scented steam. Our server seated us at a table with a rough hole cut into its center. Underneath was a garbage can where we would discard our shells as we ate. I deliberated over the menu and asked questions (A three-pound order sounded like a lot. Was it meant to be shared? Absolutely not.) and finally settled on two pounds of crawfish, a half-pound of shrimp, a boiled whole onion, and an ear of corn. When the large, round tray laden with steaming goodness finally arrived at the table, I asked our seasoned friends how to do it. A said to twist the head from the body, loosen the shell a bit from underneath, and then pull gently to remove the tail meat. If you weren't squeamish about the yellow "fat" in the head (what I've since learned is the hepatopancreas of the critter), you sucked or scooped it out and ate it before pitching it into the garbage pail.

Well, when in Rome, as they say. A few minutes later, I looked up from my peeling, eating, and sucking to find D, A, and J smiling bemusedly at me, my Zatarain's-stained fingernails, and my already half-empty tray.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013