I’ve spent a fair amount of time this month squirreled away, focused on writing, getting Lacey’s story down and out of my head. But it was time to take a break this past Saturday, for my family’s annual crawfish boil.
I can’t tell you who first decided to pick up one of these little crustaceans and put them in a boiling pot full of spices. But apparently, they’ve always been plentiful in the swamplands of southern Louisiana. I figure some hungry, early denizen of these parts must have figured they were worth a shot.
By the late 1800s, crawfish were being sold commercially. This, according to the Louisiana Crawfish Promotion and Research Board. In those 100 plus years gone by, crawfish have grown into a pretty big deal down here. This time of year, not a weekend goes by where someone isn’t boiling crawfish somewhere.
With our mild winters and really (really) long summers, some clever folks have claimed that our seasons are different in Southern Louisiana. Instead of Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall, we have: Mardi Gras, Crawfish, Hurricane, and Football. (I’ll sometimes see Hunting instead of Mardi Gras, and Sno-ball instead of Hurricane, but Crawfish and Football are constants.)
To give you some idea of the scope of crawfish boils down here: as of this year, Louisiana has a crawfish “pardoning event.” Yes, like the pardon some lucky Thanksgiving turkey receives from the POTUS each year. On March 7, Louisiana’s Lieutenant Governor pardoned Emile the Crawfish to live out the rest of his days in Bayou Segnette. (Emile was named after Emile Zatarain [1866-1959], the guy who first packaged all the spices together. Seems a little ironic.)
The crawfish boil tradition in my family only goes back six or seven years. It’s definitely tied to the next generation—several of my nieces and nephews have birthdays in March. Since March/April is the height of crawfish season, it makes sense. It’s also a great excuse to get people to come visit, since all but one of those March birthday holders live outside Louisiana.
There’s a lot I like about this family event. I like that it’s something that’s been forged recently—it’s not some holdover from our family’s past. I like to see Husband Tim and Brother Jerry working together like Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear in Stuck on You. I like that it gets distant family and friends into New Orleans for a visit.
I could go on, but I won’t. There’s a quote from A Knight’s Tale that sums up my feelings nicely. (Uttered by Paul Bettany, from his brilliant portrayal of Geoffrey Chaucer): Days like these are far too rare to cheapen with heavy-handed words.