IndiGlow - The Ordinary Illuminated

IndiGlow - The Ordinary Illuminated

She Bit Me! Or, How to Eat like a Louisianian

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

There are a few truths about Louisianians that settle around who we are as a people and a culture. The saddest part of our truth is that our wetlands are disappearing, and with that our way of life.  Our very boot-shaped map, is losing its steel toe.  Our celebrated truth is that we are mainly of French stock and with that a Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez attitude, oh, and mais yeah, we like to eat.


We have food with names like gumbo, which is from the French gombo, of Bantu origin; akin to Umbunduochinggombo, meaning okra.  We have etoufee, borrowed into English from French as "stuffed" or "stifled."  We use spices called file', which is dried sassafras; cayenne, which is a delightful little pepper; bay leaves from the Bay Laurel tree, which will not soften in the pot and don't you dare try to eat one.


We eat bottom dwellers like shrimp, crab, and crawfish.  Right after shapes, letters, colors, and knowing which bus to take home from Miss Evelyn's Chateau de L'Ecole, we learn how to peel and eat our own serving tray of these delicacies.


While planning my trip home to South Louisiana, I gave my brother a list of things I needed to do (walk around my college campus), see (the muddy banks), drink (Donner-Peltier Distillery), and eat (a Frostop Root Beer Butter Burger).  But, most of all, Blue Crabs.  He assured me I could eat til I fainted.


So, on this day of 101-degrees-in-the-shade-heat, my brother, a blue-eyed, red-headed, freckle-faced boy with a skittish hurricane personality and a knack for collusion, and I acquired a bushel of blue she-crabs and prepared them for under-the-carport crab boil.


Here's how you do:

1.  Obtain the bushel of crabs from down the bayou, preferably from a fisherman named T-Boy or Bubba.  Keep the crabs iced and in a Mardi Gras frenzy til cook time.

2.  Get a big ole' stainless steel pot.  Fill it with water and set to boil.

3.  Take the she-crabs out one at a time, still all rustle and bubble and pinching pincers.  Use long-handled tongs.  (I say this with great reverence as one of them sliced my thumb open.  You have to respect those little ladies, with pea-sized cerebron, that will pinch your fingers with Marine sharp-shooter precision).

4.  Get your uneasy ways gone.  You have to pop them in the boiling water while alive.


After boiling those girls up with potatoes, corn, mushrooms, sausage, okra, onions, lemons, garlic, we laid out newspaper on the kitchen table and set the roumelade, which is a combo of mayonnaise, ketchup and hot sauce, in the center.  It kind of depends on the etiquette of your family as to how the serving is handled.  Some of us just slide the crabs onto the table.  My family lives up the bayou; we are of the elite sort, so we all picked our first serving onto our plastic trays (Purple and Gold, Geaux Tigers!).


I ate more than I would like to tell.  It's how we eat.  We roll up our sleeves.  We wait for the juices to run down our cuffed sleeves and the folds of our best old shirt.  We pull ourselves a good 2 feet of paper towel and stuff it between our knees for easy access.  We keep at least one beverage of choice near our tray.  We eat.  We drink.  We tell stories.


It is no story that the wetlands of Southern Louisiana are disappearing at the rate of 1 football field every 15 minutes.  One more bad-ass Katrina and a whole way of life will be obliterated.  No matter how many Northerners try to tell us to prepare, we party.  We host Hurricane Parties, literally big festive bashes held behind taped glass windows and during the whipping winds of a hurricane.


As long as our land is here to give a place for the alligators to chomp and the cottonmouths to open their white maws, we dance our zydeco.  As long as there is food for someone to get into a boat at 4:00 am and dredge the muddy waters with ancient nets, full of salty bayou weeds, snails, small fish, and sometimes a boot or bone, for us.  We eat.


It's who we are.


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