Thursday, April 10, 2008

Making Crawfish and Shrimp in the Canjun Bayou

“Don’t say cray like you are talking about crayons for kids to draw in coloring books. Say craw-fish from the bayou. Try it: craw-fish from the bi-YOU.” This lesson on local pronunciation came from a friendly twenty-something Dad who been watching his youngster play T-ball in Parc Hardy in Beaux Bridge, Louisiana – “Crawfish Capital of the World”. Trained now in the proper way to ask for a meal and directions to two local crawfish eateries, Ed and I headed out in our Toyota tow-car to check out the menus. Neither of us felt hungry, we just wanted to know where to go for lunch the next day. We picked up a menu at Crazy About Crawfish; but, when we parked at The Fruit Stand, our greeting and reception by Tee convinced us to return hungry on Wednesday.

I interrupted the chatter of my best friend Val who I’d been visiting with on the cell phone as Ed and I drove around. “Val, I gotta go. There’s a guy in this parking lot with a red train. I think I’m gonna ride.” Val knows better than to doubt my reasons for a quick exit. The next day our emails went like this:

“Sorry I had to duck out last night. Met an interesting Cajun guy with a road licensed train. Weird! but fun! In Beaux Bridge, LA for the next few days. Patty

Her reply, “Only you can write an excuse like this and have it be true. A Cajun guy with a road licensed train – yea only you - Please don’t smoke it all girlfriend.” Val

Tee took us into The Fruit Stand Market to give us a guided tour. Opening each upright freezer door, he pointed out things no Louisiana kitchen should be without, “Here’s our frozen crawfish, alligator, and okra for frying.” He led us to sacks of crawfish stacked on the cement floor and a display of Swamp Dust. “We use this stuff to boil our crawfish,” he explained. He moved quickly to a small freezer. When he lifted the lid, we saw three freezer sections marked small, medium, and jumbo each full of shrimp. “Now, I’ll warn you, these can be hard to peel, but they are delicious. I recommend the jumbo ones. Don’t waste your time peeling the other ones.”

“When you come back tomorrow, I won’t be here ‘cause it’s my day off.” Tee was nearly apologizing. “You’ll see how good this food can be, yes you will.”

We returned to The Fruit Stand with a noontime appetite. Anne took over where Tee left off. She sized us up as if to measure what we could eat. She scribbled an order on a pad like a doctor writing a prescription – three pounds crawfish, one pound jumbo shrimp, four potatoes, two corn-on- the-cob, and two Cokes. Then she ripped the paper from the pad and taped it to the front of her shirt. “You’ll enjoy this,” she assured.

While she ran water on the jumbo shrimp to defrost them, she took us into the kitchen where crawfish scratched at the sides of four plastic buckets. Anne hoisted one of the buckets and dumped the creatures on a conveyer to demonstrate how they are washed. “They think they can get away,” she said as she picked up one of the crawfish trying to retreat back up the shoot to the washer, “but they can’t.” She dropped the wiggling fellow in with the rest.

She lifted a metal lid from to show us steaming mounds of red potatoes and corn. “I’m gonna fix you some dip for the potatoes, crawfish and shrimp. It’s mayonnaise and seasoning called Slap Ya Mama.”

“The Department of Health says we have to boil the crawfish 12 minutes,” Anne told us as she dumped our lunch into boiling water and set the kitchen timer. “Shrimp will take four minutes.”

Those 12 minutes passed quickly because Anne showed us the local cuisine Tee had missed…pickled okra, boxed batters, tobacco, Swamp Dust, and Slap Ya Mama in varying degrees of spiciness. Before the timer could bing, Anne headed to the kitchen. She returned with our feast!

Not a morsel remained. Anne judged us well.

April 9, 2008

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