Cooking With Myra: It's crawfish season
By Myra Starkey
March 5, 2013 at midnight
Updated March 5, 2013 at 9:06 p.m.
It is crawfish season in Lake Charles, La. Last weekend, we made a journey there to visit my dad.
Janet and Bill joined us on the trip. They are longtime friends of our family, and Dad enjoys seeing them.
Bill and my dad are like two peas in a pod: both only children and lighthearted, always smiling.
Cajuns love crawfish season and typically search out the "largest bugs" in the area restaurants. These freshly caught crawfish are served hot and spicy right out of the boiling pot.
Dad had scouted the area food establishments for a week and was not impressed, so he called a "boil and go" and bought 25 pounds for the five of us.
A boil and go is a concept found in many locations in Cajun country, sort of like a small barbecue joint in Texas. At one of these places, you simply drive up and hand them your ice chest, and they load it up.
This is crawfish season in south Louisiana, so of course you already have an ice chest in your car. You go home where everyone is eagerly awaiting your arrival, cover your dining room table with plastic trash bags and lots of newspapers and dump all the steaming crawfish, corn on the cob and potatoes in a large pile in the center of the table.
The peppery aroma permeates the house, and nobody has to be told to gather round and dive in because they were already salivating when they heard you pull into the driveway.
I probably ate the most. I have perfected my method. I grab the red body securely and tear off the head, barbarically sucking it to extract the delicious juice and fat. I then partially peel the tail and squeeze it at the trailing end to pop out the chewy, firm meat.
I looked around the table at the other eaters who had far less of a pile of cast-offs, so I slowed down. I know that in the end I probably ate about eight pounds, which is more than I should have, but they were delicious and being uncomfortably full is no reason to stop eating boiled crawfish.
Dad seems to be getting along fine despite losing my mom to cancer about eight months ago. He is keeping himself busy with volunteer work at the church and visiting friends in nursing homes.
He has been particularly involved with attending to one of the widow ladies at church. He shows up at the church once a week to help prepare soup for shut-ins. There is a group of women who cook, and they like Dad to come so he can lift the full pots of soup.
He started chuckling as he told us the story of his hectic life. Being retired has its advantages, but Dad seems to stay busier than most retirees.
The week before, he left his house early in the morning dressed in khaki pants and a denim shirt. He was headed to the church to make soup and had a full day of errands.
That evening, an African missionary was speaking at the church, so Dad dressed up more than usual. He spilled something on his shirt during the day, causing a stain, which only got worse with his efforts to remove the spot.
He lives about 30 minutes from Lake Charles and did not have enough time to return home to change clothes. With only about 15 minutes to spare before the night church service, he decided to run by the Kmart down the street and purchase a shirt. He hurried into the store and toward the men's department.
He found a rack with size large shirts and pulled one off the hanger. He unbuttoned his stained shirt right there in the aisle and put the new shirt on over his white T-shirt.
Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted a sales lady bearing down on him, probably thinking she had caught an 80-year-old shoplifter red handed.
Dad explained the situation to her, but she was not convinced so was fast on his heels as he headed for the front register. As he approached the checker, he asked for a pair of scissors to cut the tags off, but scissors were not to be found easily, so the checker called over the intercom for a pair.
The checker was a jolly woman who took one look at Dad in his new shirt with his soiled shirt tucked under his arm and said, "I have never scanned a man before."
A line had formed behind Dad so he tried to lean over to get the tag on his neck close enough for her to scan since the scissors had not arrived, which brought laughter to those in line and to the checker.
After a few unsuccessful attempts at scanning him, the checker decided to wait for the scissors. They soon arrived. He completed his purchase and was out the door.
Our weekend was filled with great Cajun food. We had shrimp and crab gumbo at the Seafood Palace along with boudin balls and pistolettes filled with crawfish.
Janet and Bill said they hadn't eaten so much in a long time. It seems that anytime I go home to visit it is all about eating and visiting.
I brought home some powdered roux, which is made by Tony Chachere. Since this might be our last week of cold weather, I seized the opportunity and prepared some crawfish stew Sunday evening for Taylor. The powdered roux makes this dish quick and easy. Spice it up with cayenne and Tabasco.
Myra Starkey lives in Victoria. Write her in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.