Katherine Pope is a wife, mother and Realtor who loves cooking.

There are lots of yardsticks by which true love can be measured. One of the best I’ve ever read is: “Love is someone who peels your crawfish for you.”

I love crawfish and during the season, which usually stretches from late February through early May, I feast on them every chance I get. One of my favorite places to indulge my obsession is at the Ganado Volunteer Fire Department’s annual Crawfish Festival.

Last weekend, I enjoyed pounds and pounds of the spicy crustaceans with potatoes, corn and sausage, courtesy of the hardworking firefighters who boiled almost 6,000 pounds of crawfish on Saturday. Last year, unbelievably, in the middle of cooking, there was a fire. So in addition to feeding half the county, these heroes answered the call and put out a fire.

I have been going to the festival, which is in its 12th year, for years, and I have made wonderful memories with friends over platters piled high with spicy goodness.

There was the year when the festival was still small enough to be at the Ganado KJT hall. I was invited by the zydeco band to join them on stage and play the washboard. Then there was the year that on the way to pick up a group of hungry friends, I ran out of gas in front of Edna High School.

The first year the festival moved to its new location in Devers Park, I left the auction with the most delicious red velvet cake I’ve ever tasted; I still have sweet dreams about that rich cake. Last year, I skated into town after seeing Eric Church in the Woodlands the night before, and although I was tired and a little worse for wear, there was no way I was going to miss those spicy mudbugs.

This year, as an added feature, attendees were treated to the musical stylings of Colby Swift, of “American Idol” fame. As I sat under the awning with the breeze blowing gently, the peppy sound of the auctioneer's voice in the background, surrounded by the easy laughter of friends and the tingle of the peppery boil on my lips, I wondered who was the first person to have the idea to pull a crawfish out of the mud and eat him.

I recently traveled to New Orleans and assumed that it must have been the crafty Cajuns who originated the practice of eating crawfish, but I was surprised to learn that it was, in fact, the American Indian who, using reeds and meat as bait, coaxed these little treasures out of their mud holes and feasted on them.

In the 1960s, commercial crawfish farming came into its own and has evolved over the years from small mom-and-pop farms into a huge industry. Ninety percent of the mudbugs, as they are lovingly called by true aficionados, grown in the United States are raised in Louisiana. The more than 100,000 acres of ponds produce about 150,000 pounds of tiny crustaceans each year. This may sound like a lot of crayfish, as they are also known, but when planning a boil, the rule of thumb is to prepare three pounds per person, five if you are planning to invite me.

There are a lot of ways to enjoy these little delicacies. At traditional boils, eating the tail is the most popular. Some people – not me – suck the heads, and others crack the claws of the biggest mudbugs. I have always been told never to eat a crawfish with a straight tail because that is an indication that he died prior to boiling, but while doing research, I learned that is not necessarily true. As long as the meat is not mushy, then they are fine to eat. I guess old habits die hard.

I learned this information before I went to the festival but still could not bring myself to eat the few straight ones that I found on my tray.

If you missed the Ganado Crawfish Festival, you really missed out. I am already planning to go next year, but until then, when the crawfish call my name, this is the boil recipe I will use to keep my cravings at bay.

Katherine Pope is a wife, mother and Realtor. She loves cooking almost as much as she loves living in Jackson County Texas. Katherine can be contacted by email at whatscookingkatherine@gmail.com.

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