by Mallory Matherne, co-features editor
In the Bayou Region, most traditions come from different cultures melting together. According to “The History of Crawfish in Louisiana,” crawfish boils originated from the Cajuns and from the local Native American tribes, who used to bait reeds with deer meat and catch the crawfish out of the creeks and ponds. Locals have taken traditions from both of these cultures and made them their own over time.
Crawfish are not just a meal in South Louisiana, they’re a party. In fact, there’s an entire season the Bayou Region dedicates to crawfish boils. From February to July, weekends mean gathering your friends and family around folding tables on the back patio, drinkin’ your favorite beer, and blasting the radio while mixing crawfish dip.
Each crawfish boil is different depending on who’s doing the boiling. Though the basics stay the same–a huge pot of boiling water, crawfish, and seasoning–the extra bits thrown into the pot vary depending on personal preference of the chef. Onions, potatoes, carrots, cauliflower, corn, mushrooms, garlic, and sausage are the usual additions to crawfish boils. Some people throw in bits like broccoli, green beans, celery, artichoke, lemons, pineapple, asparagus, olives, eggs, pickles, and even hot dogs and chicken wings!
Mae Heck, a Thibodaux native, has been boiling crawfish for over 50 years. Heck has been boiling crawfish for her family every Friday during seafood season because “it’s the best reason to bring my family together.” Heck says another reason she likes boiling crawfish so often is because she feels like she’s mastered the craft. She said that the key to a perfect boil is how long you boil for.
“I bring my crawfish to a boil for four minutes then I let them soak for eight,” Heck says. “I bring them back to a boil for another three or four minutes. That’s the perfect crawfish.”
Crawfish are such a massive part of Southern culture that “Lent” has become synonymous with “crawfish season.” Catholics don’t eat meat on Fridays in Lent, so every Friday finds people setting the table with their crawfish trays. Although there are plenty of seafood restaurants in southern Louisiana, it’s businesses that sell crawfish by the sack that really see business boom during crawfish season.
Angie Francis, owner of Bayou Cane Seafood in Houma, says, “Crawfish season is always the best time of year for us. We sell seafood all year long, but the anticipation of crawfish season drives people crazy. They have to have it.”
Francis has owned Bayou Cane for 10 years and says she still doesn’t know how to prepare for crawfish season. She says that every season is different and the size and quality of the crawfish depends on the weather each year. Regardless, business is always booming during crawfish season for her because, as Francis says, “people love their crawfish.”