Hope You're Not Eating Whilst Reading This One......

"D took me to see his parent's grave. As I stood there the soil began to move and I saw something digging up from the middle of it. It looked like four fingers coming up out of the grave. I was terrified. And then I realized it was a crawfish." -L, Lake Charles, Louisiana.

This story was so gruesome that I hesitated to even retell it here. I guess I'm getting it out of the way. Anyone who knows me will know how hard it is for me to even look at this picture, and I am a little surprised that I could handle posting it. I know I'm being unreasonable, but somehow I just don't look at this and think, "Yum, dinner!" I think, "Ack! Run!" But truly, one of the reasons why I avoid eating shrimp/lobster/crab is because they seem like the insects of the sea. And apparently the crawfish is the missing link between earth and water. I always thought that crawdads live solely in fresh water creeks. At least that's what I blithely imagined when I heard tell of crawfish etoufe, or jambalaya; just one more funky crustacean that somehow passes for human food, never dreaming that they actually come from out of the ground. Apparently they're locally known as 'mudbugs'.

Oh, and then there's this one: "You got to suck de head on dem crawdads!" This was from a keychain B and I found in Opelousas, Louisiana. It featured audio files of various popular Cajun sayings, including this one, instructions on what to do with one of these little critters. (Although I would have said, "You got to t'row dem crawdads back!") It's actually useful information-if I was faced with one of these on my dinner plate I would have no idea how to begin. Apparently, the head also contains the pancreas, which has a lot of fat and somehow makes for a tasty dish. Mmm-Mmm!

When we visited 10 years ago we actually came across a family that was fishing for crawdads using leftover Thanksgiving turkey neck. They were on the little bridge that separates Avery Island, home of tabasco sauce, from the mainland. It was about as iconic as you could get without circling alligators and the soundtrack from 'Deliverance' playing in the background.

I don't know what's creepier about this story, the bottom feeder digging around in someone's grave or the fact that crustaceans can just bubble up from the earth. As a gardener, I was appalled, and newly resolved never to live there. Can you imagine? Merrily mucking about in the garden beds trying to get the spring's seedlings in the ground and who comes up for air? Mister Mudbug! Blech. I was told this story over Thanksgiving dinner, and my skin prickled and crawled for hours after....

(and thanks to jciv for this pic from a flickr photostream; it's the subject matter, not the composition that are hard to stomach!)


smalls said...

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA I love it! Whenever you want to make your own line of anti-mudbug-saying kitch, call me and we'll craft! ;o) Thanks for the morning giggle!

Anonymous said...

Ah, I was waiting for you to mention crawdads. Ok, so you will appreciate this one: visiting our relatives in Mobile, AL every Spring Break and my great-aunt (Rosalie, for whom G is partially named) trying to treat us landlocked Midwesterners with LOTS of fresh seafood. Basically, my two sisters and I lived on breakfast cereal and saltines while we were there. I TOTALLY agree with you about crustaceans being the bugs of the sea. I remember watching Aunt Rosalie and my mom shelling shrimp at the sink--a little twist and pull and from the cold grey inscectoid exoskeleton *bluuup* out pops the veined, startling pink naked body. I have never been able to eat shrimp after seeing that. But there was always a huge glass bowl of shrimp cocktail in Aunt Rosalie's fridge. I can still see it in my mind--on the top shelf, with not even saran wrap on top to make the flimsiest of mental barriers. Somehow the lack of a covering made the bowl all the more disgusting--as if marinated in the imagined fridge odors of who knows what else. (these people ate sea bugs, after all, and had industrial sized cans of boiled peanuts--pre-Costco days, keep in mind--in the pantry and once when I got down a glass for a drink of water it had a dead roach in it.)

In other words, the entire kitchen was just scary to my child self.

But the final, terrible event in our annual visit was the crawdad boil. First Aunt Rosalie would boil crawdads in a huge pot on the stove, with mysterious spices wrapped in in cheesecloth and hunks of corn on the cob and whole red potatoes. One year they dug a hole in the ground and baked the lot. But after it is all cooked, they tossed it in a big styrofoam cooler filled with ice. We went to a local park (or just went to the dining room table--I have memories of both) and spread newspaper over the wooden picnic table and then just dumped the contents of the cooler out for the pickin'.

It seems if there is anything worse than boiled or baked crawdad, it would be that dish served iced. On newspaper.

Now, from my adult perspective, I can see a certain charm in it all--and the adults and AL folks dug in with real delight.

Except my sisters and me, who ate saltines.

: )


rosa said...

Yummy, saltines! (Especially when imagining the bizarre alternative!) BTW, today in a cookbook I came across a recipe for something called 'Shrimp Wiggle'.
I too have had bad shrimp experiences, namely the pile of dead jumbo prawns shlumped over the side of my brother's plate in La Paz, Mexico. I had my head down on the table,(probably dealing with Montezuma's Revenge).When I looked up, there were their little black sightless eyes on their lolling heads, inches away, all heaped and ready to 'shuck.' I had to run outside and breathe deeply. My other name for shrimp is the Hoover of the Sea, incidentally. We should start a club.

Read Your Way Through the Garden: Choice Tomes From Garden Literature

  • A Book of Salvias by Betsy Clebsch
  • Botany for Gardeners by Brian Capon
  • Making Bentwood Trellises by Jim Long
  • RHS Encyclopedia of Plants & Flowers
  • Rose Primer: An Organic Approach to Rose Selection & Care by Orin Martin
  • Start With the Soil by Grace Gershuny
  • Sunset Western Garden Book
  • Sunset Western Landscaping Book
  • The Book of Garden Secrets by Patent & Bilderback
  • The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Botany
  • the Gardener's Table: A Guide to Natural Vegetable Growing and Cooking by Richard Merrill & Joe Ortiz
  • The Gardener's Year by Karel Capek
  • The Hutchinson Dictionary of Plant Names: Common & Botanical
  • We Made A Garden by Margaret Fish

lotsa latin: rosa's botanical & etymological ruminations

  • vespertinus: flowers in the evening
  • vernalis:spring
  • veni vidi nates calcalvi: we came, we saw, we kicked butt. This was printed on a T shirt I bought at Abbot's Thrift many years ago. It encircled the NEA symbol. I wish I knew why.
  • superciliaris: shaped like an eyebrow ex: sturnella superciliaris, the White-browed Blackbird
  • rosa-sinensis: species of Hibiscus: Hibiscus rosa-sinensis. Lit. Rosa of China, so named by British plant hunters.
  • placentiformis: shaped like a cake ex: discocactus placentiformis
  • nudiflorus: flowers before leaves show ex: flowering quince, magnolia
  • nivalis: growing in or near snow ex: galanthus nivalis (common snowdrop)
  • muralis: growing on walls
  • mirabilis: marvellous, wonderful
  • formosa: beautiful ex: dicentra formosa, a.k.a.western bleeding heart/dutchman's breeches/lady in a bath
  • carpe vitam: get a life
  • Carolus Linnaeus: Latinized name of Carl von Linne (1707-1778), Swedish naturalist considered the father of plant taxonomy. Whatta guy.