Ever been to a crawfish boil? If you have not, you need to get to one, and fast! It is the ultimate community event where personal space disappears and merriment fills the void! You eat from a communal plate, you break apart boiled potatoes with your hands to share, and you pass around corn on the cob. "That's just the way it is. It's communal."
The Southern Foodways Alliance crawfish boil at Hawk's was my first. Granted, it was not a community, side-of-the-road crawfish boil that you see in New Orleans, but it was pretty darn close.
Hawk's specializes in crawfish, and prides itself on the "purging" technique it employs to cleanse the crawfish of their "muddy" taste. This purging process involves soaking the live critters in a series salt water vats for at least 24 hours: this ensures that "the fat is golden yellow." You might be thinking at this point, What does she mean by "the fat." Well, once you pull the tail of the crawfish from the head, and you have a look inside the cavernous tete, you'll more than likely see a glob of bright yellow fat. Louisianans treat this as a delicacy: digging their finger into the head to scoop out the fat...or in some cases, putting their lips right on the head and sucking out the fat. Yup. That happens...
While we waited for Hawk's to start the boil, we all grabbed beers or cocktails at the open bar and settled down for some good conversation. I sat with Mr. Patout (the man I ran into in front of Quarter Grocery), Fern, Jim and Carol--my gang for the evening. We were a team on a mission: to eat crawfish, a lot of crawfish. Anticipation mounted as we saw servers bringing out plastic buckets of crawfish to the tables near the front of the restaurant. In preparation, Fern urged me to tape my thumbs with duck tape so that they would not get sore from peeling off dozens upon dozens of exoskeletons.
These are the steppes I learned:
1) Pick out your boiled crawfish
2) Pull the tail from the head
3) Suck the head for the fat or use your pinkie finger to extract the fat, and then suck on your finger
4) pinch the tail of the crawfish so it cracks the exoskeleton, pull off the tail piece, and fish out the meaty crawfish to pop in your mouth...enjoy!
Together, our table ate 6 buckets of crawfish. Fern was the champion, finishing 2.5 on her own. At the end of our supper, our hands were stained with crawfish juice the color of saffron. There was juice everywhere. To put it simply, washing one's hands after a crawfish boil is not sufficient, you truly need to take a shower.