By Logan Derrick
Nearly a dozen tables were spread across a large, grassy backyard. Each one lined with a red and white checkerboard tablecloth to protect the wood underneath from the hot, spicy juices that were about to be poured out across them. The strong smell of Cajun seasoning filled the cool and humid spring air.
I’d been living in Louisiana for about six or seven months and it was finally time for my first crawfish boil. Here are a few of the most important things I learned before, during, and after my first experience eating “mudbugs”.
1. Come Hungry
When properly planned, most crawfish boils can have 3 pounds or more of crawfish per person. While the amount of meat you’ll get from the tails is about 15% of that on average, the boil also comes loaded with a vast array of red potatoes, onions, andouille sausage, corn, lemons and even other seafood like clams or mussels.
2. Dress Accordingly
I made the mistake of wearing a white shirt to my first crawfish boil. And if it weren’t for the makeshift bib I made out of a plastic bag (which was the source of some friendly teasing from other attendees), it wouldn’t have stayed white for long. It is highly suggested to wear dark clothes, possibly even ones you could get rid of as crawfish juices and the liquid seasoning can easily leave permanent stains.
3. Keep a Drink Handy
As the boiled water isn’t switched out with each new round of crawfish, every new serving gets spicier and spicier. Many Cajuns will be able to tough it out or simply swig down some Dr. Pepper or other soda with it. But if you are a newcomer to the spice, it’s highly recommended to have a healthy supply of cold water to wash down the heavy flavors.
4. Pick the Best Crawfish
When it comes to crawfish, the bigger the better. Look for large mudbugs with tails that are curved under their bodies. Whenever you find one that either has a straight tail or a cracked shell, that often means it was dead beforehand and may end up tasting spoiled.
5. Don’t Worry About Manners
You generally won’t see plates or silverware at a good old-fashioned crawfish boil. Expect to simply dive right into a shared pile of the mini crustaceans with the sounds of cracking shells, smacking lips, and crawfish remains being thrown into trash bins. Even if you use a napkin or paper towel in between, your hands will be a spicy and juicy mess afterward so make sure you wash them with soap, water, and even a bit of lemon when you’re finished.
While the season for crawfish can span nearly nine months depending on the weather, the most common times for a boil tend to be during the cooler months of February, March, and April. Especially if you ever find yourself in one of the southern states, seek out the chance to join in on one of these long-time Cajun traditions.