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Mar 5, 2014 12:50 PM

Crawfish book

Sam Irwin, a Baton Rouge reporter/writer, has just released "Louisiana Crawfish; A Succulent History of the Cajun Crustacean (American Palate, Charleston SC 2014), a chatty history of production, popularizing, and cooking crawfish. I'm about 50 pages into it and it is fun in the breezy style one associates with such books. I'll be interested to see how much if his info comports with the stuff I have dug up over the years. he does have some decent research into news articles and such from the early 20th Century.

So far, of interest, he sides with the etouffee Creation Story of Aline Champagne and takes issue with the traditional account that crawfish were stigmatized as poor peoples' food. (Pat Huval supported that account in personal conversations with me over the years as did several other members of the Huval clan.)

Anyway, if you can't get crawfish what with this weather, as least you can read about them. He has it for sale on a website if you cannot find it in stores.

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    1. Woo Hoo!

      A potential justification for a Wisconsin boy air-freighting critters across the country.

      I'll read!

      1 Reply
      1. re: Monch

        Not quite as muddy but very good and 1000 miles closer The www.Crayfishman in wisconsin

      2. The only "poor" here is the character of someone stigmatizing another person's food.

        10 Replies
        1. re: mudcat

          Huh? There is most certainly a correlation between income and cuisine (and has always been). To disregard the financial aspects of food anthropology would be irresponsible.

          1. re: montuori

            Well, there may be a difference between food anthropology, which is a scientific endeavor, and what mudcat is talking about: people making fun of other people. Interesting that chicken wings were poor people's food thirty years ago, and now they are $3.50 a pound (more than legs or thighs). Crawfish have become so expensive that they definitely aren't poor people's food anymore!

            1. re: rudeboy

              Ditto for inside skirt steak and short ribs. Popularity has its downside.

              1. re: Hungry Celeste

                And prisoners in Maine used to riot over being served Lobsters so much in the 1800's. Domestic help got smarter and signed agreements saying they would not have to eat it more than twice a week.

              2. re: rudeboy

                Crawfish was ostensibly a "poor man's food" because they could be caught just about anywhere by anyone in Louisiana.But my research indicated that there were plenty of society folk eating and enjoying crawfish in haute cuisine dishes like crawfish bisque. If there was a stigmatization attached to eating crawfish, it came from the non-Cajun (les Americains) oil field workers just as the crawfish industry was getting started. Today, the oil field workers have now been recrutied and are bona fide crawfish lovers. The Cajun Crustacean: conquering the world one food lover at a time...

                1. re: SamIrwinLA

                  Glad you weighed in. I can remember clearly the derogation of things Cajun by Baton Rouge and New Orleans..and when 'coonass' was a more pejorative term than it is today-if any old sense clings. The Boudreaux/Thibodeaux jokes are something of a lingering part of that. As I mentioned above, Pat Huval told me that the three things he did not admit to eating (as a child) were crawfish, turtle, and coon. (Of course, Pat went on to found his empire on crawfish and people drove to the old place, on the West side of bayou Amy, from Baton Rouge by going down the Atchafalaya levee after driving up on 190 to Krotz Springs.) This struck me as a part of the other déclassé food I heard of growing up: there were people in my family who did not eat greens at all and wouldn't let them in the house. "Nice people" didn't eat those things (although it is a source of amusement to me that the wildly popular and expensive Norse cooking seems largely made up of poke salat and its kin).

                  You had Crawfish Cardniale and Crawfish Imperial at country clubs and better restaurants but etouffee seems to have come out thru Piccadilly in BR and it was beginning to spread in New Orleans in the 1970s.

                  There is no question that bisque was haute stuff. And there is not much difference from the stuff Antoine's was making in the 1950s and bisques I've had in Acadiana. Antoine's was heavy on the butter, I recall.

                  1. re: hazelhurst

                    I disagree about the word "coonass." I think it is a greater perjorative than ever.

                    About folks from Baton Rouge...I find it laughable that Tiger fans get behind the made-up word "Geaux." If they really wanted to embrace Cajunism they would say, "Allons!"

                    1. re: SamIrwinLA

                      That's one I know from Lake Charles to Henderson gives a damn. Perhaps it is one of those permissive things. Then again, thing of those RCA license plates. I don't think we'd have that for any other "suspect classification" as the courts say.

                      What is really funny about "Geaux" is that it is pronounced "Zho" and they don't realize it. Like the famous bumper sticker: "I am an LSU Alumni." Tulane had lots of fun over that. (And "my money and my kid goes to LSU.")

                      1. re: hazelhurst

                        The bumper sticker, that's too funny.

                  2. re: SamIrwinLA

                    So, so true in your last statement SamIrwinLA. My wife is from Philadelphia, and of a delicate nature. I remember the first time I ordered a platter of crawfish for us. She looked almost horrified at first. I taught her how to peel them, and within a few visits, she could eat them as fast as me. I'm from Orange TX with roots in New Iberia and have been eating them since I can remember, but that Philly girl can sure rip through three pounds in a hurrY!