Most people view cooking as a chore, maybe a labor of love, but still work. There’s shopping, chopping, sautéing, simmering, boiling, baking, roasting and grilling. For a few glorious moments, there’s the actual partaking of the meal that took all that effort to prepare…and in what seems like a split second, they’re gone – all your people, they leave you with the clean up. Sometimes, this takes even longer than preparing the meal itself. There’s nothing worse than being left alone in the kitchen with a bunch of greasy pots and pans.
But, this is a totally different story if you’re Cajun! Cajun cooking isn’t just going through the motions; it’s a total EXPERIENCE, a feature production, if you will.
Of course, there’s still shopping and chopping (the holy trinity of onions and bell pepper and celery) but it’s all about the people–okay, the food’s pretty incredible, too. The Italians and the Greeks know what I’m talking about as they have similar customs when it comes to cooking…the more, the merrier. After all, someone’s got to taste the cannoli and baklava.
Cajuns thrive on the prep process! For example, take a good ol’ crawfish or crab boil. Authentic Cajuns set out to check their crab traps and actually pull up their dinner from the marsh, the others of us buy a sack or two or three (depending on how much company we’re expecting). We rinse and purge, maybe ice them, some salt them, but all have their favorite methods of getting them ready to boil.
The burner is lit–all the goodies necessary for this perfect formula are in place–the costars: the Creole seasoning, lemons, salt, oil, sausage, corn, potatoes, onions…there’s really nothing that can’t be thrown into the pot–it’s where creole gets its name…a melting pot of many different people.
This is when the crowd starts to gather. The crabs and crawfish crowd into their new, steaming hot tub! Here’s where it comes in handy to be ambidextrous as there is always a beer in one hand and a paddle to stir the mud bugs around in the other.
It is now an all out event…. a major feature production under way.
Sounds and smells unlike any others in the world inundate this space–spicy cayenne aroma fused with lemon zest–kids running around with live crawfish as weapons and adults taking it all in anticipating their mouthwatering treats ahead. Cajun accents yelling over the roaring butane burner and Zydeco music just add to the experience. These echoes and scents spill from the backyard boil–a little slice of heaven on earth.
Finally, hundreds of beautifully boiled crimson creatures are spread across a newspaper-lined table, or a more sophisticated set up with a hole in the middle for easily discarded shells. Chow time! Piles begin to mount as the faster peelers pull ahead.
And don’t forget those costars…onion dip with saltines…maybe some oysters on the half shell… mayo/ ketchup concoction and optional hot sauce for dipping …corn and potatoes and all their boiled friends. A feast of happiness.
More batches follow and eventually, it grows quiet, as there are fewer and fewer mudbugs on the table. Everyone is fat and happy. Ahhhh!
Cleanup–easy: a hose and Dawn dishwashing liquid, and a quick prayer that the garbage is running the next day.
There’s no experience quite like it…a good ol’ Cajun crawfish boil. It’s so much more than just a meal.
LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL!
THAT’S A WRAP!