Dang you Winn Dixie. I walked into the grocery store with my carefully made out list and coupons to stay on budget. I planned on sticking to the list only. I was mentally prepared. And bang – the automatic door opens and that smell hits me. The smell of Zatarain’s crab boil. All of us southern Louisiana people know that smell. It grabs you by the nostrils and won’t let go! I must resist. I must resist.
I proceed directly to the meat counter. So far so good. But then……..in the seafood department, the Winn Dixie clerk is bagging up Zatarain’s boiled potatoes and corn. I lost all resolve. I grab some of this southern gold, attempt to finish some shopping on budget, and make my way to the check out counter.
The boiled crawfish were in front of the store, by the door, sitting on ice, enticing you to buy this delicacy. I start loading my groceries on the conveyor belt and tell the check-out gal I am going to grab some boiled crawfish. She said, “You better hurry. Folks have been snatching them up.” I glance towards the display, and sure enough, 3 bags remained. I ran there as fast as my metal knees would allow me and grabbed 2 bags right under the noses of potential buyers. I ran back to the check out line and did not feel a bit of remorse. Not a bit! These were mine! All mine! They were mine the minute I walked into the store and smelled dat crab boil smell.
Some things just stick with us southern Louisiana people for life – like Zatarain’s, seafood, king cake and Mardi Gras doubloons.
Just like when I smell seafood boiling, the same goes when I hear doubloons hitting the ground at a Mardi Gras parade, I go into a frenzy. I will knock over young and old, step on fingers, step on toes, to grab that worthless piece of metal. I have just got to have it.
Is this instilled in us at Christening. Is there some bayou water in that holy water the priest dumps on our head? Does the priest say, “You are christened in the name of The Father, The Son and the New Orleans’ ghost.”?
In the early 60s, my young brother committed his life to God. He traveled to Ohio, joined the Catholic Seminary and became known as Brother DePaul Held. The food just about did him in he said. It was bland and awful. He started cooking red beans and rice and other New Orleans delicacies for the nuns, priests and brothers. They loved him. And he is remembered by many that were in the seminary with him, long after his 1967 death due to cancer. In his little 23 years here on earth, Eric made a huge impact on people sharing his culture. New Orleans just does that to you.
In 1979, I was heading out on my first venture without my family. My high school senior trip was a cruise to the Virgin Islands. I kept hearing about the awesome food. Wait? What? Someone lied to me. I mean, the food was okay, but it wasn’t my food. After you live in the New Orleans area, hardly any other food compares. It was missing something. What was it missing? Oh yes, Zatarain’s crab boil, McIlhenny Tabasco and such.
Oh those crawfish. Pinch the tail, suck the heads. And crabs! Fat, female blue lake crabs. Just waiting to be thrown in that boiling pot. That smell grabs your nostrils. Crack that shell off and look at all that orange goodness. Oh the fat in the female crabs. Grosses anyone out from other parts of the good old U.S. of A., but not us southern Louisiana people. Forget your caviar. Give me crab fat.
In the early 80s, I met a young man that could boil better than anyone I ever met. So I married him. Oh the seafood boils that we threw. People would come from miles around.
Not long after we were married, the hills were calling my husband. He wanted to move to Tennessee. I told him he was crazy and I just could not leave my salt water seafood. I would call him on a Friday and say, “find me seafood, I must have seafood.” He would reply, “I am not sure what they have now….”, but before he could finish, I would be yelling in to the phone to find me seafood. When I get a craving for that taste, I just have to have it. I cannot think or function properly until I have that smell of Zatarain’s grabbing me by the nostrils. We even had our own personal soft-shelled crab man who would faithfully drive into my driveway, with a tray of still breathing soft-shelled crabs for us to pick from. Such a spoiled person I am.
Did I mention a major reason I married the man I did is because he is the best seafood boiler around?
Alas, I finally agreed to move a little ways from N’Awlins, but not too far. I am just over the border, the Mississippi border that is. We are just a hop, skip and jump away from salt water fishing and crabbing. We can still get our favored delicacy readily. I am here to stay – for the seafood.
So I come home with the booty. My husband knew we were on a strict budget and he was shocked I went off of script. I fixed my platter with the goodies – crawfish, potatoes, corn on the cob, but I noticed he wasn’t getting any. I finally asked him if he was going to fix his platter. The goofy man said, “Oh, you bought enough for both of us? I thought you just got enough for you.” I was shocked and appalled. After 35 years together, did he think I would do that to him? No, I could never eat boiled seafood in front of my beloved and not share.
But…….if there had not been enough crawfish to share, I might have sat out in Winn Dixie’s parking lot and got my fix, disposing of the evidence, and driving home with a smile on my face………….