Compliments of Treme

Last night, the producers of HBO’s Treme threw a celebratory crawfish boil on our block. At about 6 p.m. they set out four giant crawfish tables, put out a few coolers of water and soda and beer on tap and officially started the boil. It didn’t take long for folks to catch wind. Throngs of neighbors (and moochers) showed up for a good time. For most of the day, though, I’d had a "case of the Mondays," so attending a crawfish boil on a Monday night was the last thing I wanted to do. Strike 1 on my behalf: The fact that it’s Monday means nothing in New Orleans. It’s simply another day to eat, drink and socialize, and laissez les bon temps rouler.

For more than two hours, groups congregated over crawfish and beer. Kids ran amok, dogs barked, and everyone had a good ol’ time. On our end, we met up with some special friends we hadn’t seen in weeks, and all 10 of us sat on the curb and in the street and reminisced. It’s was a reunion of sorts. And it’s the lore of crawfish that brought us together.
The crawfish boil is an age-old Louisiana tradition. It’s a cultural event that brings folks together over big pots of crawfish and vegetables and great conversation. Even so, when we first arrived at the boil, I didn’t want any crawfish. Strike 2: In New Orleans you don’t show up to a crawfish boil and decide not to eat, not unless you’re allergic to shellfish or straight-up weird.

That said, a crawfish boil would never succeed in my native New Jersey. Aside from the fact that you can’t buy crawfish there, it’d be difficult to get people to stand around, all cozied up in friendly banter while sucking heads. Just wouldn’t happen. Cookouts are huge draws, though; so are block parties. But my best guess is the closest phenomenon would have to be an eating contest, which is fitting because the sight of a dozen people at a crawfish table is, essentially, an eating contest.

Interestingly enough, I, like many others, had 3 ½ plates of crawfish at the boil. And when it was over, I was still hungry enough to go home and devour a bowl of cereal.  Strike 3: It takes a while to understand the sheer impossibility of filling up solely on crawfish. It actually helps to eat the potatoes and corn, as they’re adequate fillers.

In all, our impromptu neighborhood crawfish boil debunked yet another rule I learned while growing up: It’s not all right to keep the party rolling into Mondays.  But alas, it is!

Another notion I now embrace is that it’s OK to get greedy with crawfish because there’s no such thing as eating too much, right? If only the actual crawfish meat was as filling as the conversation. Can you imagine? Crawfish boils would be the next best self-help craze and social intervention of choice.

What’s your favorite part of the crawfish boil experience? Is it the taste of crawfish, the amount of work put into the art of eating them, the social element?

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