Streetcar: Season of the Boucherie

An aunt in Avoyelles parish traditionally would give me a pack of boudin for Christmas. It was a wonderful gift, except for the Christmas after Katrina when the car trunk tended to be loaded down with paraphernalia for survival in addition to holiday gifts. That following October I traced down the gamey, but still savory, smell that wafted from the back of my car to the Christmas boudin that had shifted into a space at the bottom of the truck. Guard your boudin well.

To most of the rest of the world pigskin is that object tossed and kicked about during football games. That’s true in Louisiana too, but the term has another meaning, also associated with the fall and winter, for that is the season of the boucherie.

Many churches and schools in French Louisiana are endowed by money from their fairs. On Sunday mornings, lines form to purchase the roast pig dinners made from the carcasses that glowed on vertical pits the night before.

Among the specialty items made from the hogs, the two most popular seem to be cracklins and boudin. On paper, a cracklin does not seem like something one would want to take to a spa. It consists of deep-fried pork fat, with a hint of meat that is salted. When done right, though, there is a sweetness and crunchiness that cannot be denied.    

There are two types of boudin; the red and the white. The former is the so-called blood sausage, and that is a discussion in itself. There are blood dishes throughout the world, including the English’s blood pudding, but they are not for the squeamish.

White boudin is another matter. Pork, spices and rice are mixed together and stuffed into a sausage case. Though it is an ancient food, boudin is thoroughly modern in that in can be frozen and then microwaved. Service hint: Be sure to prick holes into the casing before heating otherwise you might have a boudin bomb in your oven.

(Most daring of the variations are the boudin balls served from beneath hot lights at gas stations. That experience offers the extra advantage of being able to buy a lottery ticket while dining.)

Boudin and “kush-kush,” a Cajun cereal made with cornmeal, are the subject of an only- in- Louisiana football cheer used at several universities: “Hot boudin, cold kush kush, come on (name team), push, push, push.”

In modern times boudin has gained popularity in the city.  Once unheard of in New Orleans, it is now on the menu at some white tablecloth restaurants. At the Jazz Fest, boudin in various forms, including crawfish, is sold.

Crawfish, of course, is not really a traditional boudin ingredient, but if the trend continues, that is perhaps good news for the pigs.


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