I was beginning to think it couldn’t happen. All I wanted was to boil some crawfish with a few friends, but apparently the gods were against me. I set the plans. I bought the stuff. I carved out some time but had no idea the obstacles I would face.
It started with the kids. I managed to get Lucas and Graham a day earlier than normal, as these two love a good crawfish boil. It’s hilarious to me that they enjoy it so much. I don’t shy away from making the mudbugs decently hot, and they eat them like there’s no tomorrow. There is something about that heat with the sausage, corn and potatoes that doesn’t affect them. I kid you not, the 8-year-old still thinks Crest toothpaste is too spicy, but will man up to the crawfish table like he has Cajun blood running through his veins.
We made the father-son trip to the grocery to get the essentials for a Saturday evening gathering that would include a couple of friends. Little did we know Lady Luck was not smiling favorably upon us. We couldn’t find any crawfish.
First off, let’s say there are two places unaffiliated with each other that share the nickname “Mudbugs.” This can be confusing if you call in an order. To make matters worse, they both seem to be on Dauphin Island Parkway.
I first called Cajun Mudbugs At The Loop. This is at the corner of DIP and Government, and it’s the closest Mudbugs to my house. They were sold out of live and promised more on Sunday morning.
The second is called Mudbugs-DIP Seafood. This one is just south of Interstate 10, and a quick call gave us a glimmer of hope. It was an hour before closing and they said they still had a few live, but after 30 minutes of patiently waiting in line a fellow ahead of us bought a couple hundred dollars’ worth. We were out of commission, dead in the water, so to speak.
Sunday morning coming down, we wanted to be among the first in line. As promised, the loop provided and we walked away with a sack at noon, alerting our crew that we would fire up the burner at 3 p.m. I went home to double check my groceries, hose off the crawfish and tell the others what to bring.
My grocery list wasn’t hard to fill as I keep it pretty standard. Onions, potatoes, lemons, sausage and hot dogs are the less exotic items. Tjaden and Sven were bringing corn and beer. Joe was in charge of garlic. Rob was adding another 10 pounds of crawfish.
For my boil I have taken to using Zatarain’s powdered Pro Boil. I think it’s better than liquid and is a “know what you’re getting” flavor. The bigger jar will season six gallons of water and still pack a punch. This is my baseline, as I tend to add weirder stuff as the season progresses.
It looked as if I had my bases covered. I had half a tank of propane and another full one to spare. I threw it all in the back of the truck and prepared to make the trip to the party when I realized I was missing a major component: the crawfish pot.
The pot I use doubles as a turkey fryer and was left at my mom’s on Thanksgiving. I hightailed it to Lowe’s for a new 60-quart pot complete with a basket and added a decent outdoor garbage can. By the time I paid the bill I was beginning to think this was an expensive outing.
Things started on time and as planned. My burner is a fairly cheap contraption with a windup timer that shuts off the gas after so many minutes. Three years ago my dear dad and I got so fed up with relighting the burner that we rigged the timer to be permanently on. It was a series of wires and drilled holes but it worked. Until today.
Today it worked just enough to get the crawfish in. Once it failed, there were three grown men lying on concrete holding a safety feature with a screwdriver and a pair of needle-nose pliers trying to get the first batch done. I’m not sure OSHA would have approved.
After we painstakingly got the first delicious batch on the table, we had to rethink our plan. With tears in our eyes we had moments of doubt. For weaker men the meal would have come to an abrupt end, or at least a trip to purchase a new burner. There were another 15 to 20 pounds of crawfish taunting us with their little claws, mocking us with the belief their lives were about to be spared. Being low on money but full of pride, there was no way we would let them win.
Collectively we put our heads together, and in the spirit of my late father there was more rigging with wire and a metal plate that essentially bypassed all manner of safety but readied us for round two. I was now certain OSHA would not have approved.
Fingers crossed, the second batch came out superb. Second batch is always better because in the first batch the boil seasons the crawfish but the crawfish season the boil. Surprisingly no one was injured except for our little exoskeleton friends and a few screaming ears of corn.
Cleanup was a breeze and not one crawfish was left. It turned out to be a beautiful evening, although we were missing our good friend Priscilla Belle Jenkins. Another round will be scheduled soon enough, as she will surely be involved.
I pity those who don’t love a good crawfish boil. This goes to show that once you set it in motion there is no backing out. It’s that time of year again. The pots are boiling, the temperatures rising and fresh corn will be here soon. Come hell or high water, we will have crawfish!
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