HOUSTON – Crawfish. The very word makes my skin crawl a little bit.
I do not eat crawfish. I do not like to eat where others have eaten them. I cannot do crawfish. I cannot do any kind of fish or thing that swims in the ocean or lake or river or other body of water and I especially cannot consume something associated with mud.
Mudbug. What in the world?
I know this is not the popular opinion. The God of the Sea, Neptune, already has my invite for the next crawfish boil cancelled. And likely my neighbors and friends too. That’s really OK, though. Here’s why. I can’t enjoy anything when I’m around crawfish. There’s too much unsavory stuff going on.
I’m from the North originally -- I feel the eyerolls from here, Texans -- but I would come to the South nearly every summer to visit with family in Mississippi. They were ALL ABOUT crawfish. Breakfast, lunch and dinner I had to ask what was in what I was eating. For about a week each summer, I ate the plainest foods possible to avoid the seafood taste and texture that I couldn’t -- and still can’t -- digest. One time at a neighborly cookout, someone served up a seafood Bouillabaisse that had crawfish. I still remember putting most of it in my napkin and feeling hungry the whole night because everything reeked of seafood. Pretty sure I survived on garnishes that night. Why did we have to eat these critters? And why was everyone SO EXCITED about them? Everyone ate with such GUSTO.
The cracking and hands and general unappetizing nature of the whole dining experience went against everything I’d learned as a child. Somehow the most genteel southern folks I’d ever known -- who got upset when I didn’t address them as ma’am -- were breaking and biting and sucking on these dangling creatures like they’d never heard of a fork before. The cognitive dissonance did something to my child brain that has stayed with me. And seriously, I can’t stomach it.
Oh, and crawfish devotees that I know are reading this -- you have to admit, it’s a lot of work for very little meat payoff. I’d rather also talk with people after having a steak and checking my teeth -- not talking as I grapple and suck on something that was just bottom feeding on God knows what a couple days ago. I know there are nutritional justifications for eating them as a “low-calorie, low-fat source of protein,” but I. Just. Can’t.
And the smell. Help me, lord, the smell. I’m transported just thinking about it, and that place is not good.
I realize YOU might be transported someplace nice when you hear the word “crawfish.” It’s a land of oceanic joy. You are standing atop an alligator, racing across the bayou, a corn cob in one hand and, in the other -- the biggest crawfish ever -- just waiting be consumed into your gaping maw. You are the literal king of the world.
Believe me, I don’t want to take you from that experience. After eight years in Texas and shepherding so many articles about the love of these crustaceans, I know this is the HOLIDAY SEASON OF CRAWFISH JOY. Eat with all the gusto you can muster. And read up on it here from one crawfish devotee I work with -- and still converse with on a daily basis. Across the aisle comradery from the crawfish lover and hater. There is hope for the world!
So what am I doing with this piece aside from triggering you? I want you to know there are others out there that are NOT like you. I know I’m not alone in cringing when I walk into a restaurant and see crawfish as an option on the menu. The last time this happened was at a hotdog restaurant in Houston. The place was outdoors. I just wanted a hotdog, some time with friends and a picnic table. It was spoiled when I started walking toward the picnic tables. Previous diners had thrown crawfish pieces on the floor. I felt the crunch of each discarded crawfish carcass under my foot and feared more than one of the flying castoffs was going to land on my shoulder, or, worse, entangled in my hair. Gross.
I’ve been to crawfish boils where people have cleanly consumed and trashed their little crustacean friends. I’ve had fun -- away from the eating areas. While on the outskirts of this tradition, I once saw a crawfish clambering away from the boiling pot and across the backyard. He did look a little like a very large cockroach. I didn’t tell anyone I’d seen him. I think I had some wine and quietly toasted the departing, lucky crustacean.
And I’ll toast you too, even if you do like crawfish. I admire how much you can eat. I really do. You can find me, wine glass discarded, gagging in a corner.
Author’s note: If you feel triggered by this piece, I have a tip -- eat an extra pound or two in my honor this season. I’m sure you’ll feel better.