My family is like many in New Orleans. They came from France, Germany, Ireland, England, and Italy in the 19th Century straight to the port of New Orleans and became New Orleanians. Crawfish boils represent the shared experience of a simple celebratory meal in New Orleans. Although not all members of my family share the love of boiled seafood, those who do relish any opportunity to go through the trouble & the mess to enjoy them. Many kids growing up in New Orleans, and the Gulf South, learn self-sufficiency early through the act of eating crawfish. My mother would put them on my high chair tray and I learned to “peel my own.” Certainly we peel (a few) for those we love, but if you really want to enjoy them you learn to do it yourself. It is a rite of passage. Every time I eat crawfish it brings up many happy memories, when inhibitions fall away. The only time I remember my grandmothers drinking beer−canned beer, no less−was while eating boiled seafood. Normal propriety is gone as you suck the heads and juice drips down your face and arms. Most people have their crawfish eating clothes, the ones you don’t care about ruining−the New Orleans equivalent of grass-cutting shoes. The only utensils needed are lots and lots of newspaper on which to pile the shells and rolls of paper towels to mop up the mess.
– Kim Guise