June 17, 2009


By Dean Meyer

I’m a good eater. Meaning I eat a lot. I know, I know, looking at me you wouldn’t guess that. Or, maybe you would.
I’ve eaten a lot of things in a lot of places. I ate tacos on the streets in Mexico City. Even after our hosts warned us that eating on the streets of The City would cause you to become diseased and die.
I’ve eaten goat in a little village in the Mexican mountains and shared a little tequila with a peasant while sitting around a campfire. Ate shark steaks in San Diego and clam chowder on the harbor in Boston. I’ve tried lutefisk and lefsa, and I imagine I’ve eaten every cut of meat off a beef that could be eaten. I’ve had hamburger off a bull that wouldn’t buck and steaks off a horse that would. Not really. Just checking to see if you were still with me. I’ve had the raw oysters with the keg beer at the bowling alley.
Once a long, long time ago, in a galaxy far away, I was with a gang that stole some chickens from a farmer and cooked them over an open fire. Cooked them very little. Cause the cops were coming.
Now, what this story is leading up to is the “Crawfish Bowl.” The other night Shirley and I were invited to the third annual “Crawfish Bowl.” Right here in southwest North Dakota.
Our host informed us the crawfish came from south of here. I assumed he meant New England, or maybe even Lemmon. When I found out they came from Louisiana, I was really impressed. I’ve enjoyed lobster and crab legs. At least, I enjoyed the butter. But I don’t think I ever had feasted on a meal of crawfish.
Now, for you landlubbers, a crawfish looks like a cross between a crab and a cockroach. Or maybe a grasshopper and a shrimp. They have legs and antennas and pincers and a shell.
When we got to the party, four grown men were kneeling around a little kid’s plastic swimming pool. You know. The ones that hold about six inches of water. I found out they were sorting the dead crawfish from the live ones. I figured that was not necessary since you boil them anyway.
They informed me that you have to take the dead ones out, because they haven’t been purged. You don’t clean crawfish. You just sprinkle a little salt in the pool, so they kind of clean themselves if you know what I mean. Kind of like drinking that stuff if you’re going in for colonoct….a Katie Couric. (I didn’t know how to spell it).
Well, right away that kind of cooled me on the crawfish deal. But a couple beers later, it seemed all right. Kind of like the chickens.
And these guys were chefs. Potatoes, sausages, salads, corn on the cob, hamburgers, brats, and much more. It was a feast that the Romans would have been envious of.
Now, to eat a crawfish, you place one hand on the front half (the head), and the other on the back half (the purging end) and twist and pull. Remember now, these bad boys have been purged and boiled. With a little hot sauce in the water. Cajun music is playing in the background. A gentle fog is rising from the swamp and the fire from a still can be seen drifting up through a canopy of swamp trees. A lady with long black hair is telling fortunes, and the kids are trying to snare an alligator that has been coaxed up out of the creek. Get the picture?
Well, you twist and pull this baby apart. Then you quickly take the front half and suck the juice from the shell. This proves you are into the beer far enough to eat the back half. Then you peel off some of the shell off the back half and you are to the meat of the deal. It is a small piece of fish meat about the size and shape of a small shrimp. And, all kidding aside, it is delicious.
There is not a lot of meat. And it is good. But I would venture a guess, that if you were dropped in the middle of a swamp. And you were surrounded by a million crawfish, and you started eating right away, you would starve to death. You just can’t twist and pull and suck and peel and chew fast enough to get enough nourishment to live.
Oh, don’t get me wrong, I ate about twenty of the little suckers, but as we headed for the car (at Shirley’s insistence, I was going to stay for the crawfish races) I did sneak past the grill and grabbed a hamburger and hot dog.
It was a great time. Thanks guys. But you beef guys don’t have to worry about crawfish replacing ribeye steaks on the grill!