I Like Pig Butts and I Can Not Lie …
The BUTTS is written inside the outline of the back end of a pig and the letters are blaring white on a screaming red background. I wandered toward that shirt like a moth to the flame.
I am with a friend in Scott, Louisiana after completing the final forty miles of a four-day bike ride through Acadiana – aka Cajun Country. The bike ride has finished at the Scott, LA Boudin Festival. We have dealt with all the post-ride bike shipping and packing chores, wolfed down our end of the ride Jambalaya and a delicious cold beer and have headed inside the festival gates.
Naturally, the first stop on that 85 degree afternoon was the beer wagon. When we asked the beer guy for a recommendation of the best boudin (Pronounced boo-daan – a pig intestine casing stuffed with a mix of rice and pork and other meats and secret spice recipes) he leaned in close and said, “Well. I can’t give ya’ll any RECOMMENDATIONS, now. But I CAN tell you what I like … ” And he proceeded to describe the red tent and virtues of regular boudin versus smoked.
So off we went to the favorited Red tent. A big cauldron of bubbling fry grease was at the front. Hot and spicy smells wafted out as we stood staring at the menu, debating the heck this food language meant. Luckily Harold, his son Harold and wife Ramona stepped in and gave us a tour of the menu and a taste of their delicious tasso (chunks of slow cooked pork in a spicy sauce). After great deliberation and consultations with Harold and Harold Jr., I choose the basic boudin, employed the No Thinking Rule that comes in handy so often when traveling, and bit into stuffed pig intestine goodness, grateful to the beer guy and new friend Harold(s) for steering us so well.
I was still wiping boudin grease off my fingers as we walked toward the main-stage. The stage was ringed with cheering fans watching one of the hi-lights of the afternoon – a zydeco dance contest. While food is the favorite past-time and center of culture and community here … Dancing and music comes a close second. Right now, couples are competing in elimination rounds and are judged based on the level of applause and the discrete interference of a judge who is brave enough to referee this hallowed Cajun pastime.
We were too short to see over the crowd so instead stationed ourselves behind the bright red Pig butt T-shirts and struck up a conversation. Turned out we are chatting with the owner of the magical Red Tent restaurant named The Best Stop Supermarket, our new friend Dana. Her family has owned that store and restaurant for over 40 years. We gleefully told her about eating her boudin and how the beer guy steered us there. She asked, “Did you try the fried alligator? It’s a delicacy around here and only fresh one month out of the year.” And then we learned all about alligator season. It’s limited to a month hunting season and they have to be hand caught with special tags and permits. And we have lucked out and are here in time for fresh alligator. “Come back by the tent after the dance contest and I’ll give you some to try.”
And true to her word, we got a plate of fried alligator. Which – true to what they say – kind of tastes like chicken. With a chewier calamari texture. But a lot better than chicken. Definitely more fish than meat. And dipped in a spicy cajun remoulade sauce (mayonnaise with hot spices), I happily chowed down on my third lunch in three hours and would have eaten more if there was some left. I am hooked on gator.
Then Dana, with the typical courtesy and kindness that we had experienced for days with all the local people we have met biking around Acadiana, produced two of those spectacularly awesome and hillarious red Pig Butt shirts … Which I can not wait to wear the next time I put a pork butt on the smoker at home in Seattle.
I took her contact information and promised to send her some Seattle delicacies … Smoked salmon perhaps? She looked a bit skeptical but politely said, “It’s always good to try new things” with all the confidence of someone who knows they live in a special part of the world and enjoy one of the best food cultures on the planet everyday. But, with the typical courtesy and welcoming we have encountered every day we have been guests passing through Cajun Country, she is courteous enough to let guests believe that we might have something that can measure up to one of the most unique cuisines in the world.
And we left reminded again what we have heard from many of the local folks we have met as we passed through this special pocket of our world … That to those fortunate to be from here, this is home and home is special and there is no need to mess with a good thing … but every reason to generously share what you have and what you know with others passing through who are interested to learn.
Making the Crackling – fried pork skins