I’ve always uncovered the most amazing grace upon walking into an otherwise awkward situation where there is food or alcohol present. Throughout my life, many social interactions have been staged in such a setting, mostly on purpose.
Food & drink are necessary indulgences. When prepared with purpose, passion and creativity, and food or drink can “break the ice,” enhance an experience by dominating conversation, or transform an atmosphere. The notions described are reinforced anytime I recount my first “boil.”
Standing around an elongated table in the backyard of a family I met, maybe twice prior, surrounded by 60 people (of whom I knew four with whom I had arrived), I enjoyed live Zydeco music, and was entreated with hospitality characteristic of the Southern United States. Oriented and embossed by my first encounter with the strange looking, rubbish-red crustacean resembling both a tiny lobster and a bug, my experience began.
Initially disgusted by their sight, I was lured like a seaman to the rocks upon hearing the siren’s beckon. Both by smell and the perception of joy exuded from the faces of the partakers. My first crawfish boil shaped not only my palate, but kick started a dormant cultural awareness (which has tremendously evolved) and rendered me seeking similar cultural adventures with food. From that time forward, I’ve never declined an invite to food that smelled delicious or was carefully prepared, or an event where food would be presented.
Nearly twenty-five years ago, I still reminisce of my first crawfish boil rather often. The experience molded my perspective, heightened my expectations of flavor possibilities, elevated my sensibilities of what I believed to be edible, and redefined my appreciation of local food culture.
Please do not misinterpret my message. I am from a generous lineage of cooks. Each one greatly saturated with Southern Coastal tradition, creative and respectful of the influences they possess relating to previous generations. I have attended my fair share of real Texas barbecues, cook-offs: gumbo, chili, crawfish and the like, grill-outs and picnics. However, I am unable to ignore the power of great food in an atmosphere where culture is prevalent.