Louisiana crawfish takes the cake

Oh, today you will be eating deliciously boiled crawfish with the rest of the Nicholls State University community? You must be attending Crawfish Day 2012, provided by the Student Programming Association.

For some reason, these unassuming, fresh water-dwelling crustaceans that we know as crawfish seem to intoxicate consumers with a savory, well-seasoned taste at crawfish boils all throughout the South. This tradition might seem strange to the Yankees that live north of the Mason-Dixon Line, but this oddity provides for an even better environment to those crawfish-loving patrons.

Fossil records show that crayfish, the scientific name, have existed for 30 million years. All around the globe, crawfish are part of cuisines from countries such as China, Russia, Spain and Australia. However, these monarchs of the crustacean world are prepared differently in the separate corners of the world.

For example, Nigerians either smoke or sun-dry their crawfish to preserve them as some sort of a crawdad jerky, an indispensible food item conserved just as the Native Americans did. Sweden and Finland boil these delectable invertebrates similar to our method, except they wait for their crawfish to become cold before eating; Scandinavians would be scolded for this practice by even the most unknowledgeable crawfish connoisseurs.

After running Percle’s Country Store for almost 55 years in Schriever, local businessman and crawfish expert, my grandfather Charles Percle Jr., said that people of this area have not always had the elaborate crawfish boils that we know today.

“When I was young, people would hardly boil crawfish on large scales,” Percle said. “After cooking a chicken or pig, we would save the remnants to use as bait. Then my brothers and I would go down into the swamp and catch only the amount we needed to make a stew or gumbo.”

Fishing for these red crustaceans can be a difficult task for novice fishermen. According to Percle, crawfish are a very mysterious and uncertain species.

“There are very few people who understand crawfish,” Percle said. “Some years, when I would get my crawfish from the Bonnet-Carre Spillway, it would be full of water but have no crawfish whatsoever. The ditches right past the levee though, on both sides of the road, would literally be swimming with crawfish. No one, not even LSU’s Coast and Environment department, can figure them out.”

Fortunately for us and our taste buds, Louisiana fishermen have done the best job at solving the mystery of these red mudbugs, and there are statistics to prove it. According to one online source, our very own Sportsman’s Paradise supplies 98 percent of the crawfish harvested in the United States.

As of 1987, Louisiana produced 90 percent of the world’s crawfish. In recent years, however, the Chinese have made a considerable impact on the world’s crawfish market.

“Selling crawfish is difficult, and there is a great deal of trouble associated with it, but it is definitely something I miss now that I am retired,” Percle said.

Six cents, not to be mistaken for M. Night Shyamalan’s thriller featuring Bruce Willis, was the price of the first sack of crawfish my grandfather ever purchased. Today, as expected with inflation and other costs, a sack of crawfish at Cashio’s Catering in Thibodaux goes for $1.95.

Though prices have risen, virtually all residents of South Louisiana are still willing to pay the price for their favorite homegrown treat. This dedication, in my opinion, is comparable to the SPA’s continued efforts to provide a fun and eventful atmosphere on Nicholls’ campus with events. Grab a friend, bring a gluttonous appetite, and head out to the yard next to Ayo Hall from noon until 6 p.m. for an afternoon of food and fun!