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The Last Windrow: Goal accomplished with crawdad feed

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It’s a long way from a pork chop to a crawdad.

I grew up never traveling much more than 30 or 40 miles away from our farm home. A trip to Sioux City, 24 miles away was looked on as a big event.

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When you live in a small circle like that, you tend to eat about the same menu every day, week or year. There are not many surprises, and surprise meals are not really what most of the farm people I grew up with accepted readily. We wanted basic meat and potatoes and not much else.

Over the years, I, like many of those my age, tended to drift away from those farmsteads and we widened our horizons a bit. We went off to college, got jobs away from home and along the way we discovered new culinary delights that would have been eaten with some suspicion had they come out of a farm kitchen.

Few of my farm neighbors would have taken kindly to a platter of octopus or squid. They would have wrinkled their brows over a bowl of poi, and eating alligator would have been about as foreign as anything could get.

Snakes were to be killed, not eaten. And, who would willingly eat a bug? Not anyone I knew.

Although I’ve never dined on bugs, I’ve tried those other entrees and found them to be rather tasteless unless you doctored them with some sauce. I will admit I had to will myself to chow down on an octopus, and that bowl of poi is still stuck halfway down my gullet. I think I will die with it lodged there.

My wife and I recently returned from a road trip to southern climes, the southern Louisiana territory to be specific. We’d always had an urge to discover New Orleans, but time had always run out before we could turn the car off the freeway and steer into the “Big Easy.” Well, this year we did the deed and we spent three days below sea level and enjoyed every bit of our stay.

One of the goals of our trip was to dine on New Orleans style cuisine and we did that. We dined on some of the famous powder sugar coated beignets, drank some sweet tea and chicory coffee, ate some barbecue ribs and enjoyed other New Orleans treats.

One of my wife’s major eating goals was to find a fresh crawdad feed. Don’t ask me why, but I knew the trip would not be whole until we found just such a feed. Spring is prime crawdad season in Louisiana and the flooded rice fields are full of crawdad traps, thousands of them. We watched one crawdad trapper as he plied his narrow canoe-type boat down a channel, picking up and dumping the traps into his boat as he went.

It was in Houma, La., that we found a crawdad feed in full-tilt operation. We entered the eatery to be greeted by large tables full of diners. Each table held huge platters of bright red-orange, whole crawdads. I had the same feeling in my belly as the first time I entered a lutefisk hall up here in the Northland, but my wife grabbed me by the arm and led me to a table.

We ordered two pounds of crawdads, which was the amount the waitress suggested. They came out staring up at me from the platter. I have trouble eating anything that is looking up at me, so breaking that first crawdad in half took a little bit of nerve. But, I succeeded and we downed that platter until nothing but a pile of meatless carcasses remained. One of the major goals of our trip had been satisfied.

I’ll never look at crawdads in the same way again. Years ago I used them for catfish bait on the Big Sioux River, not knowing that they were actually edible. If I had known, I’d have taken some home to the farm, dropped them into boiling water and chowed down.

But, I would have done that alone. My farm family would have run for the doors. It’s a long way from a pork chop to a crawdad!

See you next time. Okay?

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