Why Do We Boil Animals We Found in a Ditch?

One of my first red flags when I visited Louisiana was this obsession with crawfish. Remember, I had a lot of concerns and rouge-colored flags about moving away from my beloved Texas. The promise of twenty-four-hour casinos and Mike the Tiger didn’t entice me at all. However, I’ve put my hesitations aside and learned to embrace my adopted state. But let’s talk crawfish.


Louisiana’s love of crawfish dates back to native Americans and early European settlers. But why? The little creatures feast and frolic among the swamps and marshes down south. Hmmm, their habitat does nothing to perk up my taste buds. 


It’s really the Acadians’ fault. Remember them? They got kicked out of Canada by the British in the 1700s and traipsed down to south Louisiana. Most of them settled along the bayous and started adapting. Oh, they missed those yummy lobsters from their homeland up north. They scoured the swamps and other fishy places, but there were no large crustaceans with pinchy claws to devour. What’s a displaced Acadian to do? They spotted the tiny crawfish partying in the shallow waters—even back then those guys had a good time. The soon to be Cajuns began catching and boiling the smaller yet just as yummy Lobster cousins, and a new tradition was born.


Crawfish started out as the poor man’s food and snubbed by the general population. Most people considered them fishing bait. Who can blame them? Honestly, the person in charge of crawfish marketing really fell down on the job. Calling them mudbugs did nothing for their branding. The name crayfish is more popular up north, so that leaves us with crawdads and ditch bugs. Still not doing much for the branding. Chicken of the ditch? No, not much better. What about freshwater lobsters or mountain lobsters? Those names would generate a stronger following on social media, until people discovered we have no mountains and those little guys are less than pint-sized versions of their ocean cousins. Cue the lawsuits. Nope, we’d better stick with crawfish.


In my opinion, the marketing firm handling the crawfish account should pour their resources into what Louisiana does best: throw parties. Crawfish boils are a time-honored tradition in the Pelican State, and everyone loves a good party. Here in the boot we sure get a lot of practice too. With Christmas, Mardi Gras, the Super Bowl, and crawfish season falling into line like a conga line, our calendars burst with social opportunities. The National Association of Crawfish Growers, or whatever they call themselves, should ramp up the advertising during our season of parties. 


They need a mascot, Cornelius the Crawfish or something similar. He pops on all our screens during the Christmas season, flashing a Santa hat and promoting crawfish gift cards for everyone. Mardi Gras season arrives and Cornelius trades in his red fur hat for beads and a mask. He reminds us that the best season of all is coming in hot. It’s half time during the Super Bowl and we see our cartoony crustacean joining forces with the Clydesdale horses, wishing both teams good luck and don’t forget that crawfish season is almost here. And while we’re brainstorming, what’s wrong with some frozen crawfish in our Easter baskets? It sounds better than marshmallow candied animals that sat on a boat in the ocean for three months.


Maybe then, after dousing me with cute crawfish and invitations to parties, I’d understand why we boil animals we found in a ditch.


Jann Goar Franklin graduated Russellville High School in 1989. You can reach her at jann@jannfranklin.com