by Sara Camp Arnold
If you have time for one more summer road trip, join us as we head to Louisiana. We'll sample two porcine delicacies in Acadiana before heading down to New Orleans to cool off with a sweet, icy treat.
1. "SUCKING ON THE MAMA"
After the music and the Mardi Gras beads, Louisiana is known for its cuisine. But while the state is home to a wealth of food traditions, notably absent is the barbecue identity that other Southern states claim. Enter cochon de lait, or roast suckling pig. In Acadiana, it's the next best thing to barbecue—in fact, most Cajuns would say that cochon de lait is far superior. Visit the town of Mansura in Avoyelles Parish, where roasting and eating a cochon de lait is a favorite community pastime. (They've even got the festival to prove it.) "Every weekend for sure, someone's hanging a pig," explains Robert Lemoine, referring to the technique of hanging the pig carcass on a metal screen near an open flame until the meat is cooked and the skin becomes a crispy bark. If you can't make it to Cajun country, get a taste of cochon de lait by watching Joe York's short film "To Live and Die in Avoyelles Parish."
2. GRAB A LINK AND GO
The other preferred method of pork consumption in Cajun Country is boudin, a fresh sausage made of pork, rice, peppers, onions, and spices. While the boudin of yore almost always contained liver, today's butchers vary in their use of organ meats. Some, like Bubba Frey of Eunice, have stopped adding liver altogether.
Bubba Frey outside his store
Others, like Rodney Babineaux of Breaux Bridge, are among the last practitioners of the boudin rouge tradition. (You guessed it—that "rouge" color comes from the addition of pig's blood.) If you're on the hunt for boudin, let the SFA's Boudin Trail be your guide. Keep in mind that much of the region's best boudin is found in convenience stores. Boudin lovers generally agree that you should go ahead and eat it in the parking lot or in your car; use your teeth to squeeze the savory filling out of its casing, and keep one hand on the wheel.
Bubba Frey's boudin at the Mowata Store
3. DON'T CALL IT A SNOW CONE
Cooling off is a tall order in New Orleans in August, but a sno-ball is a good start. Any New Orleanian with a sweet tooth will tell you that a handmade sno-ball puts the prepackaged snow cone to shame. At seasonally operated spots around the city, like seventy-five-year-old Hansen's Sno-Bliz, the ice is finely shaved to order and topped with handmade syrups in fruit or cream flavors. Eva Perry, the owner of Tee Eva's Pralines and Pies on Magazine Street, takes her sno-balls up a notch by topping them with bits of chopped praline upon request.
Tee Eva fixing a praline sno-ball
"Oh, I'm a sno-ball eater," she told Sara Roahen in an oral history for the SFA. "I crumble up a fresh-cooked praline and mix it into my sno-ball, and then I'll put the praline flavor syrup over it. It's awesome."
Tee Eva in her store
All photos by Sara Roahen
Visit the SFA online for more on the diverse food cultures of the American South.