Louisiana Crawfish Time
“We boil it one sack at a time.” G. Edward Wilkerson, Jr.
Many Acadiana natives living in the suburbs of Lafayette keep a connection to their heritage by maintaining a family camp out in the neighboring Atchafalaya Basin glossary or in the marshes along the coast. It’s a tradition left over from the days when their Cajun and Creole ancestors depended on seasonal hunting and fishing for their survival; following the harvest, remote camps provided a place in the wild where they could spend time gathering food to bring back to their homes and farmsteads. For modern Cajun and Creole folks, family camps provide a retreat from modern life and a return to the land. And for generations, camps have been a favorite place for big family crawfish boils; for many natives, it’s where they learned, as children, how to peel their first tails.
Louisiana Crawfish Time strives to summon up the spirit of those childhood crawfish boils back at the family camp. With its tin roof and raw wood walls, the place is rustic and airy, with old-time propped-up shutters shading the windows. To customers sitting in the creaking wooden chairs under the ceiling fans, cracking open boiled crawfish and crabs, Louisiana Crawfish Time offers the tastes of an old Basin camp without leaving the city limits of Lafayette.
The owner, Ed Wilkerson, is very involved in making sure that his customers get the best boiled seafood he can provide. Many backyard boilers are accustomed to seasoning the heated water before putting the crawfish in the pot. But, like many commercial crawfish boilers, Wilkerson has found that there are significant advantages to the technique of seasoning the seafood immediately after it’s boiled. It’s one of the best ways to maintain consistent quality in the seasoning, Wilkerson says, especially if you’re boiling large volumes of crawfish. And Louisiana Crawfish Time boils a lot of crawfish: they sell 12,000-15,000 pounds per week during the months of Lent.
He explains that crawfish are seasonal, and they depend on Mother Nature to provide ideal conditions to produce an ample harvest during the times people want crawfish. Customers start coming around his place in December, looking for their first taste of fresh crawfish, pining for them after the long hot months summer and fall when the only tails to be had are found in the freezer. Visitors should come between December and June if they want to try a platter of boiled crawfish.
Admittedly, some newcomers to Acadiana have trouble getting the hang of how to eat this distinct peel-it-yourself food. But, just like a kindly parrain back at the family camp, the staff at Louisiana Crawfish Time is happy to offer a little instruction to the rookies.