We drove out of Texas and into the swamps of Louisiana. The tourist office at the state boundary mentioned something called the Boudin Festival happening in the town of Scott. We had no idea what boudin was, but when we learned it was food, Diane set a course for Scott.
Boudin is a dressing of meat (usually pork), rice, traces of vegetable, and spices that is packaged in a sausage casing (i.e. pig intestine) and boiled. Not as much meat as sausage, and no oatmeal like haggis. Like sausages everywhere, it’s something to do with the leftover bits of slaughtered pig (like liver and butt). Boudin has been made in southern Louisiana since the mid-1800s, probably originating with French Acadians, ancestors of the Cajuns, Some modern versions of boudin substitute crawfish or shrimp for pork.
We arrived hungry on the opening day of the festival. The announcer put out a call for anyone from out of state who had never tried Boudin before. I volunteered and soon found myself onstage and being introduced.
The announcer worked the crowd saying, “We had to go all the way to Canada to find a person who had never tasted boudin before!” Cheers from the crowd. After some pleasantries, I was handed a foil wrapper. Fearing a set-up, I opening it carefully.
What emerged was an 8 inch brownish tube, warm and slippery. I wiggled it. The announcer said to, “keep it above your waist”. It was family show. Laughs from the crowd.
I tasted it. The crowd held their breath. Who knew food could be so exciting?
The announcer asked me to describe it.
As is my nature, I gave an overly analytical response, like a damn restaurant review, “flavourful, surprisingly spicy”. What the crowd really wanted was for me to throw my arms in the arms and say, “I love it!”. Leeson Learned.
My on-stage appearance raised our visibility for the rest of the day. People approached us, we were given tastes by a couple of food vendors, and I was interviewed for local TV.
An impetus for this inaugural festival is that Scott, Louisiana was recently named Boudin Capital of the World, the result of a bipartisan bill passed by both the Louisiana House and Senate in April 2012. This was done over the objections of Broussard, Louisiana which had previously been using the title but couldn’t prove it had an official designation, and despite the protest of Jennings, Louisiana which was declared Boudin Capital of the Universe in the 1970’s. The feud between the Boudin capitals even made the Wall Street Journal.
The small city of Scott (8800 people) produced 1.5 Million pounds of boudin in 2012. That’s 3 Million links! Within the city limits there are four establishments employing 80 people who make and sell $5 Million of boudin each year.
Although boudin is the raison d’être of the festival, there are other things to do. There is a busy stage with non-stop cajun, zydeco, and rock performances. People aren’t shy about dancing, even in the afternoon sun. Folks sit around on folding chairs enjoying the music. There is a busy midway for the young and young at heart. But the star of the show is definitely the food.
We ate our way through virtually everything the food vendors had to offer. In addition to boiled boudin, we enjoyed:
We really liked the cracklins, which are seasoned, crispy bits of deep-fried pig skin and fat with an occasional bit of meat. Very tasty, but not even remotely close to healthy.
We still managed to find room for a grilled pork sandwich, a huge slab of tasty pork on soon-to-be-sloppy white sandwich bread.
A suggestion for next year’s festival is to offer real beer, something other than mini-Budweisers.
Overall, it was a great small town festival. Comfortable and friendly. Tasty and interesting food. Terrific music. It’s wonderful to stumble across gems like this, where we can experience something new and unique.