March 11, 2014 10:29:17 AM
The unseasonably cold and lingering winter has left many of us in a depressed mood.
As it turns out, that goes for crawfish, too.
Normally by this time of year, the handful of places in the Golden Triangle that annually serve up boiled crawfish are in full operation. Brewski's in Starkville, John's near West Point and Huck's in Columbus have made crawfish a signature dish during the short crawfish season.
Anyone who has made the drive between Baton Rouge and New Orleans in mid-February is familiar with the sight and sound -- especially the sound -- of thousands of crawfish scurrying madly across 1-10, crunching under the tires of motorists like some enormous animated bubble wrap.
But the cars whiz along the freeway in sad silence now and the crawfish have yet to arrive at Huck's or John's. You can find them at Brewskis, but expect to pay more than twice what you normally pay.
The winter weather has delayed the traditional crawfish harvesting season in Louisiana, which produces 95 percent of the crawfish consumed in the U.S. Reports are that crawfish lose interest in eating when the weather is particularly cold. They just languish below the vegetation at the commercial crawfish ponds, waiting for some warmer weather.
As a result, the crawfish harvest has been very small, which has more than doubled the price.
In the alley Huck's shares with The Dispatch where Huck's staff boil crawfish on Thursdays, we had grown accustomed to the sight of a few crawfish making a break for freedom. We do not aid in their escape, of course. We just encourage them, pointing them in the direction of the storm drain. We don't know what the odds of survival are for crawfish who manage to tumble down that drain. But we do know the odds of survival for those who remain behind and wind up in those big pots of boiling water.
So we miss the sights and sounds and smells -- and, of course, the tastes -- of those little red lobster-wannabes.
As the weather warms, the crawfish will make their appearance in all the usual places, but it will mean a far shorter season than is normally the custom.
While there are crawfish (Yanks, blissfully ignorant on matters of Southern cuisine, call them "crayfish") live in all states, we have for too long relied solely on Louisiana for our crawfish supply. Relying on Louisiana for anything is a risky proposition, Mississippians know.
So we suggest a pipeline be built from warm-weather places like California or Arizona, which also produces some quantities of crawfish, to supplement Louisiana supply. If Louisiana crawfish are just going to sit in the ponds and brood about the weather into mid-March, we need to move on to Plan B.
A steady supply of crawfish skittering through that pipeline from Arizona would make us all less Louisiana-dependent.
That's a good thing, y'all.