Thursday 20 September 2012

Crawfish Boil (birthday part II)

You've seen the cake... this is what happened later that evening.

Before the onslaught

Earlier this summer, I saw Bea's of Bloomsbury tweet that they were doing Summer Crawfish Boils. I was captivated. Over the years I've seen so many shows on TV and read so many books talking about crawfish boils, but short of actually going to the USA, I didn't think I would get to experience it.

It took some organising. I figured that this was the sort of thing that is much more fun in a group, but most of our friends have at least one fussy eater or shellfish allergic or vegetarian person per couple. And our friends who I knew would love it were on holiday or couldn't get a babysitter for most of August.

Then I saw that there was going to be one on my birthday. I knew that could give me a bit of leverage.

It was something of an adventure. People make jokes about people from north London never going south of the river, but in my case it is true. This little patch of SE1 was geographically not very far away from where I work, but transportationally challenging and worlds away psychologically. Or £10 in a taxi, anyway.

I was set down in a funny little back street next to a railway bridge. There was a sign on a garage roller door that indicated that I was in the right place, but I wasn't totally convinced. Nor were the next couple who turned up. Or the several other people who walked towards us and then turned away, clutching their smartphones in panic.

A door set in the roller door opened, and those of us who'd shown the courage of our convictions were admitted.

Wine, in jam jars, and a whole lotta condiments
Rows of trestle tables and rather rickety benches. Large black bin bags taped to the ends of the tables, along with piles of bibs and industrial rolls of paper towel. An impressive array of condiments.

Eventually Paul and our friends turned up, wine was procured from the bar and the food started to arrive.

Massive trays of very good garlic bread (I am a sucker for garlic bread) came out first, but I didn't let it distract me, because I knew what was coming. Vats of crayfish, boiled together with celery, corn, potatoes and chunks of Polish sausage and a lot of spice. The crayfish were sweet as nuts and somehow everything had been boiled for exactly the right time to be tender and perfect. When our tray was down to the last couple of potatoes, another tray arrived. From time to time we dumped the piles of debris from our paper plates into the bin bags at the end of the table. Paul & Norm spent quite a while experimenting with different combinations of sauces to make the ultimate one. I just dunked the corn and potatoes in the spiced melted butter and ate the crayfish and sausage as they were.

As well as being a lot of fun, and a gastronomic highlight, we were actually performing a national service, because these were signal crayfish, which are introduced and do an enormous amount of damage. So gorging ourselves was only polite.

When the pace of crayfish consumption slowed, dessert came around. These were what the UK calls "ice lollies", Australia calls "icy poles" and Mexico calls "paletas". The one I had was the purest strawberry - probably just strawberry puree, with only the smallest hint of sugar. The only thing I could possibly have fit in at the end of a meal that size.

The main event


hungryandfrozen said...

Happy birthday! And good on you for getting that crayfish. I've never had it, which I know is ridiculous in a place like NZ, but there you have it. It certainly sounds amazing in this context though - I love that it's also an environmentally friendly thing to be eating so much of! And ice blocks for dessert, what a great idea.

Choclette said...

I love hearing about these pop up events. What fortune this happened to fall on your birthday - it sounds like you had a really good one. Off to read about the cake now.

Jude said...

Cor, sounds fab! Can I come next time please?

ali said...

Happy Birthday! The crayfish boil looks amazing! I am living in the "south" now (the northern part of the south, but the south nonetheless) and recently attended my first shrimp boil. It was a blast, but wasn't nearly as good as what I am seeing here. Fun!

Mary Bergfeld said...

It sounds like a fabulous birthday meal. I know you enjoyed it. I hope you are having a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

Alicia Foodycat said...

Laura - they are very tasty. Nicer than prawns IMO.

Choclette - me too! I am not usually in the loop enough to get to them!

Jude - if they do it again next year, definitely!

Ali - thanks!

Mary - we certainly did enjoy it!

Rebecca said...

Wow what a fabulous experience - good on you for being so brave - it sure sounds like you were certainly rewarded!!! Happy birthday too. Becks xxx

Caroline said...

Sounds like a great way to spend your birthday. And knowing that you're contributing to the upkeep of the environment must be an added bonus ;-)

Su-Lin said...

It was great to meet you that night! I loved one of the sauces...not the cocktail sauce and not the butter but the uh...last one. Hmm.


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