This week, New Orleans Saints faithful must watch as Broncos fans — in their safety orange jerseys — and Seahawks fans — in their murky neon — psych up for the Super Bowl, instead of the Black and Gold.
It can be downright dispiriting. But, if there’s one bright side Saints fans know to look for, it’s cultural consolation, and food is a big part of that salve.
Long before Who Dats learned to expect regular playoff contention, we learned to comfort ourselves with the knowledge that, even after a stinging, season-ending loss, we still had other seasons on the horizon — Carnival season, festival season, and, interlaced with them both, crawfish season.
Beyond the player stats and league standings, the Saints experience for many fans is a matter of coming together to celebrate our city through the season, with style points for all the ritual and creativity we pour into the fanfare (well, and there’s beating the Falcons). Some of the same energy will be directed to the boiling pot as the festivals, backyard bashes and offhand feasts shape up through the months ahead.
The boil brings out the best qualities in crawfish, which are not limited to flavor or nutrition. Served in massive quantities, dumped upon a table where friends and strangers stand elbow to elbow and, by necessity, consumed no faster than they can be peeled, crawfish are the ultimate social food. It’s no different whether it’s on a sawhorse and plywood table under the overpass or a tented corporate function — the crawfish boil is a communal experience with room for both tribal unity and individual expression. Sound familiar, Saints fans?
We will soon start getting crawfish scouting reports, which never seem overly optimistic, with small tails and big prices usually part of the early forecast. There’s no point in setting expectations too high, I suppose, though as the weeks march on the crawfish will likely fatten up, the quantities improve and the prices level off. So you can’t judge a season right out of the gate, and to be clear the peak normally doesn’t start coming along until later in the spring. Right now we are still in something of the training camp period for the crunch time to come.
This is when we need to check out the equipment at home if we’re hosting, size up the new- and old-favorite markets, and dream up some trick plays. Should we add some exotic local produce from the market to the boil this year, or maybe some extra fancy sausage? How about a crawfish-free side pot of boiled vegetables for the vegetarians in your life? Hey, why not? I know some omnivores who will admit the corn and garlic cloves are their favorite part of the boil anyway.
So, it’s time to compare notes, get a plan, start stockpiling your old newspapers to line those tables and, most of all, to get excited again for another communal expression of Louisiana culture.
Compared to the glory that could have been another Saints Super Bowl, the promise of more good eating may come up a little short. But when it comes to cold comfort, it’s still hard to beat hot crawfish. Good luck this weekend, Seattle. You can keep your salmon.