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“Ain’t nothing better than cookin’ and eatin’ crawdads.”

Cookin’ And Eatin’ Crawdads


By --August 9, 2017

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When my three daughters invited me to eat crawdads with them, I was thrilled — nothing boosts my ego more than being seen in public with my pulchritudinous progeny. After devouring a huge pile of the succulent crustaceans, we bid good evening to each other, and I strolled homeward, reflecting on how blessed I was to be loved by those girls.

I also thought about the first time I ate crawdads. My boyhood best friend and mentor Jaybird invited me to join him for an afternoon of fishing at a creek near my father’s Mississippi Delta farm. As we walked down a railroad track toward the stream, I was carrying a can of night crawlers, dug from his compost heap, and he was toting a black pot, a few bricks, a box of salt, and several bags of spices.

“What’s that stuff for?” I asked.

“Crawdads,” the old black man replied.

After baiting up and jamming the butt of my fishing pole in the bank, I gathered dewberries from the briar bushes behind us. My curiosity soared when Jaybird filled the pot with water from the stream and poured in the salt. He explained that before we could eat crawdads, they had to be purged in salty water.

Suddenly he shouted, “Looky yonder — yo’ cork done gone clean under!” I grabbed the pole and fought a large catfish to shore.

“Now that you’ve caught a nice cat for our supper tonight, let’s catch some crawdads to eat right now.”

“How?”

Winking at me, he began poking a stick into chimney-shaped mud mounds made by crawdads along the water’s edge. Each time, a huge, deep orange crawdad, furious that his domain had been invaded, clamped its pincers onto the stick and was raised slowly from the hole. When Jaybird had caught a bucketful, he dumped them into the salty water for purging.

Next, he arranged the bricks in a circle, filled the area inside them with dry sticks, and started a fire.  As the blaze began to roar, he chuckled and said, “Ain’t nothing better than cookin’ and eatin’ crawdads.”

After the crawdads were sufficiently purged, Jaybird rinsed the pot, refilled it, placed it above the fire, and poured in the spices. Soon, the water came to a rolling boil. After he dropped the crawdads into the boiling water, the spicy, appetizing aroma that steamed up from the pot filled the air, and my salivary glands ran wild

When they were ready to eat, he showed me how to break off the head and squeeze a huge chunk of pink flesh out of the tail. The taste was divine, and we ate our fill.

What a glorious day! After the meal we stretched out under a willow tree to relax.

“Jaybird,” I asked, “when you were a boy, did you fish in this creek?”

“Yep, many, many years ago,” he answered. “Hadn’t changed a bit.”

“What is your best memory of those days?”

“Shoot, that’s easy to answer: cookin’ and eatin’ crawdads.”



Jimmy Reed -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Jimmy Reed is an Oxford, Mississippi resident, Ole Miss alumnus, Army veteran, former Mississippi Delta cotton farmer, and retired college teacher. His collection of short stories is available via Squarebooks.com, telephone 662-236-2262.

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