Drop #144: Boucherie

pig headI picked Frank up at the station early Sunday morning. I hadn’t seen him in years. He’d emailed Friday out of the blue saying he’d be in town for a day. First time in New Orleans.

As the local I’d immediately felt pressure to show him a good time, and arrange the type of stuff you can’t do anywhere else. He’d said not to put myself out planning anything and had suggested a couple of restaurants he’d read about but I’d never heard of. Said they were popular joints but that we might still get a table at if we booked that day. As if that was going to happen! What kind of host lets the guest pick the restaurant?

How you been? We shared an awkward hug. Two pats on the back. Good, and you? Then we drove off, heading for the highway.

‘Such a short visit!’ I said, stepping on the gas.

‘Yeah, just a layover. Leaving early tomorrow  – but we have the whole day.’

‘Just as well. There’s something special going down and I managed to get us invited. Only got confirmation last night. Had to pull a few strings and I owe Big Lou a favor but it’ll be well worth it.’

‘When, later today?’

‘Right now, buddy. We’re already on our way.’

‘OK.’

‘It’s a ways out of town, and starting soon, so no time to stop off to shower or change. Hope you don’t mind.’

‘Not at all. But now I’m curious. Where are we going?’

‘Ever heard of a boucherie?’

‘Can’t say I have.’

‘Oh boy, it’s something else! An iconic Cajun ritual, but really quite uncommon nowadays – usually only happens around Mardi Gras. Man, your timing really is immaculate!’

‘Cool. Tell me more.’

Well,’ I said excitedly, ‘it’s got everything to do with a pig.’

‘Hmm.’

‘It’s a community thing. So, what happens is: neighborhood families and friends get together on someone’s property, out in their back yard, and butcher a pig – I’m talking an entire hog – then cook the hell out every last bit of it.’

‘Hence the name boucherie, I guess,’ Frank said. ‘So, I guess the reservation at Bella’s didn’t pan out then.’

‘What? Oh, that restaurant you mentioned?’ I laughed. ‘Nah. Not with a boucherie down the road!’

The moment I received his email a dozen possibilities had popped into my head for lunch, dinner, drinks and snacks. I could have taken him to Dooky Chase or la Petite Grocery or gone casual at Katie’s. I could have hit any number of food trucks, or crawfish boils, or hit my go-to po’ boy destination. But come on! La boucherie trumps all.

‘Man, you’re gonna love it,’ I carried on, glancing at my wristwatch. ‘I’m so excited – I mean, I live here and I’ve only ever been to one, and they had the pig killed and cleaned already. Today’s is proper old school. They’re going to bring it in squealing and shoot it on site, immediately slit its throat and collect the blood for boudin, then butcher it right away! That never happens anymore; in fact, I’d given up on experiencing the event in such a pure, complete form. This is a damn rare thing, a real privilege! That’s why we have to hurry. Killing’s at 10 sharp.’

‘Hmm.’

‘Hmm? Hmm! Is that all you have to say?’

‘Well – ’

‘So, after they expertly singe, scrape, gut, and cut it up using hacksaw, knife, cleaver and even ax, everyone sits at long wooden tables and goes to work on their portion, preparing ponce, andouille, ham, organ soup, hogshead cheese, backbone stew, cracklins, boudin and lots more. Every scrap of the animal is used: brains, blood, ears, hocks, feet, marrow, skin, snout, heart, and tail. We cook all day, eat and drink and get loud all day, and we feast at night. We do it all together, and you and I are going to be a part of it! We’re going to be right in the bloody middle of it all!’

‘Fascinating,’ Frank said.

‘You betcha!’

‘There’s only one small problem.’

‘What’s that?’

‘I’m vegan. Have been for years. I won’t touch swine with a ten foot pole.’

By E.M. Vireo

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About EM Vireo
flooding the world with fiction

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