Southern Food Group: BoudinMarch 19, 2014
As a child, chances are you learned about the five food groups: fruits, vegetables, dairy, grains, and meat. The Southern Foodways Alliance has decided to rewrite the food pyramid in 2014 by introducing the twelve Southern food groups. Each month this year, the SFA will pair up with Garden & Gun to explore one food group that’s essential to our region’s cuisine.
Photograph by Chris Granger
We can think of many Southern delicacies—oysters on the half-shell, barbecue shrimp with French bread, juicy summer watermelon—whose proper consumption requires rolling up your sleeves. In cases like these, the messiness of the dish is directly proportional to the culinary pleasure it affords. Boudin, the pork-and-rice sausage endemic to gas stations and family-run butcher shops in Louisiana’s Cajun country, falls squarely into this category.
Calvin Trillin once wrote of boudin: “I figure that about 80 percent of the boudin purchased in Louisiana is consumed before the purchaser has left the parking lot, and most of the rest is polished off in the car. In other words, Cajun boudin not only doesn’t get outside the state; it usually doesn’t even get home.” To be fair, in 2014 a savvy diner can find boudin balls on the menu at upscale restaurants in Louisiana and beyond. They’re a staple at John Currence’s Snackbar in Oxford, Mississippi, and Kelly English of Restaurant Iris in Memphis has been known to fill his boudin with rabbit instead of pork. But for most boudin aficionados, the best way to get a fix is to squeeze the filling right out of the casing and into your mouth. Using teeth and fingers are encouraged; saltines are an acceptable vehicle for daintier souls.
In addition to pork, rice, and spices, liver was once a key ingredient in boudin. But nowadays, many makers cater to contemporary palates less accustomed to the flavors of organ meats. Even fewer artisans continue to produce boudin rouge, or blood boudin. Rodney Babineaux of Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, is among those who carry on this Cajun tradition. In the SFA Okracast below, Babineaux tells SFA oral historian Sara Roahen, how the sausage gets made.
If you’re still hungry:
1. Inexpensive, ubiquitous in gas stations, and managable even with one hand on the steering wheel, boudin might be the perfect road-trip food, at least in Acadiana. Visit the SFA’s Southern Boudin Trail to start planning your own pilgrimage.
2. Boudin making is not just a man’s world. Meet Beverly Giardelli of C. Hebert’s Slaughter House and Meat Market in Abbeville, Louisiana.
3. Listen as butcher and slaughterhouse owner T-Boy Berzas of Evangeline Parish, Louisiana, explains why the best boudin starts with the best hogs,