We moved to Houma, Louisiana, the summer before my fourth-grade year, and on the second night we were there, we went to a crawfish boil and ate alligator. It was the most extra thing that had ever happened to me in my whole life of nine years. Having hailed from a region where the adjective “spicy” was added to a menu item if it had any black pepper in it, this was completely off the rails. I’d never even seen a bottle of hot sauce. We were real culinary cream puffs.
Anyhow, it took about one week to discover po’boys, and we bought our first batch literally from a shack next to the bayou (I fact-checked this with my dad, and the credibility is “dubious,” but honestly? Come at me, bro). As the story goes, the Martin brothers, streetcar conductors turned restaurant owners in New Orleans in the 1920s, served these sandwiches to their former streetcar coworkers during a strike. Every time a striker would walk into their restaurant, Benny Martin would whisper to his brother, “Here comes another poor boy…,” and thus this delightful name wrapped in a class insult was born. History!
Life has no real meaning if you aren’t making and eating po’boys. This is my favorite recipe. And let me say up front: battering, breading, and frying food is such an ordeal, an ordeal, I say, so I only do it when the taffy is worth the pull, and trust me, it’s worth it here. This will make a real mess, and you will still write me and say “THANK YOU, JEN HATMAKER.” One final note: Don’t you dare look at this ingredient list and turn the page because it feels too long. Almost all of this is in your spice rack and the door of your refrigerator. Everyone calm down.
This feeds eight. Halve it if you’re feeding fewer people than I am, which is probably everyone. Dear Lord. —Jen Hatmaker, from her new cookbook, Feed These People: Slam-Dunk Recipes for Your Crew