Louisiana town celebrates the freshwater crustacean
Standing in his flat-bottom boat, Pete Berard pulls a wire-mesh trap from a 10-acre pond a few miles southeast of Breaux Bridge, La. (pop. 7,281), and shakes a dozen lively crawfish into a nylon sack.
“I might make our family a crawfish boil before the season is over,” says Berard, 47, as he throttles the outboard motor toward the next trap. “I’ve got four brothers and four sisters, so it takes about 10 sacks to feed everybody with all the kids.”
In Breaux Bridge—the Crawfish Capital of the World—the freshwater crustacean is as much a part of Cajun and Creole culture as accordion music and seafood gumbo.
Crawfish have been harvested from the bayous and swamps around Breaux Bridge for centuries. American Indians and African slaves introduced the French-speaking Acadians—or Cajuns—to the land lobsters in the late 1700s, and Louisianans have been crazy about crawfish ever since.
“A good hot plate of crawfish and a good cold beer is hard to beat,” says Ray “Crawfish King” Pellerin, 70, a retired Breaux Bridge businessman. “I’ve lived here all my life. We’ve been eating crawfish forever.”
Incorporated in 1859, Breaux Bridge today is the epicenter of Louisiana’s crawfish industry, which harvests about 90 percent of the nation’s annual catch. Breaux Bridge became synonymous with crawfish in 1959 when state lawmakers designated it the Crawfish Capital of the World to mark the town’s centennial. A year later, community leaders launched the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival to celebrate the revered crustacean, which has fed generations of Louisianans in lean and good times, and become a symbol of Cajun culinary pride.
The annual spring festival features Cajun and zydeco music, crawfish races, and literally tons of crawfish cuisine, ranging from boiled and fried crawfish to crawfish jambalaya and crawfish po’ boy sandwiches, plus a crawfish-eating contest.
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