Originally published by AFAR.com

The Art of Eating Crawfish in New Orleans

lavinia spalding

The first time I ate boiled crawfish, I was in a living room that, oddly enough, I’d soon see depicted on television. It was April of 2010, and I was visiting New Orleans with my then boyfriend (now husband).

The house, in the Treme neighborhood, belonged to his friend Davis Rogan, a native musician and local radio DJ personality whose life would soon become the basis of a central character in Treme, the former HBO series about post-Katrina New Orleans. Davis also wrote and consulted for the show, appeared as himself frequently, and eventually found himself sipping Sazeracs with Anthony Bourdain on his travel-and-food TV show, The Layover. But that afternoon, before all that, Davis was teaching me to eat crawfish.

I watched as our friend plucked from a metal mixing bowl what resembled—and tasted much like—a tiny red lobster. He held it between his index fingers and thumbs; twisted the head off and sucked the juice from it; unwrapped the top of the shell; pinched the tail; and squeezed the seasoned, spicy meat into his mouth—all in one fluid movement.

Honestly, it seemed like a lot of work for something so small. But then he and my boyfriend dug in, and I was awestruck: The shells of the boiled crawfish accumulated at a dizzying rate—I’d rarely seen anything consumed so fast.

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Live your daily life in a way that you never lose yourself. When you are carried away with your worries, fears, cravings, anger, and desire, you run away from yourself and you lose yourself. The practice is always to go back to oneself.” –Thich Nhat Hanh