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.