There’s a lector at our church with a strange accent. For months my wife and I listened carefully as he read the epistles, trying to figure out where he was from. One day we mentioned our curiosity to another congregant and were shocked to discover that Danny, like us, is from southern Louisiana. We’re from New Orleans, of course, and Danny’s from Acadiana (Cajun Country to the west), but, still, we’re practically neighbors and should have been able to peg him. It seemed so obvious once we knew.
We met Danny soon after that and the subject naturally turned, immediately, to food. Danny owns a rice and crawfish farm near Lake Charles in Jeff Davis Parish and drives down there several times a year to check on things. When we see him at church after a trip, we always get vicarious pleasure in hearing what he ate back home. This past weekend, however, the pleasure was firsthand, when Danny handed us four pounds of boudin he brought back just for us, from a place called Rabideaux’s in Iowa, Louisiana. It was some of the best boudin I’ve ever had — and I’ve had a lot.
After graduating from college, I lived in Lafayette for a year and a half, in one half of a little double on Eraste Landry Road on the outskirts of town. Not just Landry Road: Eraste Landry Road. It was the only road I’ve ever lived on that had a front name, there being so many Landrys in that part of the world that a street-christener has to distinguish.
There was a convenience store right next door, and on the top of the counter by the register was an electric steamer with a light-colored sausage in it. I asked what it was. “Boudin,” said the lady behind the counter. “It’s good, yeah.” She wasn’t kidding, either! I had my first link that day, and for the rest of the year practically lived on boudin (and chocolate chip ice cream) from the store next door.
A story I wrote about my Sunday night trips to a Cajun dancehall in nearby Breaux Bridge was published that fall in Gris Gris, a Baton Rouge weekly. Having discovered that each little Cajun town had its own distinct version of boudin, I pitched the editor on a guide to the best boudin in Acadiana. Since I didn’t have a car, however, the excursion was next to impossible for me to pull off on my own and the idea went by the wayside. (Thirty years later, someone else had the same idea, and a car, and created The Boudin Link, a terrific online guide.)
The editor of Gris Gris recommended me to a young attorney from Jennings who was looking for someone to edit a Cajun tabloid he was launching, La Gazette des Acadiens. Jennings was the offical “Boudin Capital of the World” at the time, thanks to its Boudin King restaurant, which became one of our first advertisers. For some strange reason, I decided that La Gazette needed a comic strip and persuaded my brother to create a superhero named Mr. Boudin, whose bizarre adventures made sense only to the two of us.
In the summer of 1977, I moved back to New Orleans and began arranging for the production of a boardgame I’d invented called Hike, which challenged patrons of the New Orleans transit system to ride all the lines and get back to Start before rate increases deprived them of all their bus money. I named my new boardgame company Boudin Enterprises — I guess because I missed boudin, which was impossible to find in New Orleans at the time.
Ten years later, I was married and living in Brockton, Massachusetts, south of Boston. One day we drove out to Cape Cod, stopping along the way at a little sausage shop. We bought a variety of links and inquired if the proprietor ever made boudin. No, he replied, but if we sent him a recipe he’d be happy to. So we did, and next time we stopped in he had some — which was quite good, and already a hit with his regular customers.
We moved back to New Orleans in 1991 and were pleased to find that boudin was now readily available there, what with the dividing lines between New Orleans and Acadiana having begun to blur.
Boudin was lost to us again, however, when we moved to St. Louis. We did find a butcher shop with boudin advertised in the window, but discovered that they’d discontinued it due to lack of demand. (They still make tasso and andouille, however.) One day we got ambitious and tried to make our own boudin, but it was a hell of a lot of work and we were disappointed in the results. I think maybe we’ll just remind Danny, frequently, how much we liked the boudin he brought us from Rabideaux’s.