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15 Red Wines for Ol’ Dad

15 Red Wines for Ol’ Dad


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In spite of all the great gift ideas you might have for Father’s Day, remember that what Dad probably really wants this Sunday is something good to drink! Red wine is always a great idea, and we have 15 American reds for your consideration.

Every wine has a story, of course, but three of those below are special concept wines, guaranteed to add a little something extra to chat about as you’re pulling the cork. For example, a blend by Barrell and Ink has the winemaker (Pax Mahle) and label designer (Lab Partners) collaborating on the art of the package; a Robert Mondavi cabernet was aged in bourbon barrels; and a Columbia Crest cab had all the winemaking decisions voted on by its crowd-sourcing investors.

Don’t forget the corkscrew!

Noble Vines “337” Lodi Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($11)

Plummy, fruity, somewhat voluptuous but with low apparent tannins.

Robert Mondavi Monterey County Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($14)

Cab with a back shot of bourbon? Almost, as this wine was aged three months in whiskey barrels. Somewhat sweeter tastes of toffee add to traditional cab flavors; a wine guaranteed to inspire divided opinions.

Ravenswood Sonoma County Old Vines Zinfandel 2013 ($16)

A pleasant wine with tangy fruit, bitters at the edges, and nice tannins.

SLO Down “Stand Out” California Red Blend 2012 ($18)

A mix of slightly more cabernet sauvignon than merlot, this is a big wine with red fruit and creamy berry notes and some duskiness and carbon flavors.

Columbia Crest “Crowdsourced” Horse Heaven Hills Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($24)

A wine made by the group decisions of its investors turns out to be very enjoyable, with murky, intense, but not jammy fruit — tangy raspberries — with smooth tannins.

Stinson Virginia Meritage 2013 ($32)

A very nice, full-flavored wine with tart red fruits, a medium body, and a lean finish.

Frank Family Napa Valley Zinfandel 2013 ($33)

Ripe, juicy black raspberries with hints of sweet oak and mild tannins — very drinkable.

Gehricke Los Carneros Sonoma Pinot Noir ($37)

Rooty, creamy, some savory notes, long on the palate, with light tannins.

Barrel & Ink “Thief” Sonoma County Syrah/Grenache 2013 ($38)

A very good, complex wine with dark red fruitiness and a murky, savory finish — very Rhône-like.

La Follette “Sangiacomo” Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2015 ($38)

A big, almost burly wine for a pinot with lots of red fruitiness.

Admirable Santa Barbara Vigneronne Syrah and Merlot 2013 ($40)

On the savory side, with dark cherry flavors and some stemminess.

Pfendler Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2014 ($40)

A big, somewhat aggressive pinot, but nevertheless it has lovely dark cherry flavors, good spiciness, and tangy tannins in the finish.

Gehricke Russian River Pinot Noir 2014 ($45)

An enjoyable lighter wine in the Burgundian fashion that is balanced enough to age well — elegant, a little gamey, some cola flavors.

Albatross Ridge Carmel Valley Estate Reserve Pinot Noir 2013 ($55)

A lighter wine with good structure, strawberry-raspberry fruits and a touch of smoky creaminess — very enjoyable.

Chappellet Napa Valley Cabernet Franc 2012 ($74)

Needs some time to open up and become integrated; savory red fruit, a bit hot, with mild tannins.


What to Do&mdashand What Not to Do&mdashat Your First Crawfish Boil

Here's some advice on how to tackle your first-ever crawfish boil like a pro.

The crowd gathers around and grabs at the lifeless bodies littering the tabletop, tearing the creatures&apos heads𠅎yeballs staring blankly at their attackers𠅏rom their bodies. Entrails squirt out. Fingers are smeared with guts.

This isn&apost a scene pulled straight from a scary Steven King novel, but rather a regular ol&apos crawfish boil in the heart of Mobile, Ala. It&aposs my first, and watching people take a head to their lips, then tip it back and suck in the shellfish&aposs juices like a shot has me enthralled. I tiptoe into the event by picking up a potato. Soaked in spices that&aposve cooked for hours, the heat brings tears to my eyes, but still, it&aposs so flavorful, so good, I find myself reaching for another𠅊nd another, this time smashing a clove of soaked garlic on the hunk before taking a bite, as I watched my tableside neighbor do just moments ago. It&aposs glorious. I nibble on an ear of corn. I&aposve put it off long enough—now, only the crawfish, eyes and all, lay before me.

I beg a friend to peel one for me, and I study his technique closely. He hands me the meat—such a small prize for such a laborious extraction𠅊nd it&aposs delicious. Tender, not at all chewy, with just the right amount of spice. I ask for another. He hands me a whole one, and tells me to peel it myself. With a deep breath, I went to town. Soon, I was covered in the same juices and entrails and all manner of sticky shellfish parts as my neighbors.

Crawfish boils are a time-honored tradition throughout the South. People come together several times during the season to boil pounds of the buggers and eat &aposem alongside cooked potatoes, corn, garlic𠅊nd sometimes Andouille sausage or other vegetables. The spoils are dumped directly from the boiling pot onto long tables covered in plastic tablecloths and newspapers. Plates are not (or are rarely) used. Dozens of rolls of paper towels are placed around the table and serve as napkins. (They are all used.) People eat with their hands, not forks. And when the spoils are devoured, another pot is dumped, again and again and again.

Surviving a first crawfish boil can be scary𠅎specially for Northerners whose experience with shellfish has been limited to crab or lobster served on plates, or shrimp shed of all its outer shells, save for maybe a tail.

If you&aposre planning to attend a crawfish boil during the upcoming season—usually in April and May in the South—then I&aposve prepared some tips to help you survive and even enjoy it.

1. Wear expandable pants. The average boil includes four to five pounds of crawfish per person. Of course, very little meat can be eaten from each mud bug. But between those tails and the potatoes and corn you&aposll devour, you&aposll be glad you left yourself some room to grow.

2. And wear dark clothing. It&aposs a lesson my husband learned the hard way during his first boil. He&aposd unbuttoned his shirt, exposing a white undershirt, then tore open a crawfish. He was rewarded for his efforts with guts and juices splattered across that once-pristine shirt.

3. Don&apost bring a plastic bib. People don&apost do that at boils And you will be ostracized.

4. If you&aposve got long hair, keep a ponytail holder handy. It&aposs one thing to have your lips and face covered in crawfish juices, but it&aposs quite another to have to wash it from your hair.

5. Remove your rings and watches before you dig in. If you&aposre doing this whole crawfish boil thing right, your hands will be covered in guts and juices will be running down your arms. It&aposs better to remove your finery now than clean it later.

6. Keep water handy. Southerners do not mess around with their spices. In any given boil, a cook has added pounds of Zatarain&aposs boil mix𠅊 potent blend of mustard seed, coriander seed, cayenne pepper, bay leaves, dill seed, and allspice—to their six-gallon boil pot. Water is not refreshed between boils, so every boil becomes even spicier. Your lips will burn. Your eyes will tear up. And you will be very glad you brought a gallon of water just for yourself.

7. Be prepared to hear Zydeco music. A blend of blues, jazz, and rhythm, Zydeco music is rarely heard outside of the South. (It originated in Louisiana.) It may sound like polka to the untrained ear, because it often features accordions. But it will surely get your toes tapping.

8. Choose your crawfish carefully. When you&aposre comfortable enough to reach for your first crawfish, choose the largest one you can find—it will have more meat—with a curved tail. If a cooked crawfish has a straight tail, that means it was dead before it hit the boil, and it will taste rotten. (Most cooks do try to weed out dead crawfish beforehand.)

9. Break the crawfish in its natural middle. When you look at a crawfish, you&aposll see it&aposs natural waistline, so to speak, and that&aposs where you want to tear it apart. Break into it elsewhere, and you&aposre much more likely to end up like my husband, covered in its juices.

10. Suck in the juices. If you&aposre brave, before you begin to peel a crawfish, you can put your lips to the opening on its bodies and drink in its juices. Some people even draw in juices from the crawfish&aposs head, but that&aposs a move for more serious crawfish connoisseurs.

11. Peel the tail. When you&aposre ready to get to the meat, start at the top of the tail and peel each shell off. (Sometimes more than one will come off at a time.) Once the meat is exposed, you can pinch it and—with any luck—pull it right out from the remaining shell pieces.

12. Check for the pooper tube (not a technical term). One gross reality of crawfish is that, like most other living creatures, they have to flush toxins from their systems, and they do so via a small, black-hued tube that runs the length of their tails. Most of the time, that tube comes off along with the shell. But to be safe, check for it before you put the meat into your mouth. If you spot it, you can simply grab one end of the tube and pull it off the meat of the tail. Wash your hands after.

13. Prepare to hear some funny noises. Table manners don’t exist at a crawfish boil. (Again, you&aposre all covered in sticky juices and guts and who knows what else.) But in addition to those unique sights, be prepared to hear a lot of slurping sounds.

14. Clean your hands with lemon. After a boil, sometimes simple water and soap won&apost do. But a fresh lemon, sliced in half and rubbed on your hands, can help remove debris. If you see crawfish pieces under your nails, use a nail brush to clean them. Boil spices are potent𠅊nd if you rub your eyes with hands covered in their residue, you will regret it.

15. Shower. You will have been surrounded by boil smells for the better part of a day, and you will smell like crawfish and spice. So before you go out again, do yourself𠅊nd all the other people out and about𠅊 big favor by showering (and changing your outfit) first.


What to Do&mdashand What Not to Do&mdashat Your First Crawfish Boil

Here's some advice on how to tackle your first-ever crawfish boil like a pro.

The crowd gathers around and grabs at the lifeless bodies littering the tabletop, tearing the creatures&apos heads𠅎yeballs staring blankly at their attackers𠅏rom their bodies. Entrails squirt out. Fingers are smeared with guts.

This isn&apost a scene pulled straight from a scary Steven King novel, but rather a regular ol&apos crawfish boil in the heart of Mobile, Ala. It&aposs my first, and watching people take a head to their lips, then tip it back and suck in the shellfish&aposs juices like a shot has me enthralled. I tiptoe into the event by picking up a potato. Soaked in spices that&aposve cooked for hours, the heat brings tears to my eyes, but still, it&aposs so flavorful, so good, I find myself reaching for another𠅊nd another, this time smashing a clove of soaked garlic on the hunk before taking a bite, as I watched my tableside neighbor do just moments ago. It&aposs glorious. I nibble on an ear of corn. I&aposve put it off long enough—now, only the crawfish, eyes and all, lay before me.

I beg a friend to peel one for me, and I study his technique closely. He hands me the meat—such a small prize for such a laborious extraction𠅊nd it&aposs delicious. Tender, not at all chewy, with just the right amount of spice. I ask for another. He hands me a whole one, and tells me to peel it myself. With a deep breath, I went to town. Soon, I was covered in the same juices and entrails and all manner of sticky shellfish parts as my neighbors.

Crawfish boils are a time-honored tradition throughout the South. People come together several times during the season to boil pounds of the buggers and eat &aposem alongside cooked potatoes, corn, garlic𠅊nd sometimes Andouille sausage or other vegetables. The spoils are dumped directly from the boiling pot onto long tables covered in plastic tablecloths and newspapers. Plates are not (or are rarely) used. Dozens of rolls of paper towels are placed around the table and serve as napkins. (They are all used.) People eat with their hands, not forks. And when the spoils are devoured, another pot is dumped, again and again and again.

Surviving a first crawfish boil can be scary𠅎specially for Northerners whose experience with shellfish has been limited to crab or lobster served on plates, or shrimp shed of all its outer shells, save for maybe a tail.

If you&aposre planning to attend a crawfish boil during the upcoming season—usually in April and May in the South—then I&aposve prepared some tips to help you survive and even enjoy it.

1. Wear expandable pants. The average boil includes four to five pounds of crawfish per person. Of course, very little meat can be eaten from each mud bug. But between those tails and the potatoes and corn you&aposll devour, you&aposll be glad you left yourself some room to grow.

2. And wear dark clothing. It&aposs a lesson my husband learned the hard way during his first boil. He&aposd unbuttoned his shirt, exposing a white undershirt, then tore open a crawfish. He was rewarded for his efforts with guts and juices splattered across that once-pristine shirt.

3. Don&apost bring a plastic bib. People don&apost do that at boils And you will be ostracized.

4. If you&aposve got long hair, keep a ponytail holder handy. It&aposs one thing to have your lips and face covered in crawfish juices, but it&aposs quite another to have to wash it from your hair.

5. Remove your rings and watches before you dig in. If you&aposre doing this whole crawfish boil thing right, your hands will be covered in guts and juices will be running down your arms. It&aposs better to remove your finery now than clean it later.

6. Keep water handy. Southerners do not mess around with their spices. In any given boil, a cook has added pounds of Zatarain&aposs boil mix𠅊 potent blend of mustard seed, coriander seed, cayenne pepper, bay leaves, dill seed, and allspice—to their six-gallon boil pot. Water is not refreshed between boils, so every boil becomes even spicier. Your lips will burn. Your eyes will tear up. And you will be very glad you brought a gallon of water just for yourself.

7. Be prepared to hear Zydeco music. A blend of blues, jazz, and rhythm, Zydeco music is rarely heard outside of the South. (It originated in Louisiana.) It may sound like polka to the untrained ear, because it often features accordions. But it will surely get your toes tapping.

8. Choose your crawfish carefully. When you&aposre comfortable enough to reach for your first crawfish, choose the largest one you can find—it will have more meat—with a curved tail. If a cooked crawfish has a straight tail, that means it was dead before it hit the boil, and it will taste rotten. (Most cooks do try to weed out dead crawfish beforehand.)

9. Break the crawfish in its natural middle. When you look at a crawfish, you&aposll see it&aposs natural waistline, so to speak, and that&aposs where you want to tear it apart. Break into it elsewhere, and you&aposre much more likely to end up like my husband, covered in its juices.

10. Suck in the juices. If you&aposre brave, before you begin to peel a crawfish, you can put your lips to the opening on its bodies and drink in its juices. Some people even draw in juices from the crawfish&aposs head, but that&aposs a move for more serious crawfish connoisseurs.

11. Peel the tail. When you&aposre ready to get to the meat, start at the top of the tail and peel each shell off. (Sometimes more than one will come off at a time.) Once the meat is exposed, you can pinch it and—with any luck—pull it right out from the remaining shell pieces.

12. Check for the pooper tube (not a technical term). One gross reality of crawfish is that, like most other living creatures, they have to flush toxins from their systems, and they do so via a small, black-hued tube that runs the length of their tails. Most of the time, that tube comes off along with the shell. But to be safe, check for it before you put the meat into your mouth. If you spot it, you can simply grab one end of the tube and pull it off the meat of the tail. Wash your hands after.

13. Prepare to hear some funny noises. Table manners don’t exist at a crawfish boil. (Again, you&aposre all covered in sticky juices and guts and who knows what else.) But in addition to those unique sights, be prepared to hear a lot of slurping sounds.

14. Clean your hands with lemon. After a boil, sometimes simple water and soap won&apost do. But a fresh lemon, sliced in half and rubbed on your hands, can help remove debris. If you see crawfish pieces under your nails, use a nail brush to clean them. Boil spices are potent𠅊nd if you rub your eyes with hands covered in their residue, you will regret it.

15. Shower. You will have been surrounded by boil smells for the better part of a day, and you will smell like crawfish and spice. So before you go out again, do yourself𠅊nd all the other people out and about𠅊 big favor by showering (and changing your outfit) first.


What to Do&mdashand What Not to Do&mdashat Your First Crawfish Boil

Here's some advice on how to tackle your first-ever crawfish boil like a pro.

The crowd gathers around and grabs at the lifeless bodies littering the tabletop, tearing the creatures&apos heads𠅎yeballs staring blankly at their attackers𠅏rom their bodies. Entrails squirt out. Fingers are smeared with guts.

This isn&apost a scene pulled straight from a scary Steven King novel, but rather a regular ol&apos crawfish boil in the heart of Mobile, Ala. It&aposs my first, and watching people take a head to their lips, then tip it back and suck in the shellfish&aposs juices like a shot has me enthralled. I tiptoe into the event by picking up a potato. Soaked in spices that&aposve cooked for hours, the heat brings tears to my eyes, but still, it&aposs so flavorful, so good, I find myself reaching for another𠅊nd another, this time smashing a clove of soaked garlic on the hunk before taking a bite, as I watched my tableside neighbor do just moments ago. It&aposs glorious. I nibble on an ear of corn. I&aposve put it off long enough—now, only the crawfish, eyes and all, lay before me.

I beg a friend to peel one for me, and I study his technique closely. He hands me the meat—such a small prize for such a laborious extraction𠅊nd it&aposs delicious. Tender, not at all chewy, with just the right amount of spice. I ask for another. He hands me a whole one, and tells me to peel it myself. With a deep breath, I went to town. Soon, I was covered in the same juices and entrails and all manner of sticky shellfish parts as my neighbors.

Crawfish boils are a time-honored tradition throughout the South. People come together several times during the season to boil pounds of the buggers and eat &aposem alongside cooked potatoes, corn, garlic𠅊nd sometimes Andouille sausage or other vegetables. The spoils are dumped directly from the boiling pot onto long tables covered in plastic tablecloths and newspapers. Plates are not (or are rarely) used. Dozens of rolls of paper towels are placed around the table and serve as napkins. (They are all used.) People eat with their hands, not forks. And when the spoils are devoured, another pot is dumped, again and again and again.

Surviving a first crawfish boil can be scary𠅎specially for Northerners whose experience with shellfish has been limited to crab or lobster served on plates, or shrimp shed of all its outer shells, save for maybe a tail.

If you&aposre planning to attend a crawfish boil during the upcoming season—usually in April and May in the South—then I&aposve prepared some tips to help you survive and even enjoy it.

1. Wear expandable pants. The average boil includes four to five pounds of crawfish per person. Of course, very little meat can be eaten from each mud bug. But between those tails and the potatoes and corn you&aposll devour, you&aposll be glad you left yourself some room to grow.

2. And wear dark clothing. It&aposs a lesson my husband learned the hard way during his first boil. He&aposd unbuttoned his shirt, exposing a white undershirt, then tore open a crawfish. He was rewarded for his efforts with guts and juices splattered across that once-pristine shirt.

3. Don&apost bring a plastic bib. People don&apost do that at boils And you will be ostracized.

4. If you&aposve got long hair, keep a ponytail holder handy. It&aposs one thing to have your lips and face covered in crawfish juices, but it&aposs quite another to have to wash it from your hair.

5. Remove your rings and watches before you dig in. If you&aposre doing this whole crawfish boil thing right, your hands will be covered in guts and juices will be running down your arms. It&aposs better to remove your finery now than clean it later.

6. Keep water handy. Southerners do not mess around with their spices. In any given boil, a cook has added pounds of Zatarain&aposs boil mix𠅊 potent blend of mustard seed, coriander seed, cayenne pepper, bay leaves, dill seed, and allspice—to their six-gallon boil pot. Water is not refreshed between boils, so every boil becomes even spicier. Your lips will burn. Your eyes will tear up. And you will be very glad you brought a gallon of water just for yourself.

7. Be prepared to hear Zydeco music. A blend of blues, jazz, and rhythm, Zydeco music is rarely heard outside of the South. (It originated in Louisiana.) It may sound like polka to the untrained ear, because it often features accordions. But it will surely get your toes tapping.

8. Choose your crawfish carefully. When you&aposre comfortable enough to reach for your first crawfish, choose the largest one you can find—it will have more meat—with a curved tail. If a cooked crawfish has a straight tail, that means it was dead before it hit the boil, and it will taste rotten. (Most cooks do try to weed out dead crawfish beforehand.)

9. Break the crawfish in its natural middle. When you look at a crawfish, you&aposll see it&aposs natural waistline, so to speak, and that&aposs where you want to tear it apart. Break into it elsewhere, and you&aposre much more likely to end up like my husband, covered in its juices.

10. Suck in the juices. If you&aposre brave, before you begin to peel a crawfish, you can put your lips to the opening on its bodies and drink in its juices. Some people even draw in juices from the crawfish&aposs head, but that&aposs a move for more serious crawfish connoisseurs.

11. Peel the tail. When you&aposre ready to get to the meat, start at the top of the tail and peel each shell off. (Sometimes more than one will come off at a time.) Once the meat is exposed, you can pinch it and—with any luck—pull it right out from the remaining shell pieces.

12. Check for the pooper tube (not a technical term). One gross reality of crawfish is that, like most other living creatures, they have to flush toxins from their systems, and they do so via a small, black-hued tube that runs the length of their tails. Most of the time, that tube comes off along with the shell. But to be safe, check for it before you put the meat into your mouth. If you spot it, you can simply grab one end of the tube and pull it off the meat of the tail. Wash your hands after.

13. Prepare to hear some funny noises. Table manners don’t exist at a crawfish boil. (Again, you&aposre all covered in sticky juices and guts and who knows what else.) But in addition to those unique sights, be prepared to hear a lot of slurping sounds.

14. Clean your hands with lemon. After a boil, sometimes simple water and soap won&apost do. But a fresh lemon, sliced in half and rubbed on your hands, can help remove debris. If you see crawfish pieces under your nails, use a nail brush to clean them. Boil spices are potent𠅊nd if you rub your eyes with hands covered in their residue, you will regret it.

15. Shower. You will have been surrounded by boil smells for the better part of a day, and you will smell like crawfish and spice. So before you go out again, do yourself𠅊nd all the other people out and about𠅊 big favor by showering (and changing your outfit) first.


What to Do&mdashand What Not to Do&mdashat Your First Crawfish Boil

Here's some advice on how to tackle your first-ever crawfish boil like a pro.

The crowd gathers around and grabs at the lifeless bodies littering the tabletop, tearing the creatures&apos heads𠅎yeballs staring blankly at their attackers𠅏rom their bodies. Entrails squirt out. Fingers are smeared with guts.

This isn&apost a scene pulled straight from a scary Steven King novel, but rather a regular ol&apos crawfish boil in the heart of Mobile, Ala. It&aposs my first, and watching people take a head to their lips, then tip it back and suck in the shellfish&aposs juices like a shot has me enthralled. I tiptoe into the event by picking up a potato. Soaked in spices that&aposve cooked for hours, the heat brings tears to my eyes, but still, it&aposs so flavorful, so good, I find myself reaching for another𠅊nd another, this time smashing a clove of soaked garlic on the hunk before taking a bite, as I watched my tableside neighbor do just moments ago. It&aposs glorious. I nibble on an ear of corn. I&aposve put it off long enough—now, only the crawfish, eyes and all, lay before me.

I beg a friend to peel one for me, and I study his technique closely. He hands me the meat—such a small prize for such a laborious extraction𠅊nd it&aposs delicious. Tender, not at all chewy, with just the right amount of spice. I ask for another. He hands me a whole one, and tells me to peel it myself. With a deep breath, I went to town. Soon, I was covered in the same juices and entrails and all manner of sticky shellfish parts as my neighbors.

Crawfish boils are a time-honored tradition throughout the South. People come together several times during the season to boil pounds of the buggers and eat &aposem alongside cooked potatoes, corn, garlic𠅊nd sometimes Andouille sausage or other vegetables. The spoils are dumped directly from the boiling pot onto long tables covered in plastic tablecloths and newspapers. Plates are not (or are rarely) used. Dozens of rolls of paper towels are placed around the table and serve as napkins. (They are all used.) People eat with their hands, not forks. And when the spoils are devoured, another pot is dumped, again and again and again.

Surviving a first crawfish boil can be scary𠅎specially for Northerners whose experience with shellfish has been limited to crab or lobster served on plates, or shrimp shed of all its outer shells, save for maybe a tail.

If you&aposre planning to attend a crawfish boil during the upcoming season—usually in April and May in the South—then I&aposve prepared some tips to help you survive and even enjoy it.

1. Wear expandable pants. The average boil includes four to five pounds of crawfish per person. Of course, very little meat can be eaten from each mud bug. But between those tails and the potatoes and corn you&aposll devour, you&aposll be glad you left yourself some room to grow.

2. And wear dark clothing. It&aposs a lesson my husband learned the hard way during his first boil. He&aposd unbuttoned his shirt, exposing a white undershirt, then tore open a crawfish. He was rewarded for his efforts with guts and juices splattered across that once-pristine shirt.

3. Don&apost bring a plastic bib. People don&apost do that at boils And you will be ostracized.

4. If you&aposve got long hair, keep a ponytail holder handy. It&aposs one thing to have your lips and face covered in crawfish juices, but it&aposs quite another to have to wash it from your hair.

5. Remove your rings and watches before you dig in. If you&aposre doing this whole crawfish boil thing right, your hands will be covered in guts and juices will be running down your arms. It&aposs better to remove your finery now than clean it later.

6. Keep water handy. Southerners do not mess around with their spices. In any given boil, a cook has added pounds of Zatarain&aposs boil mix𠅊 potent blend of mustard seed, coriander seed, cayenne pepper, bay leaves, dill seed, and allspice—to their six-gallon boil pot. Water is not refreshed between boils, so every boil becomes even spicier. Your lips will burn. Your eyes will tear up. And you will be very glad you brought a gallon of water just for yourself.

7. Be prepared to hear Zydeco music. A blend of blues, jazz, and rhythm, Zydeco music is rarely heard outside of the South. (It originated in Louisiana.) It may sound like polka to the untrained ear, because it often features accordions. But it will surely get your toes tapping.

8. Choose your crawfish carefully. When you&aposre comfortable enough to reach for your first crawfish, choose the largest one you can find—it will have more meat—with a curved tail. If a cooked crawfish has a straight tail, that means it was dead before it hit the boil, and it will taste rotten. (Most cooks do try to weed out dead crawfish beforehand.)

9. Break the crawfish in its natural middle. When you look at a crawfish, you&aposll see it&aposs natural waistline, so to speak, and that&aposs where you want to tear it apart. Break into it elsewhere, and you&aposre much more likely to end up like my husband, covered in its juices.

10. Suck in the juices. If you&aposre brave, before you begin to peel a crawfish, you can put your lips to the opening on its bodies and drink in its juices. Some people even draw in juices from the crawfish&aposs head, but that&aposs a move for more serious crawfish connoisseurs.

11. Peel the tail. When you&aposre ready to get to the meat, start at the top of the tail and peel each shell off. (Sometimes more than one will come off at a time.) Once the meat is exposed, you can pinch it and—with any luck—pull it right out from the remaining shell pieces.

12. Check for the pooper tube (not a technical term). One gross reality of crawfish is that, like most other living creatures, they have to flush toxins from their systems, and they do so via a small, black-hued tube that runs the length of their tails. Most of the time, that tube comes off along with the shell. But to be safe, check for it before you put the meat into your mouth. If you spot it, you can simply grab one end of the tube and pull it off the meat of the tail. Wash your hands after.

13. Prepare to hear some funny noises. Table manners don’t exist at a crawfish boil. (Again, you&aposre all covered in sticky juices and guts and who knows what else.) But in addition to those unique sights, be prepared to hear a lot of slurping sounds.

14. Clean your hands with lemon. After a boil, sometimes simple water and soap won&apost do. But a fresh lemon, sliced in half and rubbed on your hands, can help remove debris. If you see crawfish pieces under your nails, use a nail brush to clean them. Boil spices are potent𠅊nd if you rub your eyes with hands covered in their residue, you will regret it.

15. Shower. You will have been surrounded by boil smells for the better part of a day, and you will smell like crawfish and spice. So before you go out again, do yourself𠅊nd all the other people out and about𠅊 big favor by showering (and changing your outfit) first.


What to Do&mdashand What Not to Do&mdashat Your First Crawfish Boil

Here's some advice on how to tackle your first-ever crawfish boil like a pro.

The crowd gathers around and grabs at the lifeless bodies littering the tabletop, tearing the creatures&apos heads𠅎yeballs staring blankly at their attackers𠅏rom their bodies. Entrails squirt out. Fingers are smeared with guts.

This isn&apost a scene pulled straight from a scary Steven King novel, but rather a regular ol&apos crawfish boil in the heart of Mobile, Ala. It&aposs my first, and watching people take a head to their lips, then tip it back and suck in the shellfish&aposs juices like a shot has me enthralled. I tiptoe into the event by picking up a potato. Soaked in spices that&aposve cooked for hours, the heat brings tears to my eyes, but still, it&aposs so flavorful, so good, I find myself reaching for another𠅊nd another, this time smashing a clove of soaked garlic on the hunk before taking a bite, as I watched my tableside neighbor do just moments ago. It&aposs glorious. I nibble on an ear of corn. I&aposve put it off long enough—now, only the crawfish, eyes and all, lay before me.

I beg a friend to peel one for me, and I study his technique closely. He hands me the meat—such a small prize for such a laborious extraction𠅊nd it&aposs delicious. Tender, not at all chewy, with just the right amount of spice. I ask for another. He hands me a whole one, and tells me to peel it myself. With a deep breath, I went to town. Soon, I was covered in the same juices and entrails and all manner of sticky shellfish parts as my neighbors.

Crawfish boils are a time-honored tradition throughout the South. People come together several times during the season to boil pounds of the buggers and eat &aposem alongside cooked potatoes, corn, garlic𠅊nd sometimes Andouille sausage or other vegetables. The spoils are dumped directly from the boiling pot onto long tables covered in plastic tablecloths and newspapers. Plates are not (or are rarely) used. Dozens of rolls of paper towels are placed around the table and serve as napkins. (They are all used.) People eat with their hands, not forks. And when the spoils are devoured, another pot is dumped, again and again and again.

Surviving a first crawfish boil can be scary𠅎specially for Northerners whose experience with shellfish has been limited to crab or lobster served on plates, or shrimp shed of all its outer shells, save for maybe a tail.

If you&aposre planning to attend a crawfish boil during the upcoming season—usually in April and May in the South—then I&aposve prepared some tips to help you survive and even enjoy it.

1. Wear expandable pants. The average boil includes four to five pounds of crawfish per person. Of course, very little meat can be eaten from each mud bug. But between those tails and the potatoes and corn you&aposll devour, you&aposll be glad you left yourself some room to grow.

2. And wear dark clothing. It&aposs a lesson my husband learned the hard way during his first boil. He&aposd unbuttoned his shirt, exposing a white undershirt, then tore open a crawfish. He was rewarded for his efforts with guts and juices splattered across that once-pristine shirt.

3. Don&apost bring a plastic bib. People don&apost do that at boils And you will be ostracized.

4. If you&aposve got long hair, keep a ponytail holder handy. It&aposs one thing to have your lips and face covered in crawfish juices, but it&aposs quite another to have to wash it from your hair.

5. Remove your rings and watches before you dig in. If you&aposre doing this whole crawfish boil thing right, your hands will be covered in guts and juices will be running down your arms. It&aposs better to remove your finery now than clean it later.

6. Keep water handy. Southerners do not mess around with their spices. In any given boil, a cook has added pounds of Zatarain&aposs boil mix𠅊 potent blend of mustard seed, coriander seed, cayenne pepper, bay leaves, dill seed, and allspice—to their six-gallon boil pot. Water is not refreshed between boils, so every boil becomes even spicier. Your lips will burn. Your eyes will tear up. And you will be very glad you brought a gallon of water just for yourself.

7. Be prepared to hear Zydeco music. A blend of blues, jazz, and rhythm, Zydeco music is rarely heard outside of the South. (It originated in Louisiana.) It may sound like polka to the untrained ear, because it often features accordions. But it will surely get your toes tapping.

8. Choose your crawfish carefully. When you&aposre comfortable enough to reach for your first crawfish, choose the largest one you can find—it will have more meat—with a curved tail. If a cooked crawfish has a straight tail, that means it was dead before it hit the boil, and it will taste rotten. (Most cooks do try to weed out dead crawfish beforehand.)

9. Break the crawfish in its natural middle. When you look at a crawfish, you&aposll see it&aposs natural waistline, so to speak, and that&aposs where you want to tear it apart. Break into it elsewhere, and you&aposre much more likely to end up like my husband, covered in its juices.

10. Suck in the juices. If you&aposre brave, before you begin to peel a crawfish, you can put your lips to the opening on its bodies and drink in its juices. Some people even draw in juices from the crawfish&aposs head, but that&aposs a move for more serious crawfish connoisseurs.

11. Peel the tail. When you&aposre ready to get to the meat, start at the top of the tail and peel each shell off. (Sometimes more than one will come off at a time.) Once the meat is exposed, you can pinch it and—with any luck—pull it right out from the remaining shell pieces.

12. Check for the pooper tube (not a technical term). One gross reality of crawfish is that, like most other living creatures, they have to flush toxins from their systems, and they do so via a small, black-hued tube that runs the length of their tails. Most of the time, that tube comes off along with the shell. But to be safe, check for it before you put the meat into your mouth. If you spot it, you can simply grab one end of the tube and pull it off the meat of the tail. Wash your hands after.

13. Prepare to hear some funny noises. Table manners don’t exist at a crawfish boil. (Again, you&aposre all covered in sticky juices and guts and who knows what else.) But in addition to those unique sights, be prepared to hear a lot of slurping sounds.

14. Clean your hands with lemon. After a boil, sometimes simple water and soap won&apost do. But a fresh lemon, sliced in half and rubbed on your hands, can help remove debris. If you see crawfish pieces under your nails, use a nail brush to clean them. Boil spices are potent𠅊nd if you rub your eyes with hands covered in their residue, you will regret it.

15. Shower. You will have been surrounded by boil smells for the better part of a day, and you will smell like crawfish and spice. So before you go out again, do yourself𠅊nd all the other people out and about𠅊 big favor by showering (and changing your outfit) first.


What to Do&mdashand What Not to Do&mdashat Your First Crawfish Boil

Here's some advice on how to tackle your first-ever crawfish boil like a pro.

The crowd gathers around and grabs at the lifeless bodies littering the tabletop, tearing the creatures&apos heads𠅎yeballs staring blankly at their attackers𠅏rom their bodies. Entrails squirt out. Fingers are smeared with guts.

This isn&apost a scene pulled straight from a scary Steven King novel, but rather a regular ol&apos crawfish boil in the heart of Mobile, Ala. It&aposs my first, and watching people take a head to their lips, then tip it back and suck in the shellfish&aposs juices like a shot has me enthralled. I tiptoe into the event by picking up a potato. Soaked in spices that&aposve cooked for hours, the heat brings tears to my eyes, but still, it&aposs so flavorful, so good, I find myself reaching for another𠅊nd another, this time smashing a clove of soaked garlic on the hunk before taking a bite, as I watched my tableside neighbor do just moments ago. It&aposs glorious. I nibble on an ear of corn. I&aposve put it off long enough—now, only the crawfish, eyes and all, lay before me.

I beg a friend to peel one for me, and I study his technique closely. He hands me the meat—such a small prize for such a laborious extraction𠅊nd it&aposs delicious. Tender, not at all chewy, with just the right amount of spice. I ask for another. He hands me a whole one, and tells me to peel it myself. With a deep breath, I went to town. Soon, I was covered in the same juices and entrails and all manner of sticky shellfish parts as my neighbors.

Crawfish boils are a time-honored tradition throughout the South. People come together several times during the season to boil pounds of the buggers and eat &aposem alongside cooked potatoes, corn, garlic𠅊nd sometimes Andouille sausage or other vegetables. The spoils are dumped directly from the boiling pot onto long tables covered in plastic tablecloths and newspapers. Plates are not (or are rarely) used. Dozens of rolls of paper towels are placed around the table and serve as napkins. (They are all used.) People eat with their hands, not forks. And when the spoils are devoured, another pot is dumped, again and again and again.

Surviving a first crawfish boil can be scary𠅎specially for Northerners whose experience with shellfish has been limited to crab or lobster served on plates, or shrimp shed of all its outer shells, save for maybe a tail.

If you&aposre planning to attend a crawfish boil during the upcoming season—usually in April and May in the South—then I&aposve prepared some tips to help you survive and even enjoy it.

1. Wear expandable pants. The average boil includes four to five pounds of crawfish per person. Of course, very little meat can be eaten from each mud bug. But between those tails and the potatoes and corn you&aposll devour, you&aposll be glad you left yourself some room to grow.

2. And wear dark clothing. It&aposs a lesson my husband learned the hard way during his first boil. He&aposd unbuttoned his shirt, exposing a white undershirt, then tore open a crawfish. He was rewarded for his efforts with guts and juices splattered across that once-pristine shirt.

3. Don&apost bring a plastic bib. People don&apost do that at boils And you will be ostracized.

4. If you&aposve got long hair, keep a ponytail holder handy. It&aposs one thing to have your lips and face covered in crawfish juices, but it&aposs quite another to have to wash it from your hair.

5. Remove your rings and watches before you dig in. If you&aposre doing this whole crawfish boil thing right, your hands will be covered in guts and juices will be running down your arms. It&aposs better to remove your finery now than clean it later.

6. Keep water handy. Southerners do not mess around with their spices. In any given boil, a cook has added pounds of Zatarain&aposs boil mix𠅊 potent blend of mustard seed, coriander seed, cayenne pepper, bay leaves, dill seed, and allspice—to their six-gallon boil pot. Water is not refreshed between boils, so every boil becomes even spicier. Your lips will burn. Your eyes will tear up. And you will be very glad you brought a gallon of water just for yourself.

7. Be prepared to hear Zydeco music. A blend of blues, jazz, and rhythm, Zydeco music is rarely heard outside of the South. (It originated in Louisiana.) It may sound like polka to the untrained ear, because it often features accordions. But it will surely get your toes tapping.

8. Choose your crawfish carefully. When you&aposre comfortable enough to reach for your first crawfish, choose the largest one you can find—it will have more meat—with a curved tail. If a cooked crawfish has a straight tail, that means it was dead before it hit the boil, and it will taste rotten. (Most cooks do try to weed out dead crawfish beforehand.)

9. Break the crawfish in its natural middle. When you look at a crawfish, you&aposll see it&aposs natural waistline, so to speak, and that&aposs where you want to tear it apart. Break into it elsewhere, and you&aposre much more likely to end up like my husband, covered in its juices.

10. Suck in the juices. If you&aposre brave, before you begin to peel a crawfish, you can put your lips to the opening on its bodies and drink in its juices. Some people even draw in juices from the crawfish&aposs head, but that&aposs a move for more serious crawfish connoisseurs.

11. Peel the tail. When you&aposre ready to get to the meat, start at the top of the tail and peel each shell off. (Sometimes more than one will come off at a time.) Once the meat is exposed, you can pinch it and—with any luck—pull it right out from the remaining shell pieces.

12. Check for the pooper tube (not a technical term). One gross reality of crawfish is that, like most other living creatures, they have to flush toxins from their systems, and they do so via a small, black-hued tube that runs the length of their tails. Most of the time, that tube comes off along with the shell. But to be safe, check for it before you put the meat into your mouth. If you spot it, you can simply grab one end of the tube and pull it off the meat of the tail. Wash your hands after.

13. Prepare to hear some funny noises. Table manners don’t exist at a crawfish boil. (Again, you&aposre all covered in sticky juices and guts and who knows what else.) But in addition to those unique sights, be prepared to hear a lot of slurping sounds.

14. Clean your hands with lemon. After a boil, sometimes simple water and soap won&apost do. But a fresh lemon, sliced in half and rubbed on your hands, can help remove debris. If you see crawfish pieces under your nails, use a nail brush to clean them. Boil spices are potent𠅊nd if you rub your eyes with hands covered in their residue, you will regret it.

15. Shower. You will have been surrounded by boil smells for the better part of a day, and you will smell like crawfish and spice. So before you go out again, do yourself𠅊nd all the other people out and about𠅊 big favor by showering (and changing your outfit) first.


What to Do&mdashand What Not to Do&mdashat Your First Crawfish Boil

Here's some advice on how to tackle your first-ever crawfish boil like a pro.

The crowd gathers around and grabs at the lifeless bodies littering the tabletop, tearing the creatures&apos heads𠅎yeballs staring blankly at their attackers𠅏rom their bodies. Entrails squirt out. Fingers are smeared with guts.

This isn&apost a scene pulled straight from a scary Steven King novel, but rather a regular ol&apos crawfish boil in the heart of Mobile, Ala. It&aposs my first, and watching people take a head to their lips, then tip it back and suck in the shellfish&aposs juices like a shot has me enthralled. I tiptoe into the event by picking up a potato. Soaked in spices that&aposve cooked for hours, the heat brings tears to my eyes, but still, it&aposs so flavorful, so good, I find myself reaching for another𠅊nd another, this time smashing a clove of soaked garlic on the hunk before taking a bite, as I watched my tableside neighbor do just moments ago. It&aposs glorious. I nibble on an ear of corn. I&aposve put it off long enough—now, only the crawfish, eyes and all, lay before me.

I beg a friend to peel one for me, and I study his technique closely. He hands me the meat—such a small prize for such a laborious extraction𠅊nd it&aposs delicious. Tender, not at all chewy, with just the right amount of spice. I ask for another. He hands me a whole one, and tells me to peel it myself. With a deep breath, I went to town. Soon, I was covered in the same juices and entrails and all manner of sticky shellfish parts as my neighbors.

Crawfish boils are a time-honored tradition throughout the South. People come together several times during the season to boil pounds of the buggers and eat &aposem alongside cooked potatoes, corn, garlic𠅊nd sometimes Andouille sausage or other vegetables. The spoils are dumped directly from the boiling pot onto long tables covered in plastic tablecloths and newspapers. Plates are not (or are rarely) used. Dozens of rolls of paper towels are placed around the table and serve as napkins. (They are all used.) People eat with their hands, not forks. And when the spoils are devoured, another pot is dumped, again and again and again.

Surviving a first crawfish boil can be scary𠅎specially for Northerners whose experience with shellfish has been limited to crab or lobster served on plates, or shrimp shed of all its outer shells, save for maybe a tail.

If you&aposre planning to attend a crawfish boil during the upcoming season—usually in April and May in the South—then I&aposve prepared some tips to help you survive and even enjoy it.

1. Wear expandable pants. The average boil includes four to five pounds of crawfish per person. Of course, very little meat can be eaten from each mud bug. But between those tails and the potatoes and corn you&aposll devour, you&aposll be glad you left yourself some room to grow.

2. And wear dark clothing. It&aposs a lesson my husband learned the hard way during his first boil. He&aposd unbuttoned his shirt, exposing a white undershirt, then tore open a crawfish. He was rewarded for his efforts with guts and juices splattered across that once-pristine shirt.

3. Don&apost bring a plastic bib. People don&apost do that at boils And you will be ostracized.

4. If you&aposve got long hair, keep a ponytail holder handy. It&aposs one thing to have your lips and face covered in crawfish juices, but it&aposs quite another to have to wash it from your hair.

5. Remove your rings and watches before you dig in. If you&aposre doing this whole crawfish boil thing right, your hands will be covered in guts and juices will be running down your arms. It&aposs better to remove your finery now than clean it later.

6. Keep water handy. Southerners do not mess around with their spices. In any given boil, a cook has added pounds of Zatarain&aposs boil mix𠅊 potent blend of mustard seed, coriander seed, cayenne pepper, bay leaves, dill seed, and allspice—to their six-gallon boil pot. Water is not refreshed between boils, so every boil becomes even spicier. Your lips will burn. Your eyes will tear up. And you will be very glad you brought a gallon of water just for yourself.

7. Be prepared to hear Zydeco music. A blend of blues, jazz, and rhythm, Zydeco music is rarely heard outside of the South. (It originated in Louisiana.) It may sound like polka to the untrained ear, because it often features accordions. But it will surely get your toes tapping.

8. Choose your crawfish carefully. When you&aposre comfortable enough to reach for your first crawfish, choose the largest one you can find—it will have more meat—with a curved tail. If a cooked crawfish has a straight tail, that means it was dead before it hit the boil, and it will taste rotten. (Most cooks do try to weed out dead crawfish beforehand.)

9. Break the crawfish in its natural middle. When you look at a crawfish, you&aposll see it&aposs natural waistline, so to speak, and that&aposs where you want to tear it apart. Break into it elsewhere, and you&aposre much more likely to end up like my husband, covered in its juices.

10. Suck in the juices. If you&aposre brave, before you begin to peel a crawfish, you can put your lips to the opening on its bodies and drink in its juices. Some people even draw in juices from the crawfish&aposs head, but that&aposs a move for more serious crawfish connoisseurs.

11. Peel the tail. When you&aposre ready to get to the meat, start at the top of the tail and peel each shell off. (Sometimes more than one will come off at a time.) Once the meat is exposed, you can pinch it and—with any luck—pull it right out from the remaining shell pieces.

12. Check for the pooper tube (not a technical term). One gross reality of crawfish is that, like most other living creatures, they have to flush toxins from their systems, and they do so via a small, black-hued tube that runs the length of their tails. Most of the time, that tube comes off along with the shell. But to be safe, check for it before you put the meat into your mouth. If you spot it, you can simply grab one end of the tube and pull it off the meat of the tail. Wash your hands after.

13. Prepare to hear some funny noises. Table manners don’t exist at a crawfish boil. (Again, you&aposre all covered in sticky juices and guts and who knows what else.) But in addition to those unique sights, be prepared to hear a lot of slurping sounds.

14. Clean your hands with lemon. After a boil, sometimes simple water and soap won&apost do. But a fresh lemon, sliced in half and rubbed on your hands, can help remove debris. If you see crawfish pieces under your nails, use a nail brush to clean them. Boil spices are potent𠅊nd if you rub your eyes with hands covered in their residue, you will regret it.

15. Shower. You will have been surrounded by boil smells for the better part of a day, and you will smell like crawfish and spice. So before you go out again, do yourself𠅊nd all the other people out and about𠅊 big favor by showering (and changing your outfit) first.


What to Do&mdashand What Not to Do&mdashat Your First Crawfish Boil

Here's some advice on how to tackle your first-ever crawfish boil like a pro.

The crowd gathers around and grabs at the lifeless bodies littering the tabletop, tearing the creatures&apos heads𠅎yeballs staring blankly at their attackers𠅏rom their bodies. Entrails squirt out. Fingers are smeared with guts.

This isn&apost a scene pulled straight from a scary Steven King novel, but rather a regular ol&apos crawfish boil in the heart of Mobile, Ala. It&aposs my first, and watching people take a head to their lips, then tip it back and suck in the shellfish&aposs juices like a shot has me enthralled. I tiptoe into the event by picking up a potato. Soaked in spices that&aposve cooked for hours, the heat brings tears to my eyes, but still, it&aposs so flavorful, so good, I find myself reaching for another𠅊nd another, this time smashing a clove of soaked garlic on the hunk before taking a bite, as I watched my tableside neighbor do just moments ago. It&aposs glorious. I nibble on an ear of corn. I&aposve put it off long enough—now, only the crawfish, eyes and all, lay before me.

I beg a friend to peel one for me, and I study his technique closely. He hands me the meat—such a small prize for such a laborious extraction𠅊nd it&aposs delicious. Tender, not at all chewy, with just the right amount of spice. I ask for another. He hands me a whole one, and tells me to peel it myself. With a deep breath, I went to town. Soon, I was covered in the same juices and entrails and all manner of sticky shellfish parts as my neighbors.

Crawfish boils are a time-honored tradition throughout the South. People come together several times during the season to boil pounds of the buggers and eat &aposem alongside cooked potatoes, corn, garlic𠅊nd sometimes Andouille sausage or other vegetables. The spoils are dumped directly from the boiling pot onto long tables covered in plastic tablecloths and newspapers. Plates are not (or are rarely) used. Dozens of rolls of paper towels are placed around the table and serve as napkins. (They are all used.) People eat with their hands, not forks. And when the spoils are devoured, another pot is dumped, again and again and again.

Surviving a first crawfish boil can be scary𠅎specially for Northerners whose experience with shellfish has been limited to crab or lobster served on plates, or shrimp shed of all its outer shells, save for maybe a tail.

If you&aposre planning to attend a crawfish boil during the upcoming season—usually in April and May in the South—then I&aposve prepared some tips to help you survive and even enjoy it.

1. Wear expandable pants. The average boil includes four to five pounds of crawfish per person. Of course, very little meat can be eaten from each mud bug. But between those tails and the potatoes and corn you&aposll devour, you&aposll be glad you left yourself some room to grow.

2. And wear dark clothing. It&aposs a lesson my husband learned the hard way during his first boil. He&aposd unbuttoned his shirt, exposing a white undershirt, then tore open a crawfish. He was rewarded for his efforts with guts and juices splattered across that once-pristine shirt.

3. Don&apost bring a plastic bib. People don&apost do that at boils And you will be ostracized.

4. If you&aposve got long hair, keep a ponytail holder handy. It&aposs one thing to have your lips and face covered in crawfish juices, but it&aposs quite another to have to wash it from your hair.

5. Remove your rings and watches before you dig in. If you&aposre doing this whole crawfish boil thing right, your hands will be covered in guts and juices will be running down your arms. It&aposs better to remove your finery now than clean it later.

6. Keep water handy. Southerners do not mess around with their spices. In any given boil, a cook has added pounds of Zatarain&aposs boil mix𠅊 potent blend of mustard seed, coriander seed, cayenne pepper, bay leaves, dill seed, and allspice—to their six-gallon boil pot. Water is not refreshed between boils, so every boil becomes even spicier. Your lips will burn. Your eyes will tear up. And you will be very glad you brought a gallon of water just for yourself.

7. Be prepared to hear Zydeco music. A blend of blues, jazz, and rhythm, Zydeco music is rarely heard outside of the South. (It originated in Louisiana.) It may sound like polka to the untrained ear, because it often features accordions. But it will surely get your toes tapping.

8. Choose your crawfish carefully. When you&aposre comfortable enough to reach for your first crawfish, choose the largest one you can find—it will have more meat—with a curved tail. If a cooked crawfish has a straight tail, that means it was dead before it hit the boil, and it will taste rotten. (Most cooks do try to weed out dead crawfish beforehand.)

9. Break the crawfish in its natural middle. When you look at a crawfish, you&aposll see it&aposs natural waistline, so to speak, and that&aposs where you want to tear it apart. Break into it elsewhere, and you&aposre much more likely to end up like my husband, covered in its juices.

10. Suck in the juices. If you&aposre brave, before you begin to peel a crawfish, you can put your lips to the opening on its bodies and drink in its juices. Some people even draw in juices from the crawfish&aposs head, but that&aposs a move for more serious crawfish connoisseurs.

11. Peel the tail. When you&aposre ready to get to the meat, start at the top of the tail and peel each shell off. (Sometimes more than one will come off at a time.) Once the meat is exposed, you can pinch it and—with any luck—pull it right out from the remaining shell pieces.

12. Check for the pooper tube (not a technical term). One gross reality of crawfish is that, like most other living creatures, they have to flush toxins from their systems, and they do so via a small, black-hued tube that runs the length of their tails. Most of the time, that tube comes off along with the shell. But to be safe, check for it before you put the meat into your mouth. If you spot it, you can simply grab one end of the tube and pull it off the meat of the tail. Wash your hands after.

13. Prepare to hear some funny noises. Table manners don’t exist at a crawfish boil. (Again, you&aposre all covered in sticky juices and guts and who knows what else.) But in addition to those unique sights, be prepared to hear a lot of slurping sounds.

14. Clean your hands with lemon. After a boil, sometimes simple water and soap won&apost do. But a fresh lemon, sliced in half and rubbed on your hands, can help remove debris. If you see crawfish pieces under your nails, use a nail brush to clean them. Boil spices are potent𠅊nd if you rub your eyes with hands covered in their residue, you will regret it.

15. Shower. You will have been surrounded by boil smells for the better part of a day, and you will smell like crawfish and spice. So before you go out again, do yourself𠅊nd all the other people out and about𠅊 big favor by showering (and changing your outfit) first.


What to Do&mdashand What Not to Do&mdashat Your First Crawfish Boil

Here's some advice on how to tackle your first-ever crawfish boil like a pro.

The crowd gathers around and grabs at the lifeless bodies littering the tabletop, tearing the creatures&apos heads𠅎yeballs staring blankly at their attackers𠅏rom their bodies. Entrails squirt out. Fingers are smeared with guts.

This isn&apost a scene pulled straight from a scary Steven King novel, but rather a regular ol&apos crawfish boil in the heart of Mobile, Ala. It&aposs my first, and watching people take a head to their lips, then tip it back and suck in the shellfish&aposs juices like a shot has me enthralled. I tiptoe into the event by picking up a potato. Soaked in spices that&aposve cooked for hours, the heat brings tears to my eyes, but still, it&aposs so flavorful, so good, I find myself reaching for another𠅊nd another, this time smashing a clove of soaked garlic on the hunk before taking a bite, as I watched my tableside neighbor do just moments ago. It&aposs glorious. I nibble on an ear of corn. I&aposve put it off long enough—now, only the crawfish, eyes and all, lay before me.

I beg a friend to peel one for me, and I study his technique closely. He hands me the meat—such a small prize for such a laborious extraction𠅊nd it&aposs delicious. Tender, not at all chewy, with just the right amount of spice. I ask for another. He hands me a whole one, and tells me to peel it myself. With a deep breath, I went to town. Soon, I was covered in the same juices and entrails and all manner of sticky shellfish parts as my neighbors.

Crawfish boils are a time-honored tradition throughout the South. People come together several times during the season to boil pounds of the buggers and eat &aposem alongside cooked potatoes, corn, garlic𠅊nd sometimes Andouille sausage or other vegetables. The spoils are dumped directly from the boiling pot onto long tables covered in plastic tablecloths and newspapers. Plates are not (or are rarely) used. Dozens of rolls of paper towels are placed around the table and serve as napkins. (They are all used.) People eat with their hands, not forks. And when the spoils are devoured, another pot is dumped, again and again and again.

Surviving a first crawfish boil can be scary𠅎specially for Northerners whose experience with shellfish has been limited to crab or lobster served on plates, or shrimp shed of all its outer shells, save for maybe a tail.

If you&aposre planning to attend a crawfish boil during the upcoming season—usually in April and May in the South—then I&aposve prepared some tips to help you survive and even enjoy it.

1. Wear expandable pants. The average boil includes four to five pounds of crawfish per person. Of course, very little meat can be eaten from each mud bug. But between those tails and the potatoes and corn you&aposll devour, you&aposll be glad you left yourself some room to grow.

2. And wear dark clothing. It&aposs a lesson my husband learned the hard way during his first boil. He&aposd unbuttoned his shirt, exposing a white undershirt, then tore open a crawfish. He was rewarded for his efforts with guts and juices splattered across that once-pristine shirt.

3. Don&apost bring a plastic bib. People don&apost do that at boils And you will be ostracized.

4. If you&aposve got long hair, keep a ponytail holder handy. It&aposs one thing to have your lips and face covered in crawfish juices, but it&aposs quite another to have to wash it from your hair.

5. Remove your rings and watches before you dig in. If you&aposre doing this whole crawfish boil thing right, your hands will be covered in guts and juices will be running down your arms. It&aposs better to remove your finery now than clean it later.

6. Keep water handy. Southerners do not mess around with their spices. In any given boil, a cook has added pounds of Zatarain&aposs boil mix𠅊 potent blend of mustard seed, coriander seed, cayenne pepper, bay leaves, dill seed, and allspice—to their six-gallon boil pot. Water is not refreshed between boils, so every boil becomes even spicier. Your lips will burn. Your eyes will tear up. And you will be very glad you brought a gallon of water just for yourself.

7. Be prepared to hear Zydeco music. A blend of blues, jazz, and rhythm, Zydeco music is rarely heard outside of the South. (It originated in Louisiana.) It may sound like polka to the untrained ear, because it often features accordions. But it will surely get your toes tapping.

8. Choose your crawfish carefully. When you&aposre comfortable enough to reach for your first crawfish, choose the largest one you can find—it will have more meat—with a curved tail. If a cooked crawfish has a straight tail, that means it was dead before it hit the boil, and it will taste rotten. (Most cooks do try to weed out dead crawfish beforehand.)

9. Break the crawfish in its natural middle. When you look at a crawfish, you&aposll see it&aposs natural waistline, so to speak, and that&aposs where you want to tear it apart. Break into it elsewhere, and you&aposre much more likely to end up like my husband, covered in its juices.

10. Suck in the juices. If you&aposre brave, before you begin to peel a crawfish, you can put your lips to the opening on its bodies and drink in its juices. Some people even draw in juices from the crawfish&aposs head, but that&aposs a move for more serious crawfish connoisseurs.

11. Peel the tail. When you&aposre ready to get to the meat, start at the top of the tail and peel each shell off. (Sometimes more than one will come off at a time.) Once the meat is exposed, you can pinch it and—with any luck—pull it right out from the remaining shell pieces.

12. Check for the pooper tube (not a technical term). One gross reality of crawfish is that, like most other living creatures, they have to flush toxins from their systems, and they do so via a small, black-hued tube that runs the length of their tails. Most of the time, that tube comes off along with the shell. But to be safe, check for it before you put the meat into your mouth. If you spot it, you can simply grab one end of the tube and pull it off the meat of the tail. Wash your hands after.

13. Prepare to hear some funny noises. Table manners don’t exist at a crawfish boil. (Again, you&aposre all covered in sticky juices and guts and who knows what else.) But in addition to those unique sights, be prepared to hear a lot of slurping sounds.

14. Clean your hands with lemon. After a boil, sometimes simple water and soap won&apost do. But a fresh lemon, sliced in half and rubbed on your hands, can help remove debris. If you see crawfish pieces under your nails, use a nail brush to clean them. Boil spices are potent𠅊nd if you rub your eyes with hands covered in their residue, you will regret it.

15. Shower. You will have been surrounded by boil smells for the better part of a day, and you will smell like crawfish and spice. So before you go out again, do yourself𠅊nd all the other people out and about𠅊 big favor by showering (and changing your outfit) first.


What to Do&mdashand What Not to Do&mdashat Your First Crawfish Boil

Here's some advice on how to tackle your first-ever crawfish boil like a pro.

The crowd gathers around and grabs at the lifeless bodies littering the tabletop, tearing the creatures&apos heads𠅎yeballs staring blankly at their attackers𠅏rom their bodies. Entrails squirt out. Fingers are smeared with guts.

This isn&apost a scene pulled straight from a scary Steven King novel, but rather a regular ol&apos crawfish boil in the heart of Mobile, Ala. It&aposs my first, and watching people take a head to their lips, then tip it back and suck in the shellfish&aposs juices like a shot has me enthralled. I tiptoe into the event by picking up a potato. Soaked in spices that&aposve cooked for hours, the heat brings tears to my eyes, but still, it&aposs so flavorful, so good, I find myself reaching for another𠅊nd another, this time smashing a clove of soaked garlic on the hunk before taking a bite, as I watched my tableside neighbor do just moments ago. It&aposs glorious. I nibble on an ear of corn. I&aposve put it off long enough—now, only the crawfish, eyes and all, lay before me.

I beg a friend to peel one for me, and I study his technique closely. He hands me the meat—such a small prize for such a laborious extraction𠅊nd it&aposs delicious. Tender, not at all chewy, with just the right amount of spice. I ask for another. He hands me a whole one, and tells me to peel it myself. With a deep breath, I went to town. Soon, I was covered in the same juices and entrails and all manner of sticky shellfish parts as my neighbors.

Crawfish boils are a time-honored tradition throughout the South. People come together several times during the season to boil pounds of the buggers and eat &aposem alongside cooked potatoes, corn, garlic𠅊nd sometimes Andouille sausage or other vegetables. The spoils are dumped directly from the boiling pot onto long tables covered in plastic tablecloths and newspapers. Plates are not (or are rarely) used. Dozens of rolls of paper towels are placed around the table and serve as napkins. (They are all used.) People eat with their hands, not forks. And when the spoils are devoured, another pot is dumped, again and again and again.

Surviving a first crawfish boil can be scary𠅎specially for Northerners whose experience with shellfish has been limited to crab or lobster served on plates, or shrimp shed of all its outer shells, save for maybe a tail.

If you&aposre planning to attend a crawfish boil during the upcoming season—usually in April and May in the South—then I&aposve prepared some tips to help you survive and even enjoy it.

1. Wear expandable pants. The average boil includes four to five pounds of crawfish per person. Of course, very little meat can be eaten from each mud bug. But between those tails and the potatoes and corn you&aposll devour, you&aposll be glad you left yourself some room to grow.

2. And wear dark clothing. It&aposs a lesson my husband learned the hard way during his first boil. He&aposd unbuttoned his shirt, exposing a white undershirt, then tore open a crawfish. He was rewarded for his efforts with guts and juices splattered across that once-pristine shirt.

3. Don&apost bring a plastic bib. People don&apost do that at boils And you will be ostracized.

4. If you&aposve got long hair, keep a ponytail holder handy. It&aposs one thing to have your lips and face covered in crawfish juices, but it&aposs quite another to have to wash it from your hair.

5. Remove your rings and watches before you dig in. If you&aposre doing this whole crawfish boil thing right, your hands will be covered in guts and juices will be running down your arms. It&aposs better to remove your finery now than clean it later.

6. Keep water handy. Southerners do not mess around with their spices. In any given boil, a cook has added pounds of Zatarain&aposs boil mix𠅊 potent blend of mustard seed, coriander seed, cayenne pepper, bay leaves, dill seed, and allspice—to their six-gallon boil pot. Water is not refreshed between boils, so every boil becomes even spicier. Your lips will burn. Your eyes will tear up. And you will be very glad you brought a gallon of water just for yourself.

7. Be prepared to hear Zydeco music. A blend of blues, jazz, and rhythm, Zydeco music is rarely heard outside of the South. (It originated in Louisiana.) It may sound like polka to the untrained ear, because it often features accordions. But it will surely get your toes tapping.

8. Choose your crawfish carefully. When you&aposre comfortable enough to reach for your first crawfish, choose the largest one you can find—it will have more meat—with a curved tail. If a cooked crawfish has a straight tail, that means it was dead before it hit the boil, and it will taste rotten. (Most cooks do try to weed out dead crawfish beforehand.)

9. Break the crawfish in its natural middle. When you look at a crawfish, you&aposll see it&aposs natural waistline, so to speak, and that&aposs where you want to tear it apart. Break into it elsewhere, and you&aposre much more likely to end up like my husband, covered in its juices.

10. Suck in the juices. If you&aposre brave, before you begin to peel a crawfish, you can put your lips to the opening on its bodies and drink in its juices. Some people even draw in juices from the crawfish&aposs head, but that&aposs a move for more serious crawfish connoisseurs.

11. Peel the tail. When you&aposre ready to get to the meat, start at the top of the tail and peel each shell off. (Sometimes more than one will come off at a time.) Once the meat is exposed, you can pinch it and—with any luck—pull it right out from the remaining shell pieces.

12. Check for the pooper tube (not a technical term). One gross reality of crawfish is that, like most other living creatures, they have to flush toxins from their systems, and they do so via a small, black-hued tube that runs the length of their tails. Most of the time, that tube comes off along with the shell. But to be safe, check for it before you put the meat into your mouth. If you spot it, you can simply grab one end of the tube and pull it off the meat of the tail. Wash your hands after.

13. Prepare to hear some funny noises. Table manners don’t exist at a crawfish boil. (Again, you&aposre all covered in sticky juices and guts and who knows what else.) But in addition to those unique sights, be prepared to hear a lot of slurping sounds.

14. Clean your hands with lemon. After a boil, sometimes simple water and soap won&apost do. But a fresh lemon, sliced in half and rubbed on your hands, can help remove debris. If you see crawfish pieces under your nails, use a nail brush to clean them. Boil spices are potent𠅊nd if you rub your eyes with hands covered in their residue, you will regret it.

15. Shower. You will have been surrounded by boil smells for the better part of a day, and you will smell like crawfish and spice. So before you go out again, do yourself𠅊nd all the other people out and about𠅊 big favor by showering (and changing your outfit) first.