Crawfish are not as strange as they seem

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 30, 2006

Each year during the spring months, a southern phenomenon takes place. People all over Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana gather as many crawfish and friends as they can and hold crawfish boils. In Faunsdale, we are fortunate to have one of the larger events of this kind in the southeast.

But, when crawfish is on the menu, there is one thing that always amazes me. Someone who has never enjoyed the goodness of a freshly fried or boiled crawdad always mouths off about how they would never eat such a disgusting critter.

The most popular argument is “I would never eat a bug. Crawfish are nothing but bugs that live in the mud.”

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People who refuse to eat crawfish do not know what they are missing. Once you take that first bite, the odds are very good that you will be back for more. With the Crawfish Festival only weeks away, I feel it is my duty to make all doubters feel better about eating this southern favorite. To do so, I’ve collected a list of five odd delicacies from around the world that most people in America would never even dream of putting on their plate. By the time you see some of these dishes, eating crawfish will be no different than grabbing a bucket of chicken.

First on the list, is the Japanese dish Tempeh. This meal is made from fermented, moldy soybeans. To put it bluntly, they eat rotten tofu.

When served, the meal looks like a flat square cake of beans stuck together with a white glue. Some even have tiny gray mold growths.

I’ve sometimes been accused of being a picky eater, but I would feel justified for turning down rotten beans.

For our next meal, it might be a good idea for the squeamish to stop reading now. If you are eating lunch, put the paper down and continue this article long after your meal is complete.

In the Ukraine, it is common to see families enjoying a dish known as Salo. Salo is basically pig fat stored in vats and eaten cold. It can be served raw, smoked, fried, or boiled, but I am pretty sure there is no way to make it taste good.

There is even a chocolate-covered salo known as “Ukrainian Snickers.” Thanks, but no thanks.

In America, rats are pests. They are considered disgusting, vile little creatures who only exist to spread filth and cause problems.

But, in Northern Thailand, they are a favorite meal. Rats are usually cooked whole over an open fire, and then served in a bowl of extremely hot chili with a bowl of rice. People claim the meat tastes a lot like rabbit, but hopefully, I will never find out.

In Indonesia, there is a dish similar, but with a smaller variety of rodent. Small brown mice, about three to five inches long, are sold at markets smoked or in the form of jerky. As much as I love jerky, tasting this treat will never happen.

And then, there is Haggis. Haggis, which is a Scottish dish, is sheep’s stomach stuffed with oatmeal and steamed. The meal is officially described as a highly spiced sausage made from offal meats with oatmeal filler, traditionally in a casing made from a sheep’s stomach. Haggis is usually served with mashed turnips and potatoes.

All of these meals have one thing in common. I would not touch them with a 10-foot pole.

When you consider some of the dishes out there, crawfish (which are not bugs!) don’t look so bad anymore.

So this April, when someone offers you a plate of spicy boilers, take a bite instead of turning up your nose. I think you will be glad you did.

-Rick Couch is news editor for The Demopolis Times. He can be reached by calling (334) 289-4017 or e-mailing