A Succulent History of the Cajun Crustacean
by Sam Irwin is at the HistoryPress.net print shop and being prepped for a February 2014 release.
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Excerpted from Louisiana Crawfish -
What claim did Breaux Bridge have to the kingdom of crawfish? There was ample precedent.
Newspaper articles from the 1920s and 30s cite St. Martin Parish and Breaux Bridge specifically as a crawfish center. The May 12, 1928 State-Times reported that the coaches and officials from Centenary, Louisiana College, Louisiana Normal, Louisiana Tech, Mississippi College, Ogelthorpe and Presbyterian attending the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association track meet at Lafayette’s Southwestern Louisiana Institute were “guests at a crayfish supper last night at the Hebert Hotel in Breaux Bridge.”
Morning Advocate food reporter Nita Sims Breazeale advised her May 14, 1935 readers that there were many “unique places to eat…up the rivers and down the bayous of Louisiana.” She mentioned Breaux Bridge’s Hebert's Hotel “for the feast-of-the-crayfish — a dinner of crayfish cocktail-crayfish salad-crayfish pie-crayfish-stew-crayfish patties-crayfish soup gumbo-and- bisque l'ecrivisse (sic). Guittreaux's, there, has very good food too.”
The Beaumont Enterprise noted that Herbert Hoover had dined on crawfish at the Hebert Hotel and day trips via rail to feast on crawfish were not uncommon.
Breaux Bridge was also singled out for its crawfish cuisine when Hollywood actress Dolores Del Rio starred in Evangline, a 1929 movie about the deportation and subsequent resettlement of Canada’s French Acadians (Louisiana’s future Cajuns) in south Louisiana. Del Rio donated a bronze statue of Evangeline, the fictional character made famous by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s epic poem, to St. Martinville in 1932. The unveiling, Louisiana’s version of a Hollywood movie premier, was organized by the popular Louisiana politician and creator of the famous Hadacol tonic, Dudley “Coozan Dud” J. Leblanc.
Thousands attended the ceremony as Leblanc led a group of visiting French Canadian dignitaries on a tour of the Bayou Teche valley which included a parade through downtown Breaux Bridge. The visit to the future crawfish capital of the world was highlighted by “a crawfish bisque supper, a famed Creole dish in south Louisiana (that) was served to nearly 500 persons, under the "paradise oaks" located on the west banks of the Teche.”
Breaux Bridge, now nicknamed the “Gabriel City,” after Evangeline’s much suffering beau, had firmly established a reputation as a crawfish city. A librarian’s convention in New Orleans made its way to bayou country and “the historic Evangeline oak was visited…and a real Creole dinner — the 12 o'clock kind — was served at Breaux Bridge. It was there that many of the visiting librarians got their first taste of that well-known Louisiana dish, crayfish bisque.”
New Orleans Mayor deLesseps “Chep” Morrison referred to Breaux Bridge as the “Crawfish Capital” in a 1955 economic development speech which he delivered in French to Breaux Bridge residents. Morrison was said to be the “kind of mayor who looks right taking Zsa Zsa Gabor to tea.” A man that debonair obviously knows something about cuisine.
From the chapter The Crawfish Capital of the World from Sam Irwin's upcoming History Press book LOUISIANA CRAWFISH.
About the photos:
Top: A crawfish never leaves its post and will try to stop a train with its claws.
A collar pin from Breaux Bridge, the Crawfish Capital of the World.
Pete Drago of Covington, La. is a frequent visitor Breaux Bridge's Crawfish Festival.
Crawfish peelers from the early 1960s boiled and peeled crawfish for south Louisiana's restaurant trade.