Boudin Balls and Boudin Egg Rolls: An Apologia
Blasphemy, sacrilege, treason, disgrace. These are terms that my family uses to label anything edible containing boudin but not in pure boudin form. You see, my uncle, founder of a benevolent organization called BOUDIN FOR PEACE, is a purist. BOUDIN FOR PEACE takes place every year on the Saturday before the week of Mardi Gras. The event starts early and my oath of secrecy permits that I can only divulge that we ride in buses to about 6 different boudin spots all around Acadiana. The boudin is critiqued and a winner is chosen. We don’t wear masks, but the bacchanalian spirit is represented well. It is the most fun day of the year for those involved.
My uncle is a man of great vision who founded this event with a few other legends of the link in an effort to preserve and glorify the rural purveyors of this uniquely Cajun creation. It was started in simpler days when a pork/liver/rice/green onion concoction stuffed in a natural hog casing was sacrosanct and any deviation was looked at with hostile disdain and ridicule. I was raised in that tradition and for that I am proud.
The popularity of boudin is secure. Billy’s, The Best Stop, and Don’s all sell over a ton of boudin per day. I am currently the reigning “Mr Boudin” . This is a rare honor earned from impeccable critique and unflinching loyalty the link. My plaque is displayed more proudly in my home than any diploma I have earned.
In simpler times, I felt secure as a boudin purist and elitist. I could internally judge those who got fired up about Boudin King Cake. “They’re probably from Alexandria or Shreveport” I would tell myself. Locals who imbibed in boudin balls were traitors and scalawags. Defenders of boudin nonsense were not to be taken seriously.
Times are a changin’. Basically every winning boudin spot now offers boudin balls, boudin egg rolls, pepper jack boudin balls, smoked boudin, and even boudin King Cake. If you were raised with a loving and solid foundation of hate and disgust for anything other than a proper link of boudin, you should have no problem resisting these abominations and staying true to the link, Right? Well, unlike boudin, but like many other things, it is complicated.
Allow me to share with you how I can rationalize selling boudin balls and boudin egg rolls. I can still sleep soundly at night because I know that the only sin worse than boudin sacrilege is wasting good boudin. I love boudin. I now own a restaurant that allows me to make the boudin of my dreams. Stuffing the freshly made boudin into the natural casings is a thrill that few ever experience. After cutting up my pork, carefully seasoning it, browning it, mixing with rice, and then stuffing into casings, I can proudly sell it to my customers. Like many men who have changed from Pro-choice to Pro-life after becoming fathers, there is no way I can stomach throwing away unsold boudin just because it could not find a loving home in a day’s time. I now give a second chance to my unchosen links by wrapping them in egg roll sheets or battering and frying. I think of it like a jobs program for newly released prisoners. I do feel guilt that the tricked out, rehabbed boudin often grabs more attention that the true parent link.
If we really appreciate Cajun food, we must realize that the innovations leading to what we now recognize as Cajun food was molded from creativity and resilience. Our smoked meats like tasso and andouille were made in effort to preserve. Smoke and salt were the most reliable preservation methods available in earlier times. I am thankful to whoever was brave enough to try something new rather than let fresh pork go to waste. Maybe necessity makes hypocrites of us all, but I am thankful that I can still ridicule cauliflower boudin!