Boudin sausage at Bergeron’s, exit 151
“Four?” I said.
“Cause the parking lot’s not big enough for eighteen wheelers.”
“Oh,” I said.
The woman told us to keep going another mile or so, and we’d see it on the right.
When we got there, we knew we’d found the right spot.
From the outside, Bergeron’s looks like a little wooden shack with two doors and a small porch in the front, and as soon as we opened the car doors, we could smell that something great was happening inside. The front is more like its ghost town façade. There are three more houses tacked on behind it—which, after walking inside, offer plenty of room to smoke, stuff, grind, stuff, bbq, stuff, and stuff, as many meats as you can think of: smoked rabbit stuffed with andouille; turduckins (turkey stuffed with duck stuffed with chicken), with your choice of crawfish, shrimp, corn, or boudin dressing; smoked chicken breasts, stuffed with jalapeno cream cheese, and wrapped in bacon; quail stuffed with boudin…etc. But boudin was what we’d come for.
There are very few cultures that don’t contain at least one or two recipes for offal. And though we sometimes idealize so-called “primitive cultures” for a use-it-all kind of philosophy, in polite society, the sausage, one of many recipes created to use up the extras, exists a priori—a form without an origin. It simply exists. The pinnacle is the Vienna sausage. Where does this tiny pink wiener come from? From a tiny blue can, which you buy at the supermarket. In The Great Outdoors, Dan Aykroyd says that hotdogs are “lips and assholes,” and that’s pretty much what boudin is—various cuts of pork, roughly chopped, heavily spiced, cooked, mixed with rice, and stuffed into a pork casing. It isn’t a typical sausage though, as the filling is often scraped out and the casing tossed away. It can be boiled, baked, steamed, fried, bbq’d, smoked or simply stuffed into something else. However you want it.
We ordered fried boudin balls—as there were some other things we wanted to try too: crawfish and meat pies, crab and crawfish pistolettes, cracklins, boudin rolls, tasso and andouille sausage. All the Cajun specialties. The boudin balls were breaded in cornmeal, and they reminded me more of deep fried, chunky, dirty rice, than sausage. They had the unmistakable taste of the Cajun holy trinity—celery, onion and green peppers—but they were less spicy than I would have thought. I cut mine in half and doused them in Louisana brand hot sauce, while Emily ate hers straight. They were good.
The pistolettes—which are crab or shrimp, mixed with cheese (Velveeta a lot of the time), stuffed into a brown-and-bake roll and deep-fried—were also good. But Bergeron’s pistolettes were more like crab-stuffed puff-pastry. There were lots of good chunks of crab, and you could tell that it was fresh—not from a can; and the outside was flaky and sweet. I doused these with hot sauce too.
But the real treat was the crawfish pies. They’d run out when we got there, so when they brought them to us, the pies were deep-fried hot and fresh. The outside was a great, crisp, flaky pie pastry; and the inside was filled with whole crawfish tails, peas, and, of course, the trinity. The mix was bound up in a nice béchamel sauce. All of which, again, I doused in hot sauce. These, were amazing.
We left Bergeron’s stuffed and content; and carrying two pounds of turkey tasso and the same in andouille—dreaming of jambalaya. To be honest, the boudin was pretty good, but next time I’d get the pistolettes and the crawfish pie—and maybe take home a smoked, stuffed rabbit with corn dressing. I don’t think it’s that boudin is the acquired taste people have made it out to be. Unless you look up the specific ingredients. In fact, it’s pretty mild. It may be that, like all Cajun food, it’s damned good—but there are some things that are so remarkable, everything else can seem just so-so. This is food that can get recommendations like, “The Shell Station at the traffic light in Livonia has the best crawfish stuffed pistolettes…it is on the right side of HWY 190—‘Louisiana's Highway of Death’—as you head west”—which might completely disarm you for how good it’s going to be. Because when you bite into that homemade tasso, it just makes it feel that much more fun, and you feel that much more lucky, that you’re eating it at some out of the way little unassuming shack.
You’ll find no recipes for boudin sausages in traditional garde manger. And certainly, most of the people preparing boudin are not celebrated chefs. Boudin is sold next to hog’s maws, cracklins and pickled pig’s feet. It steps aside to Bratwurst. It gets no special recognition, like menudo or barbacoa do. And, as far as I can tell, it’s only sold between Beaumont, Texas and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Is it worth it? For sixty-five cents, go buy a boudin ball and find out.