Tuesday, May 08, 2007

A Small Town in Louisiana and Some Boudin

The Pig Stand was a white cinder block building with hand-written signs telling you what they offered and a couple of windows to order the food. The people on the sidewalk were mostly thin guys with crepey skin and women with pale skin and loose upper arms from eating too much deep-fried food. Everybody was drinking Dixie beer and eating off paper plates and laughing a lot. Guess if you had to stand around eating barbecued ribs in this kind of heat you had to have a sense of humor.

An enormously wide black woman with brilliant white teeth looked out of the order window at me and said, "Take ya awdah, please?"

I said, "Do you have boudin?" I had wanted to try boudin for years.

She grinned. "Honey, we gots the best boudin in Evangeline Parish."

"That's not what they say in Mamou."

She laughed. "Those fools in Mamou don' know nuthin' 'boud no boudin! Honey, you try some'a this, you won't be goin' back to no Mamou! This magic boudin! It be good for what ails you!"

"Okay. How about a couple of links of boudin, a beef rib with a little extra sauce, some dirty rice, and a Dixie."

She nodded, pleased. "That'll fix you up jes' fine."

"What makes you think I need fixing?"

She leaned toward me and touched a couple of fingers beneath her eye. "Dottie got the magic eye. Dottie know." Her eyes were smiling when she shouted the order into the kitchen, and I smiled with her. It wasn't just the food around here that gave comfort.

Passing cars would beep their horns and diners would wave at the cars and the people in the cars would wave back, sort of like everybody knew everybody else. ...

A couple of minutes later, Dottie called me back to the window and handed out my order on a coarse paper plate with enough napkins to insulate a house. I carried the food to the street, sat the Dixie on the curb, then went to work on the food. The boudin were plump and juicy, and when you bit into them they were filled with rice and pork and cayenne and onions and celery. Even in the heat, steam came from the sausage and it burned the inside of my mouth. The dirty rice was heavy and glutinous and rich with chicken livers. The rib was tender and the sauce chunky with onion and garlic. The tastes were strong and salty and wonderful, and pretty soon I was feeling eager to dive back into the case. Even if it meant being called Jeffrey.

The black woman looked out of her little window and asked, "Whatchu say 'bout dat boudin now?"

I said, "Tell me the truth, Dottie. This isn't really Ville Platte, is it? We're all dead and this is Heaven."

She grinned wider and nodded, satisfied. "Dottie say it'll fix you up. Dottie know." She touched her cheek beneath her left eye and then she laughed and turned away.

Voodoo River by Robert Crais

No comments: