So my girlfriend and I went to Lafayette, Louisiana for Christmas. My parents moved down there ten years ago when My Old Man took a job with a jewlery company that's headquartered in Cajun country. The intervening decade has included a lot of tentative explorations of that part of America.
Our new favorite activity, mine and my father's, is to visit Barney's Pistol range. We are quasi-eggheads from Massachusetts. We both like guns, mostly from afar. Even pre Brady bill, you had to pass rigorous background checks and whatnot to own a pistol in the Bay State, so neither one of us had any real experience with them. We'd both shot plenty of shotguns and rifles, but pistols are a whole different animal. Barney's is great because it's like a bowling alley, without the bottled beer. You can rent any ole gun you want, from a Dirty Harry Magnum to the newest Glock or a fully automatic submachine gun. (Of this weapon, one of the staff members said, "It's like bungee jumping or parachuting. You have to do it at least once in your life.") This permits guys like us to enjoy a variety guns without the hassle and responsibility of owning them.
Anyway, my Dad, my girlfriend and I drove over to Barney's and shot a .40 caliber Beretta and a nine millimeter SigSauer, and that was fun. Initially intimidated all to hell, Katie came to enjoy the Bond-girl power of blasting away at a paper target with the Beretta.
My other favorite activity in Louisian is driving around pointlessly. I took Katie on one of these rides, and as we drove we started noticing signs for something called "cracklin." Usually these advertisements accompanied billing for boudin (pronounced "boo-dan".) I know what boudin is. It's nasty sausage. I had no idea what cracklin was. I asked my parents about it. They explained that it was something like pork rinds. Duly noted, we planned to try some before we left.
So on our last day there, we went for a short pointless drive. We intended to get some daiquiris from a drive-thru, another Lousiana custom of dubious wisdom. Click on the photo for a closer look at a typical drive-thru daiquiri menu. My favorite is the Blue Diesel.
We got in the car and wandered around for a while. After a bit of searching, we found a grocery store/meat market with a sign for cracklin. We pulled into the lot.
I have learned that when I go into a new situation in Louisiana, if I immediately introduce myself as a visitor who is interested in a local custom, people are tremendously friendly. There's a strong hospitality trait among cajuns. It's one of the nicests things about the place and the people. So when we entered the store, I walked up to the woman at the counter and I said, "Hi, we're down here visiting, and I'm seeing all these signs for cracklin around town, and I've never tried cracklin. I don't even know how to begin to order it."
The woman looked up from her Us Weekly and said, "well, okay. We got three different sizes. It comes prepackaged." She led us over to a butcher counter. On top of the counter stood three hotel pans. In each hotel pan was a heap of zip-lock bags containing brown rinds. They looked as though they'd been on display for a day or two.
I said, "Do people usually order it hot?"
The woman looked up at me. She said, "Well you can get it hot. But if you do eat it hot, you better be ready for diarrhea."
Katie and I blinked and stared.
"It's real good hot," she went on. "But there's something about it, when you eat it hot, your body tells you it ain't right."
Nevertheless, we bought a four dollar bag.