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Where Y’Eat: Shifting Season, Shifting Cravings in Seafood-Loving Louisiana

Boiled seafood is a tradition in Louisiana with many of its own rituals.
Ian McNulty
Boiled seafood is a tradition in Louisiana with many of its own rituals.

Here’s one thing about the seasons in New Orleans: they don’t heed the weather.

Not in a town where you might hang Christmas lights wearing shorts and a light sweat, or where the most famous winter holiday, Mardi Gras, is celebrated primarily outdoors no matter if the sun is shining or the rain is freezing.

Now I ask you, how’s a guy supposed to get some good satisfying seasonal food cravings going when one day your think it’s time to hunker down with a nice bowl of soup, and the next a snowball sounds better.

But here we are at the start of Lent, and that’s a bit different when it comes to the New Orleans appetite and its intersection with the seasons.

Whether or not you got your ashes on Wednesday, Lent in Louisiana means seafood. There is a religious connotation, but also a regional ritual worked into it
- in the ways we get together, what we talk about, what we obsess over.

Seafood in Louisiana is the food of plenty. It is the flavor of community. It takes different shapes. It might be the Friday seafood platter so big there’s enough for everyone around the table to share.

It’s Gulf oysters, still in their best season, a luxury elsewhere, an accessible everyman indulgence here. I love a good oyster bar, but there’s also the DIY option. Get a sack of oysters, a supple knife, an ice chest and some people who love oysters and you have happiness on the half shell, wherever you open them.  
Lent means the true start of crawfish season, and I don't need to tell you how that brings people together over the cheap thrill of spicy abundance.

And Lent does bring people to church... to eat, whether they’re religious or not. The fish fries now getting underway is a draw that knows no denomination.

It's not officially spring. Not quite yet. But Carnival is over, Lent is here, and the Louisiana seasons promise much great food to come. I don't care what the weather is like, that kind of forecast sounds good to me.

Ian covers food culture and dining in New Orleans through his weekly commentary series Where Y’Eat.

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