05/15/1989 at 01:00 AM EDT
Down on the bayou, the season has arrived once again. What season? you may ask. Crawfish season, of course. Between now and June, at virtually every self-respecting New Orleans eatery, King Crawdaddy will reign. Some restaurants even have sidewalk stands featuring boiling pots of mudbugs, as the unsightly little crustaceans are affectionately known.
These days, however, more than the crawfish are steaming. Louisianans are outraged at recent remarks by next-door neighbor Jim High tower, the outspoken agriculture commissioner of Texas. According to Hightower, Texas is entering the mudbug business in—how else?—a giant way. And, says Hightower, the Lone Star specimens are superior critters to "those smelly, mud-coated, itty-bitty, slow-witted crawfish from Louisiana."
Such words stick right in the Cajun craw. For generations, folks in Louisiana have savored crawdads prepared every imaginable way, although the favorite is straight out of the shell Last year state waters yielded 30 million pounds of crawfish au naturel, and farmers produced an additional 70 million pounds.
Apparently it was the notion of farming that piqued the interest of Texans. The 10 million pounds of crawfish produced there last year were all raised in high-tech ponds. But unlike their Louisiana cousins, the Texas crawdads go unfed for up to 48 hours before they go to market, the better to cleanse them of impurities. "Therein lies the superiority of the Texas crawfish," boasts Hightower. "Ours are smart enough to bathe themselves."
Louisianans are not impressed. They see the cleaned-up Texas crawfish as just a marketing gimmick. And they believe Hightower has gall. "It's just typical of the Texas view of the world," says Jason Clevenger, sous-chef at New Orleans's Upperline Restaurant. "They've got Texas wines and even Texas truffles, whatever those might be. But whoever heard of crawfish chili or mesquite crawfish?"