Some 10 years ago now, when the missus and I were footloose and fancy-free, we packed up our car and took a three-week road trip to what Northerners like to call the “Deep South.” It was a mysterious place to us, and we feared it a little. Until that point in our lives, neither one of us had ever been south of the Ohio river save for the odd family trip to Florida or Texas. Everything in between was strange, untrodden, kudzu-draped territory. That first day, we passed through Kentucky alright, but I remember my moment of anxiety as we crossed the state line into Tennessee. Part of me expected rebel cavalry to descend from the hills and minié balls to start pocking the windshield. That’s how a silly Yankee thinks.
I soon realized how utterly wrong the northern stereotypes of the southern US were, and how welcoming, fun-loving and sophisticated people in the South really are. By the time we got down to Mobile we’d shed all our worries and were yucking it up in high style over elegant seafood dinners. From there we ate our way along the coast to New Orleans, slurping up all the gumbos, étouffées and jambalayas we came across. As we pressed on into Louisiana, we discovered crawfish pies and soft shell crab sandwiches so fresh you feared to put them down for fear they’d stage a getaway. Everywhere we went we cooed about the food to any local who’d listen. And every time we did, we’d get the same question: Have you tried boo-DAN yet?
Boo-DAN? What on earth could boo-DAN be? We puzzled over the question for days, but were too embarrassed to ask, since we had no concept at all of what it was. For all we knew it could have been a stew, a bread, a dessert or a Cajun sexual practice. Boo-DAN? It wasn’t until I finally saw the word in print on a drive-through restaurant menu board that it made any sense at all to me. Boudin. Pudding.
It turned out that Louisiana boudin was a pudding of the classical type, a Cajun pork sausage made with liver and rice. And it was great. It had no blood in it (which was a great disappointment to the missus, who’s loved black puddings she first tasted them in Spain) which technically made that particular Cajun boudin a “white” pudding (boudin blanc). Though I never saw them, I’m told that Cajun cuisine does include a black pudding (boudin noir) and even a red pudding (boudin rouge) that doesn’t have quite as much blood as a black pudding (perhaps a nice mid-point for squeamish carnivores working their way up to the real thing).
For all those wondering why they should care what color Cajun sausages are, I should point out that it was the development of white pudding that ultimately led to that bowl of tapioca custard we’re all so worried about. More on exactly how that happened soon.