One of the things we loved about living in Dallas was experiencing the Cajun influence. One day, our Pastor invited us over to his house for a Crawfish Boil–something this Hoosier had never heard of.

Apparently, it’s a backyard affair that includes a gigantic stock pot set atop a big propane burner. With a gleam in his eye, Pastor Grant showed me these huge sacks of live crawfish–all jammed together and crawly. Trying not to feel the creeps, I helped him put the bags into coolers wondering, “What in the world is this?” We hosed, them, salted them, and got them ready to go into the boiling water together with lemons, half cobs of corn, red potatoes, and the Zatarains Crab Boil.

Potatoes cooked, it was time for the crawfish. In they went . He stirred the pot with a big paddle, and pulled it off the heat when the shells were bright red.

We dumped the pot down the middle of a picnic table–crawfish, corn, and taters forming an eye-popping communal pile. Everyone gathered around, had a seat, started shelling, chatting, and making a grand mess. There were rolls of paper towels conveniently on the table for when your face or hands needed a brief break from the spicy red smear. Of course, the veterans loved to initiate the new folks as much as we enjoyed the initiation. If your fingers don’t hurt by the end of the night–if your sides don’t ache from laughter, if your lips don’t sting from the spices–your boil could be better.

You can visit a church for a lot of years before you really feel like a part of the family. That backyard boil made it happen in one evening.