Something pretty cool happened yesterday. It took two hours out of my workday, time that could’ve been spent editing your favorite food website, but instead involved 30 pounds of crawfish.
Julie is a colleague at The Onion, which shares an office and parent company with The Takeout. Julie is from Louisiana, and is the type of adventurous eater who will eat boiled frogs whole. Julie’s dope.
We were at some work function last week when she casually suggested we order crawfish for the office. No special reason, other than the fact that eating crawfish in the company kitchen with workmates sounded like fun. Julie called her guy in the Bayou, a man with a very Cajun last name she’s ordered from since 2003. Thirty pounds of boiled crawfish were heading our way.
Yesterday, a big ol’ box showed up at our office. We opened it up. The first thing I noticed was these supposedly boiled, ready-to-eat crawfish were moving. Through some error during processing, the crawfish that arrived at Onion offices were alive. What the hell do you do with 30 pounds of live crawfish and the only cooking implement in the company kitchen was a microwave and a coffeemaker?
Desperate, and with time ticking on a very perishable crustacean, I reached out to social media:
Within minutes I received a DM from Brian Fisher, chef of the Michelin-starred restaurant Entente. He happened to work two blocks from our office, and said we were welcomed to stop by. The day before in Chicago was a glorious 75-degree day, the nicest day of 2019 to date. We wheeled our dolly with live crawfish through a miserable downpour.
We arrived at Entente’s basement prep kitchen. We were about to head out to the grocer to pick up some Zatarain’s seasoning, when Fisher suggested we use what was in his kitchen. Then, of his own volition, he began picking lemons, onions, garlic, crab boil mix from his pantry and started cooking—like a chef would. Julie and I stood back and watched a maestro conduct.
Because the stock pot wouldn’t contain all the crawfish, Fisher devised a solution: Pour the boiling liquid into the crawfish container, cover with a lid, and allow to steep for 10 minutes:
It worked! The tails weren’t overcooked, and the flavors seeped through. And to think an hour prior, we had hundreds of crawling mudbugs and not a clue what to do, and through the power of social media—there’s some good to Twitter, after all!—we improvised a crawfish boil.
We left the Entente team five pounds of crawfish, 24 bottles of assorted good-ass beer, and a few dozen doughnuts from our favorite purveyor as our thanks. By now, the rainstorm had ceased, and we wheeled our crawfish back to The Onion offices (along with a few packs of Abita beer for us).
We laid garbage bags and newspaper on the communal table in our kitchen, and sent a Slack message to anyone who was interested. Soon, dozens of curious colleagues came by. Julie and another colleague Kelsey, who was also raised in Louisiana, gave everyone a tutorial on how to peel crawfish.
There’s no moral to the story, no grand epiphany, no poignant takeaway. But I’ve worked here for nearly three years at Onion Inc. and it was one of the more improbable and joyous sights I’ve witnessed—workmates bonding over crawfish and beer. It was a fun day at the office.