It’s been a year since I arrived in the northeastern portion of Louisiana, a wilderness and a wonderland to a northerner who has never lived south before. I’ve been introduced to crawfish or “mudbugs” and the proper way to eat them. This involves grasping the outside shell of the tail joint firmly with a thumb on one side and an index finger on the other, and then deftly cracking the bug open. The rest is a matter of slurping and sucking and repeating the same action with a dozen or so brilliantly-colored mudbugs. Basically, you pinch the tail and suck the head. Somewhere, I’m sure, there must be a color named after them, crawfish red. Since each bug is about four inches long, it did take awhile before I felt like I had eaten anything, but participating in the crawfish ritual was well worth the mess and it was good exercise, to boot. Plus I enjoyed some corn on the cob and red potatoes that were thrown in for good measure, the two companions of any bona fide crawfish boil.
I’ve learned that the mosquito is Louisiana’s state bird, a pest that I remember from my girlhood in New York City, scratching red welts throughout the summer until they bled down my leg and only healed at the start of the school year, which was its own insult. The Louisiana mosquito is no different than its northern cousin except there seems to be more of them and they frequently don’t introduce themselves with their characteristic annoying whine, which makes them even harder to detect. They are stealth bombers.
Mosquitoes are fond of breeding in standing water. As there are about 400 bayous throughout Louisiana,; even if the bayous themselves aren’t standing but are low-flowing, mosquitoes have more than an ample opportunity to do the dirty and proliferate in overwhelming numbers. Everywhere in the circle of homes where I live are signs on people’s lawns offering mosquito abatement, help in defending the family from the nasty vampirish habits of mosquitoes. As far as I can tell this involves lots of spraying. But I suppose that if the mosquito is helping to create jobs, it may be a good thing.