What looks, tastes, and smells like seafood, but doesn't come from the sea? It's crawfish, a freshwater shellfish that is considered a Louisiana delicacy.
Nothing else symbolizes the Cajun (a person of French Canadian descent born or living along the bayous, marshes, and prairies of southern Louisiana) culture of Louisiana like crawfish. Crawfish have become synonymous with the hardy French pioneers who settled in the area after being forced by British troops to leave their homes in Nova Scotia.
Crawfish resemble tiny lobsters. They are also known in the south as mudbugs because they live in the mud of freshwater bayous. They are more tender than lobsters and have a unique flavor. Today crawfish are raised commercially and are an important Louisiana industry. Most of the crawfish consumed in the United States are from Louisiana, although people from other states consider them a delicacy, too. Locals still hold the traditional crawfish boils, where friends and family gather to feast on pounds of crawfish. In the spring, families will go out fishing on the bayous or crawfish farms in an age-old tradition that thrives to this day.
The local Indians are credited with harvesting and consuming crawfish before the Cajuns arrived. They would bait reeds with venison, stick them in the water, then pick up the reeds with the crawfish attached to the bait. By using this method, the Indians would catch bushels of crawfish for their consumption. By the 1930s, nets were substituted, and by the 1950s, the crawfish trap was used.
On July 14, 1983, Louisiana’s governor approved a law designating the crawfish as the state crustacean. Louisiana thus became the first state to adopt an official crustacean. That's how serious Louisiana is about their crawfish!
According to Cajun Legend:
Crawfish are descendants of the Maine lobster.
After the Acadians (now called Cajuns) were exiled in the 1700s from Nova Scotia, the lobsters yearned for the Cajuns so much that they set off cross the country to find them.
This journey, over land and sea, was so long and treacherous that the lobsters began to shrink in size. By the time they found the Cajuns in Louisiana, they had shrunk so much that they hardly looked like lobsters anymore.
A great festival was held up their arrival, and this smaller lobster was renamed crawfish.