Earlier this month, the LSU Houston Alumni Association held an event that speaks volumes about the long arm of Louisiana’s culinary culture. The group met at the Firehouse Saloon to savor 3,100 pounds of boiled crawfish provided by the Boil House at what has become a major fundraiser for LSU. It’s the chapter’s biggest gathering of the year, says President Lisa Bunch, a Slidell native (BS, Psychology) who moved to Houston for work in 1998.
With about 650 members, LSU Houston is one of the most active alumni chapters across the country. As part of my interview series with Louisiana expats, I checked in with Lisa about the Bayou State’s gravitational pull — a theme in my book, Hungry for Louisiana, An Omnivore’s Journey. We talked about what it means when members of Tiger Nation get together to carry out the rituals of home, whether it’s to watch a game or belly up to a pile of crawfish.
“When I first moved to Houston, one of the first things I did was look for people who had gone to LSU,” says Lisa (pictured middle), a successful medical device sales rep, entrepreneur and author of the relationship blog, www.Geaux-Girl.com. “No one in my family had really lived outside of Louisiana.”
Houston’s proximity, oil and gas corridor and job opportunities have made it a historic draw for young people from Louisiana. There are thousands of Louisiana natives living in the metro area (27,000 is the figure sometimes used), and that’s clearly helped build and strengthen a robust tradition of crawfish boils.
The alumni association isn’t the only organization to hold a fundraiser with crawfish as the main draw. “It’s become a really common event for charities in Houston,” says Lisa. “Every charity I’m involved with does a crawfish boil. I think I eat more crawfish here today than I did growing up.”
Indeed, you can get your fair share of Louisiana-centric foods in Houston, but Lisa maintains they’re a little different than those from home. “I miss things like real muffalettos and fried shrimp, and raw oysters” she says. “You can find similar foods, but they’re not quite the same.”
What else does she miss? The steady supply of festivals, and the constant gathering of family.
And, she adds, “People are very giving and loving in Louisiana. They’ll have you over for a meal right when they meet you. Elsewhere around the country, you don’t always get that kind warmth off the bat.”
Here’s a link to a recent article in the Houston Chronicle on the trend of Asian-flavored crawfish in Houston.
Here’s one that features 10 of the best spots to each crawfish in Houston (2014).