Crawfish Boils in the Deep South

The smell of bourbon, the sea, and sweat. Roars of laughter, singing and the sound of the tails snapping off of crawfish. Old friends embracing each other and families reuniting. Crawfish boils are a place where people come together to enjoy the little things in life. In my experience what people perceive crawfish boils to be is mostly accurate: dozens of people hoarding around a pile of food, dancing, singing, and of course, drinking. But you can’t fully comprehend how magical a crawfish boil is until you attend one yourself. 

Prior to the 1960’s crawfish were seen as a poor man’s food. It wasn’t until recently that crawfish boils were seen among people of all backgrounds and classes. Today, crawfish boils are a mandatory event every spring. Crawfish boils have gained popularity partly because of the food  (cheap, delicious, and filling) but mainly because of the family gathering aspect of the event. In the South, spring time is the prime time for social gatherings. Mardi Gras, arguably the most important event of the year (event more important than Christmas for some families), is a week-long festival that takes place before Ash Wednesday. It is a time to enjoy rich food and family gatherings before the Christian Lent season. Crawfish boils allow people to do just that, enjoy good food and good company during the Mardi Gras celebrations. Crawfish have become a southern, more specially Cajun, symbol for community. When I smell the large piles of crawfish on dozens of tables, hear screams of laughter and people rejoicing in each other’s company, I know that I am home. 

This is a picture of my uncle boiling crawfish. My family both holds and attends several crawfish boils every year. 

Professor Jean Everett (Biology)

Professor Jean Everett is a Senior Instructor in the Biology department at the College of Charleston, whose expertise is on the natural environment of the south. She received her PhD in forest ecology and botany from North Carolina State University, her MS in environmental sciences with an emphasis on ecology from the University of Virginia, and her BS in forest resource management from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Her interests include plant community and ecosystem interactions, forest ecology, seed banks, restoration ecology, particularly in longleaf pine systems, and rare plant and plant habitat surveys. 

Even though Professor Everett has lived in Charleston for almost 40 years, she does not consider herself a Southerner because most of her definitions of “southerners” are “quite negative based on experience”. She mentioned that she and her husband came to Charleston as “reluctant transfers for the company [her] husband worked for” because of a “scarce job market”. She did say that she would consider herself a mid-Atlantic southerner because it doesn’t have as close of an association with the “racist… conservative politics” that are typically tied to the deep south. 

Professor Everett has conducted several plant surveys for various state and national agencies, mainly for “rare plants in the Francis Marion National Forest”. She has helped relocate “several endangered plant populations” on SC Heritage Preserves. She has also done work with The Nature Conservancy which is a non-profit that helps combat climate change and protect our natural resources. Her expertise is on the Longleaf pine ecosystem. She is interested in the agricultural and ecological impacts that the declining population of longleaf pine has had on our society. She also mentioned the negative stereotypes that are associated with the longleaf pine such as “women sweeping the pine needles from dirt yards” when in reality, it was just a precassion for stopping the frequent fires from spreading. Her connection to the Southern Studies program is giving lectures on the dominant ecosystem of the longleaf, particularly in an agricultural aspect.