By Erin Allen & Sara E Walker
Where we grow up often brands our way of thinking and this identity typically stays with us forever. Living in Durango and learning the local culture is proving to be an authentic experience, but yesterday we learned that just because we are in the wild west does not mean that the South is not alive and well.
Last night we embarked on a Fat Tuesday celebration complete with a crawfish boil, gumbo and all the fixings at a local brewery, Animas Brewing Company. Scott, the owner, though hailing from Pennsylvania, is a cajun food fan and has been honoring this tradition since he opened his brewery three years ago.
We loaded up our plates with gumbo, crawfish and shrimp, fried turkey and crawfish étouffée pasties (delicious filled hand pies). To Erin's surprise, the gumbo was pretty authentic, full of okra and sausage, thick and non soupy and rather low on the roux. (Shocker: Erin didn't actually grow up on roux-based gumbos and can't actually stand ones that are overly done that way.) The crawfish, though a little low on the spice meter, would make a redeeming appearance later in the evening.
As we ate we became acquainted with the locals sitting around us. We were delighted to learn that our table-mate, Fairlight, a CIA- trained pastry chef and co-owner of the Green Table Cafe, was there as an honored guest having made the king cakes for that night's event. The cake was a great representation of the cinnamon roll flavor with the festive sugary icing on top. Fairlight's recipe called for a hint of lemon juice in the icing to brighten it up.
After the event was "officially" over it turned into a real Cajun feast. Scott dumped the remaining, and much spicer, crawfish on the table and the the true diehard fans jumped in. Erin even got a chance to teach the authentic way to eat a crawfish.
Though we are taking every chance to embrace our new culture, last night's event made it clear that communities are built on both local traditions the individual contributions of each person involved.