2017-06-02 / Top Stories

Crawfish And Kindness

Local Crawfish Boil raises $10,000 for Rockaway Rising
By Gail Johnson

A fresh pot of Crawfish A fresh pot of Crawfish There were 150 pounds of crawfish cooking and 50 pounds of Jambalaya ready-to-eat upon arrival at the Rockaway Brewing Company, 415 Beach 72nd St., on Friday, May 26 for Ducky Johnson’s 1st Annual Crawfish Boil.

Ducky Johnson Home Elevations, an award-winning structural moving and elevation company, has been specializing in house elevation and preservation since 1963.

For three generations, this family owned business is one of the leading home elevation companies in the country.

“The Rockaways and Broad Channel is our home away from home (New Orleans),” said Danny McKearan of Ducky Johnson Home Elevations. “We are here over half of the time; we have lifted over 100 homes in the Rockaways. The people here are real, genuine. We feel at home here. We wanted to give back to this warm, open community, which feels like the closest thing to New Orleans in New York.”

The music of Louisiana played in the background, setting the mood with Cajun, Zydeco and the Blues wafting over the crowd – seated around multicolored picnic tables and lounging on the stadium seating in the courtyard of the Rockaway Brewing Company.

The scent of the steam from the boiling, stainless-steel pots filled the air with anticipation.

Mouths watered for the coming feast as McKearan stirred the 50 pounds of crawfish with potatoes, whole heads of garlic split in half to expose the pods, string beans, mushrooms, lemon halves squeezed of their juices, andouille sausages and a secret mix of seasonings with a large wooden pad- dle. Crawfish symbolize Louisiana and Louisiana is serious about its crawfish. On July 14, 1983, the Louisiana Governor approved a law designating the crawfish the official crustacean of the state, a first. Crawfish symbolize Arcadian (called Cajun now) culture. After the Arcadians were expelled from their homes in Nova Scotia by British troops in the 1700s, these French immigrants settled in Southern Louisiana along the bayous, marshes and prairies.

According to local lore, crawfish are descendants of the Maine lobster. After the exile of the Arcadians, popular wisdom says that the lobsters yearned to be with them so they travelled over land and sea to find them. By the time they found them in Louisiana, they had shrunk in size so much they didn’t look like lobsters anymore. The Cajun people held a festival in their honor and called them crawfish.

Affectionately called ‘mudbugs’ in the South because they live in the mud of freshwater bayous, Crawfish taste and smell like seafood from the sea, but are more tender than the tiny lobsters they resemble.

Ducky Johnson flew in 350 pounds of live crawfish for the event and their staffers gave lessons on “sucking crawfish” for the newbies in the crowd, while the rest of us were going for seconds and thirds to place on the craft paper covered picnic tables. (This reporter missed the traditional thick layers of newspapers).

“I biked past earlier today and saw people chasing runaway crawfish,” said new Rockaway resident Mimi, “who seldom visits the mainland since her move to the Rockaways two years ago.”

Long-time resident Helen videoed other crawfish trying to evade the boiling pot and children playing with live crawfish (folklore says that if you kiss a crawfish and let it live you will have good luck!) as her husband Matt pulled layers off the large rolls of paper towels provided to diners and enjoyed the continuous flow of the freshly boiled crawfish.

As everyone relaxed with their choice of two free cold, artisanal Rockaway Brewing Company beers, included with the price of admission, Rockaway Rising students were selling t-shirts as a fundraising effort to support their various educational projects.

The big surprise of the evening was when Ducky Johnson’s McKearan and Charlie Johnson donated $10,000 dollars to the Rockaway Rising program.

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