Crawfish boil brings Cajun to Tuscaloosa

As the weather warms up, students come out of their winter hiding and front porches quickly become decorated with lawn chairs, beer cans and crawfish shells.

For many in Tuscaloosa, it is not springtime without an old-fashioned, low country boil featuring crawfish, potatoes and corn. Tip Alexander, general manager of Coppertop, recognizes the unifying powers of these boils in a Southern college town.

“We have been doing crawfish boils for the last three years,” Alexander said. “It’s a seasonal item. A lot of times people, mostly college kids, show up and it is their first time to eat crawfish, so it is just a fun experience all-around. Some first timers play with the live crawfish then gather around a big table and it’s a uniting kind of deal. We love to provide that to our customers.”

Alexander said there is a widespread familiarity with crawfish culture in the South due to the popularity of Louisiana cuisine. Along with the Cajun dish, a zesty atmosphere is a must for a proper crawfish celebration.

“Everybody knows about [crawfish boils] here, so they are already familiar with Louisiana and the culture there,” Alexander said. “When we have boils, we will put Zydeco music on Pandora to set the atmosphere, and people have a lot of fun because so many people here already know about New Orleans and what it’s about. It makes for a fun environment.”

Coppertop seeks to usher in a festive spring by offering fresh crawfish to their patrons free of charge on certain days throughout the season.

“We love the turnout,” Alexander said. “We want to keep bringing free stuff to our patrons and make sure they get their fair share of crawfish, in order to keep it affordable for everyone. We may limit this to once a month just to keep it free for our regular customers.”

The spicy aroma of crawfish coming to a boil signals a changing of the seasons. In the South, crawfish, red potatoes and beer go hand-in-hand with a Creole springtime gathering.

Kristy Randle, a senior majoring in journalism and English, said she enjoys the seasonal activities that crawfish season ultimately brings.

“There is really nothing better than sitting on a dock, drinking a cold beer and peeling crawfish,” Randle said. “I love peeling and eating crawfish while watching boats go by. It really feels like summer.”

Cynthia Maugeri, a sophomore majoring in public relations, said she enjoys the atmosphere and popularity of crawfish parties in the springtime.

“I love the idea of everyone coming together,” Maugeri said. “It’s like a big celebration at the end of the year. When football season ends, this is what everyone looks forward to.”