There is no greater pleasure on earth than traveling across Acadiana on a quest for boudin and cracklins. We’ve been hearing about T-Jim’s in Cottonport for years but it was only yesterday that found us darkening the door of Jim Moreau’s little French grocery that opened in 1964 in Avoyelles Parish.
We’re on the trail of boudin rouge, the notorious “blood boudin” of Acadiana, a food stuff that is nearly impossible to lay your hands on as modern health laws have been codified so that only a handful of makers are grandfathered in and allowed to still practice this dying art.
Cottonport, Louisiana is forlorn. A steady rain is heaving down and the town has clearly seen better days. We park on a gravel strip of earth next to a wooden hut selling fireworks and make our way across a blacktop road to T-Jim’s.
The earthy funk of hog liver perfumes the air of the tiny grocery store cum meat market. We make our way to the boudin counter in the back and are immediately hailed by T-Jim himself. Time to get down to business.
Over the next 30 minutes Jim Moreau explains what his life has been like since 1964 when, as a 26 year old, he opened T-Jim’s.
Long story short: It’s been a lot of hard work. Such is the life of a boudinier.
1997 was a hallmark year for the operation.
T-Jim’s burned down in the middle of lunch rush.
Patrons and workers took to their heels as flames erupted.
“Grease fire?” I inquire.
“Nah, electrical, and the worse part was the fire department wouldn’t let me finish the job”
Moreau goes on to explain that he petitioned the fire department to allow him to burn the charred hulk of the building so he could get a fresh start on constructing his new grocery.
After having his offer declined, the old sausage maker rolled up his sleeves, traded in his meat grinder for a saw and hammer, and four months later was back in the game.
We ask if we can come behind the counter and watch one of his sausage makers plying his craft. Moments later we’re at ground zero for a big batch of boudin rouge.
Hog’s blood is so deep and rich in color it’s almost purple. The sausage man slowly pours the blood over a giant tub of boudin blanc then rapidly begins mixing the entirety of the affair into a melange.
It’s transfixing. This marriage of blood, liver and rice.
The holy trinity of Cajun meat markets is boudin, pork sausage and cracklins. T-Jims has all those staples but you can also find stuffed gogs, catfish stuffed with crawfish and shrimp, hogs head cheese and all manners of pork chops, pork shoulders, neckbones and what have you.
This is a full service meat market.
We’re happy to report that old school Cajun meat markets like T-Jims are not only surviving, they are thriving. There are hundreds of rural groceries, quick marts, convenience stores and boudin parlors scattered across Acadiana with most doing land-office business.
Nobody on earth eats like the Cajuns do; indeed there are kings who’ve lived and died who never dined as well as the rural trenchermen of Southwest Louisiana.
928 Kaufman Street