Vincent Fontenot can’t count the number of times a tourist has walked into the Prairie Acadian Cultural Center in Eunice and inquired about “bow-den.”
That’s boudin, generally pronounced “boo-danh,” a food so ubiquitous in local gas stations, grocery stores and meat markets that locals might not realize that the pork-and-rice mixture makes few appearances outside of south Louisiana.
“You are not going to get this in New York City or San Francisco,” said Fontenot, a National Park Service ranger who oversees the cultural center.
For the tourists, school groups and others who come there with a fascination for the Cajun take on fast food, Fontenot will soon be able to steer them to a new exhibit.
“Boudin: The Traveling Exhibit,” which opens Tuesday and runs through July 23, was produced by the Southern Foodways Alliance, a component of the Center of the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi.
The exhibit grew out of the alliance’s Southern Boudin Trail documentary project, a collection of interviews about the tradition of making and eating boudin in south Louisiana.
The Southern Foodways Alliance has similar documentary projects for gumbo, hot tamales and barbecue.
Another was just launched on plate lunches in Acadiana, but boudin is the first food the group has featured in an exhibit, said Amy Evans Streeter, an oral historian with the alliance.
She described the exhibit as an exploration of the “cultural component of boudin and meat markets,” and the alliance plans to showcase it in other areas after the debut in Eunice this month.
She said there is even talk of bringing the exhibit to The Beard House, a world-renowned culinary center in New York.
The exhibit, a collection of photographs accompanied by wisdom from local boudin makers, features sections on the history of boudin, how it’s made and variations, such as fried boudin balls or the rare red boudin that has blood mixed into the ingredients.
The exhibit also touches on cracklins, offering this observation: “As fries are to burgers, cracklins are to boudin. They are a customary accompaniment, often consumed in tandem.”
Information for the exhibit was drawn from interviews at several well-known boudin hotspots, including The Best Stop in Scott, Guidroz Food Center in Lafayette, Bourque’s Supermarket in Port Barre and Tiny Prudhomme’s House of Meat in Broussard.
Beyond the exhibit, detailed interviews with the owners of many of the area’s most well-known boudin establishments can be found at the Southern Foodways Alliance website: www.southernboudintrail.com.
It is one of at least two websites devoted to boudin.
The other, www.boudinlink.com, offers an exhaustive collection of reviews for some 170 boudin establishments, including locator maps, pictures, tasting notes and a letter grade on flavor.
One of the “linksters,” University of Louisiana at Lafayette history professor Robert Carriker, said even after several years of crisscrossing Acadiana in search of good boudin, there always seems to be another store he has yet to try.
“People are constantly letting us know what’s going on in the boudin scene,” he said.
Carriker recently expanded his work into cracklin reviews — “a natural offshoot,” he said — and has begun offering “boudin tours” for a modest fee.