Monday, December 19, 2011

Road Tripping One Handed Down Highway 61

Highway 61 Food Mart
1523 Highway 61
Port Hudson, Louisiana

“Lord, that 61 Highway
It’s the longest road I know”

--“Mississippi” Fred McDowell

One of the coolest things about being a Suit in Strange Places is actually visiting the very places ingrained in the DNA of America.

One of the worst things about being a Suit in Strange Places is having no more than five minutes in a 24 hour itinerary to grab a bag of boiled peanuts or pork rinds at a roadside gas station to serve as breakfast, lunch AND dinner off the rental car dash board.

I contemplated this good news/bad news aspect of my traveling life as I barreled down the famed Highway 61 somewhere near the Mississippi/Louisiana border, stomach growling.

As it turns out, if you are hungry and looking for one-handed snack food, the southern end of Highway 61 isn’t a bad place to be.

Especially if you have the appropriate sound track.

There are enough variations of songs about Highway 61 to make up an entire playlist on my I-Pod.

From Bob Dylan’s home town near the Canadian border, to the Mississippi crossroads where Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil, and all the way “down to the Gulf of Mexico”, the famous “Blues Highway” has symbolized the aspirational nature of Americans for decades.

This was the road through the cotton fields of the Delta to the bright lights of Memphis, St. Louis, St. Paul and beyond traveled by so many of the pioneers of American music and culture.

And here I am, a white guy in a suit, driving a silver Nissan Cube rental traveling this legendary road on a Wednesday afternoon with the window rolled down listening to my various versions of “Highway 61” thanks to the magic of Apple and auxiliary cords.

Life is good.

Except for the fact that I have no time to stop to eat today.

I have exactly four hours to drive 90 miles up Highway 61 from Baton Rouge, Louisiana to Natchez, Mississippi, conduct a one hour meeting and then get back in the Cube and drive 90 miles back to catch a flight to Atlanta. And then connect to another flight to Detroit.

I believe God invented boudin for days just like this one.

Boudin is as much a part of Louisiana’s famous cuisine as jambalaya and etouffee. But you won’t find boudin on too many fancy French Quarter menus.

That’s because boudin isn’t restaurant food. It’s snack food – roadside gas station food.

Truckers, crawfish farmers and alligator wrestling good ol’ boys grab a link or two from truck stops, gas stations and meat markets across Louisiana whenever they get a hankerin’.

A hankerin’ for what, exactly?

I’m glad you asked.

Boudin is chopped up pig parts mixed with rice and Cajun spices served hot in a natural pig intestine.

Cajun sausage.

The texture can be a bit off-putting for boudin virgins.

This isn’t your momma’s dense South Georgia smoked sausage.

Boudin is soft and squooshy. Like a Taco Bell bean burrito.

But once you get past your squeamishness after that initial tooth puncturing of the pig intestine, you quickly realize that all those squooshy pork and rice innards pack a wonderful flavor wallop.

No trip to Louisiana, no matter how brief, is complete without a hot link of boudin.

As I zoomed down the Blues Highway with Moreland & Arbuckle’s’ version of “61 Highway” blasting out my humiliating form of transportation, I caught the sign advertising “Boudin” out of the corner of my eye in front of a road side gas station next to the railroad tracks somewhere just south of St. Francisville.

Swerving my Cube on two wheels across two lanes of on-coming traffic, I knew I had five minutes to top off my tank and grab a fresh link before facing the TSA liberty-robbing crotch gropers at the Baton Rouge Airport.

I quickly discovered that other than the display of Cajun sausages by the cash register, Highway 61 Food Mart is like any other gas station in America. Stocked with beer, soft drinks and candy bars.

And owned and operated by some dude from India.

So much for my authentic Highway 61 Cajun experience.

Oh well. I can at least imagine that my link of boudin was lovingly crafted by some Cajun lady off in some nearby bayou. I’m pretty sure Singh didn’t make it himself. At least I hope not.

The great thing about boudin is you can eat it with one hand.

While you pump gas with the other. And steer your Cube back onto Highway 61 South.

It hit the spot.

Hot and spicy, this mobile Cajun meat snack was the highlight of my brief journey down the Blues Highway.

Well, that and the fact that I can say I’ve driven this storied piece of Americana.

To me, Highway 61 isn’t just a road. Or a way to get from Natchez to the TSA line at the Baton Rouge Airport in under 90 minutes.

Highway 61 represents a way out. Or a way up. Or a way home.

And a different time in America. Before interstates, government crotch gropings and Japanese vehicles that look like shoe boxes on wheels.

Before tax-payer funded sex changes. Before men married men. Before half of all Americans lived off the productivity of the other half.

As I tossed my grease sopped napkin and cellophane over my shoulder onto the Cube’s back seat, and cranked up the sorrowful sounds of Mississippi Fred McDowell singing about how many “61 Highway” miles separate him from his woman back home in Mississippi, I couldn’t help but feel old Fred’s pain.

“The longest road” is always the road back to where we need to be.

Rating: Seriously Thought About Buying Shirt.


  1. One of the good thing about a tour ,or picnic is that, it gives a refreshment. When some one is busy with their work in the whole year, then it is very important to give a gap or refreshment. Now everywhere refreshment or a short break. A television channel also takes a break after a certain time interval...

  2. I cannot imagine a gayer rental car.

  3. Agreed. Unless they hybrid the thing. That would actually be gayer.

  4. I have no idea how I stumbled over this blog...but as a Cajun man, who has consumed my wieght many times over in boudin, I'd just like to thank you for helping to promote our culture. No other place in the world like other place I'd rather live. It's nice to visit the world, but ALWAYS nice to come home. Next time try the boudin's boudin without the casing, rolled into a ball and deep fried. Depending on where you get it (just like boudin itself) it's one of the most incredible one handed meals you can get.

    1. Hey, we're glad to do it. Cultural culinary meat snacks like boudin are what make life on the road so much fun! I have tried boudin balls:

      Loved them! Kinda like meat-filled Cajun hushpuppies.