Sometimes you find love when you’re not even looking for it. It happened to me. I wasn’t looking for it. I wasn’t expecting it. In fact, I thought I was in a good place in my life. I considered myself happy. All my needs were fulfilled…or so I thought. Then, one day, my husband handed me a strip of beef jerky and said, “Here. Try this beef jerky from a meat market in Thibodaux.” I laughed. And my laugh wasn’t a sweet giggle; it was one of those obnoxious, incredulous laughs.
Beef jerky. From Thibodaux, Louisiana. What a joke. Beef jerky was something that Louis L’Amour’s cowboys ate. They picked up the knowledge of how to dry meat from Native Americans. It was a cowboys-and-Indians thing, which naturally meant that the best beef jerky had to be from Texas…because that’s what I envision when I’m reading about one of Louis L’Amour’s cowpunchers chewing on a piece of dried beef while riding down old game trails: Texas.
I was wrong. Probably more wrong than I’ve ever been (except when I went to bed this past Super Bowl Sunday thinking, “The Falcons have this.”). I took the Cajun beef jerky from my husband, nearly rolling my eyes as I took a bite. But as I tasted the jerky, the music started. It was a song of love playing in my soul. I had never tasted anything like it before, but now that I had, I knew I couldn’t spend my life without more of this beef jerky.
Thibodaux is a true Cajun town located about 60 miles southwest of New Orleans. It’s a beautiful place, with well-maintained Acadian homes and sprawling live oak trees…which are best viewed from a car with air conditioning because Thibodaux is even more humid than Lufkin.
Right outside the small town, by a bayou, is an old meat market called Bourgeois. Bourgeois has been offering fresh cuts of meat, boudin, hogshead cheese, and Cajun goodies since 1891. Those products are what you would expect to find at a place like Bourgeois and in a town like Thibodaux. The surprise is when you try the beef jerky.
The jerky is unexpectedly juicy. The very definition of beef jerky is dried lean meat, so when you try a stick and you’re met with flavorful juices bursting out, you’re shocked. And it’s a good shock. (Not like the shock you felt on the morning of February 6 when you woke up to a notification on your phone that the Patriots won the Super Bowl. Again.)
The juice is not from the meat. Bourgeois’ jerky is smoked and dried in the traditional manner for making jerky. The flavorful bursts come from the marinade applied to the strips of beef at least 24 hours before they’re smoked. I don’t know what’s in the marinade. Bourgeois sells at least 1,000 pounds of beef jerky a week, so they guard their seasoning and marinade secrets fiercely. But I can tell you this: it’s awesome.
Bourgeois’ jerky is not as tough as most others, so it’s easier to chew. This means that it’s possible to consume half a pound in one sitting. (I may have done this. And it may have been on multiple occasions.) It’s both salty and peppery with a slight Cajun kick, but no lingering aftertaste. Add some cheese and crackers, and you have a complete meal. HIDE YOUR STASH, though. I just bought a pound that my husband expects me to share with him. Somehow our kids got their hands on it and now they expect me to share it with them, too. While I agree with their declarations of, “This is the best beef jerky ever!”, I’m not thrilled about letting them deplete one of my favorite foods. Can’t they just eat a Slim Jim and leave the good stuff alone?
I highly recommend that you make the pilgrimage down to Thibodaux. Look at the houses. Stand in awe of the trees. Eat a poboy at Bubbas. And, most importantly, pay homage to the geniuses at Thibodaux who truly are creating miracles in meat.
If the trek is not possible, place an online order at http://www.bourgeoismeatmarket.com/. Call me when your order comes in. I’ll bring the cheese and crackers and leave my jerky-stealing kids at home.