The Boudin King

In his Sunday column in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Philip Martin mentioned that his first newspaper job was in Jennings, La.

Suddenly, I found myself craving boudin early on a Sunday morning.

You see, Jennings is the home of The Boudin King restaurant. In August 2003, my wife and two sons (ages 10 and 6 at the time) decided to explore the Cajun country of southwestern Louisiana. Having read about The Boudin King in Jennings, we pulled off Interstate 10 early one evening and found the restaurant hidden in a residential area.

Recognizing us for the tourists that we were, the owner came over and sat with us. We learned that her name was June Cormier and that her husband, the late Ellis Cormier, had indeed been the Boudin King.

I would later learn that the Louisiana Legislature — that paragon of ethics — had once declared Jennings to be the Boudin Capital of the Universe.

The Cormier family recipe for boudin — pork, long-grain rice, parsley, peppers, green onions and spices placed in a sausage casing and served warm — had been passed down for generations. Ellis Cormier, however, did not get around to passing that recipe on to other members of his family until later in life.

More about that later.

The Cormiers had turned what had been a neighborhood grocery store into a restaurant, and people were soon driving many miles for Ellis’ boudin. There’s an old joke about a seven-course Cajun dinner consisting of a pound of boudin and a six-pack of Dixie beer (more cultured Cajuns perhaps go for Abita these days).

The Cormiers refused to sell beer. Despite that, the crowds still came due to the quality of the boudin.

Several years ago while waiting in Memphis for a connecting flight to Washington, D.C., I found myself sitting at the gate next to U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany from southwestern Louisiana. When he was elected to Congress in 2004, Boustany became the first Republican elected to Congress from the area since 1884.

Boustany, who is of Lebanese ancestry, grew up in Lafayette. His father was the parish coroner. Charles became a cardio-thoracic surgeon.

I mentioned to the congressman how much I liked his part of the country. And then, for some reason, I mentioned my family’s visit to The Boudin King restaurant in Jennings.

“I was the Boudin King’s doctor,” Boustany said matter of factly.

“Really?” I replied.

The congressman then told the story of the night before he was to perform heart surgery on Ellis Cormier. Mr. Cormier called Dr. Boustany into his room and made a confession.

“Is there a chance I won’t survive the surgery?” the patient asked.

“There’s always a small chance,” the doctor replied.

“Well, I’m worried,” Mr. Cormier replied. “I’ve never passed on my boudin recipe.”

“I would suggest you do that,” Dr. Boustany said.

The King survived the surgery. And family members got the recipe.

When Ellis Cormier later passed away, it was certain that The Boudin King Restaurant would keep going strong.

Darn you, Philip Martin. Now, I’m craving boudin, and I don’t know where to find the good kind in Arkansas.

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