Boudin: A Story of Sausage, Slavery, and Rebellion in the Caribbean

Boudin: A Story of Sausage, Slavery, and Rebellion in the Caribbean

The making of boudin is a visceral, bloody and time-consuming process in the French Caribbean territory of Guadeloupe. Boudin — a name that comes from an Anglo-Saxon word meaning “sausage” — was first recorded in ancient Greece by a cook named Aphtonite. A variation of it was mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey as a stomach filled with blood and fat roasted over a fire.

Halfway around the world and thousands of years later, boudin was brought to some of the Caribbean islands by colonists. Yet unlike in mainland Europe, every bite retraces the dark history of colonization, the celebration of the abolition of slavery and postcolonial culture in Guadeloupe.

In the territory’s beach town of Gosier, Pascal Maxo makes two kinds of boudin, using recipes that have been in his family for generations. Artistry is required in making the fortifying, iron-rich stuff, and there’s no rushing the job.

To prepare, Maxo first heads to the butcher to buy a vat of fresh pig’s blood, the main ingredient of boudin rouge Antillais (Antillean red boudin). If using blood as an ingredient seems strange, one must remember that historically, the slaughter of a pig was an infrequent event. Cooking blood, which otherwise would go bad quickly in the days before refrigeration, was a way to use every part of the precious animal — from tail to snout.

It takes Maxo two full days to make boudin rouge Antillais. At the crack of dawn on Day 1, he sets up a couple of long tables on the veranda of his home, which sits on a verdant hillside that rolls gently downward toward the Caribbean Sea. Making boudin is tedious and messy work, and three of Maxo’s friends join him to labor over the process. A large pot of water is heated over an outdoor stove, and a station is set up for spices.

Boudin rouge Antillais resembles a Creole version made in Louisiana, but one of its spices, graine de bois d’inde (seed of wood from India), is endemic to the West Indies and really sets the sausage on its own pedestal. The seed grows on Pimenta racemosa trees, and like many spices and fruits grown in the Caribbean islands, it is macerated in rum before being ground into a powder.

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