Springtime in Oxford brings baseball, blooming flowers, warm weather and, most importantly, tons of crawfish. As freshly grown tulips pop out of the ground, crawfish stands begin to pop up all over town, as well.
Crawfish are a Southern delicacy served only during the spring, but one may wonder what actually marks the beginning of crawfish season as well as how the crustaceans in question find their way to landlocked Oxford.
Ethan Zadrozny, a biology major and Mississippi native works for Rebel Boilers, a popular stand on South Lamar Boulevard that brings its own crawfish to Oxford, since the start of the season. Rebel Boilers is one of many crawfish stands that are set up all over town when the season begins.
Zadrozny has had ample experience in the crawfish business – he spent two years working for his uncle’s crawfish business, which has locations in the Vicksburg and Clinton areas.
“I started working with Rebel Boilers when I came back to school for spring semester and realized I didn’t have a job, since my old place of work shut down,” Zadrozny said. “So I walked up to the stand and asked if they needed help. My uncle’s business was a side gig for him, so when he was busy, I would handle pretty much everything.”
Rebel Boilers serves crawfish a few days a week, typically on Thursday through Sunday. Crawfish season begins in late February and picks up speed around Easter as warmer temperatures and increased rainfall cause the crawfish to rapidly grow in size. The season usually ends in early June, when the crawfish return to a smaller, less appetizing size.
“You can tell the season’s over once you start seeing really small crawfish scattered again,” Zadrozny said. “If you keep catching them when they’re small, it means you’re messing with next season’s population and stock.”
Because Oxford is landlocked in northern Mississippi, Rebel Boilers receives its crawfish from Eunice, Louisiana, and has them delivered weekly in refrigerated trucks. The storage areas of these vehicles are kept at a chilly 40 degrees, a temperature cold enough that the crawfish go into a brief hibernation that keeps them fresh.
The crawfish are delivered by the farmers who harvest them, and if they’re taken care of properly, they generally won’t spoil for about five days. Rebel Boilers typically cooks its crawfish within a day or two of delivery.
“My bosses are great guys, but I’m the only college kid at work, so I reach out to fraternities and sororities since I’m surrounded by that environment,” Zadrozny said. “I was actually able to organize the catering of 800 pounds of crawfish to Sigma Chi for their Derby Day event they had this past Friday, thanks to my friends who know I work in the crawfish business.”
Many events hosted by fraternities and sororities have crawfish tables set up to serve crowds of people, which requires hundreds of pounds of crawfish provided by businesses such as Rebel Boilers.
Alpha Delta Pi sorority often hosts an event, at which sorority members set up tables and eat crawfish.
According to the sorority’s social chair, Victoria Tracey, Alpha Delta Pi spent $3,000 purchasing 700 pounds of crawfish intended to feed 500 people when it hosted the event last year.
For its day-to-day sales, Rebel Boilers typically charges $6 per pound of crawfish, which come with sides such as potatoes and corn on the cob. Rebel Boilers serves by the pound at the stand, but to purchase a large amounts, customers must place an order ahead of time so the business can order extra crawfish.
The pricing of crawfish for events varies by number of pounds ordered and is also dependent on the how much the business paid for its crawfish, the ingredients used to cook the batches, the labor involved and the intended profit margin.
Crawfish season may come and go quickly, but the crawfish fanatics of Oxford and Ole Miss have no problem keeping local businesses such as Rebel Boilers working every season.