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When I was a third-year law student looking for a job after graduation, two cities loomed large in my plan to escape the frozen badlands of Missouri.  One was Baltimore, where I was raised and most of my family still lived, and the other was Houston, where it was 72 degrees in December and a friend told me firms were paying top dollar for litigators.  After some deliberation—not much, really—I chose Houston.

We never fully appreciate the beauty of the places where we were children until we’re long gone and grown up, and Baltimore at that time still felt like going backwards to me.  So, I called the lawyer at a firm just outside Baltimore in Towson, where I was due to appear for dinner and a second interview, to let them know my decision.

A few weeks later I received a letter from that Towson lawyer urging me to change my mind.  I was flattered and more than a little surprised.  Houston would be an especially good place for an environmental lawyer to go, he wrote, because “the environment is so bad there.”  His letter went on to warn me of the lack of zoning, noxious fumes rising from oil refineries as far as the eye can see, flooding, hurricanes, and all manner of plague and pestilence.  I went anyway.

Houston was a wonderful place to start out for a great many reasons, although some of what the Towson lawyer had warned me about was actually true.   He didn’t know, though, about the boudin, and for that reason he is not only to be forgiven but pitied.

Boudin is a rice sausage mixture in a natural pork casing that crisps up to a papery-thin goodness when it’s slow roasted on a griddle.  In Southern Louisiana and East Texas, it’s served over red beans and rice with chopped green onions, cheddar cheese, and Tabasco sauce.

Working at a firm in downtown Houston, I would snake my way through the network of tunnels that run beneath that forever sweltering city and come out near Christ Church, about a block from the courthouse, where everyday at lunch the staff of Treebeard’s Restaurant took over the church’s kitchen to serve a catered meal to  dozens of ravenous lawyers,  judges and bankers.  For a few dollars, you could enjoy a pitch perfect rendition of boudin.  I literally could not get enough of this food, but once we moved to North Carolina I never saw it served again.

This past weekend Susan and I decided to take a stroll in downtown Raleigh for the “food truck” rodeo.  Thousands of people turned out for the event.  I was stopped in my tracks by the sign in front of a Cajun-themed truck.  Lots of vendors were serving etouffee and jambalaya, but this one was serving boudin.  I waited in line for a half hour.

It was . . . not the same.  Not nearly.  Not even close.

Thomas Wolfe told us that we can’t go home again, and I suppose that’s true no matter how many “homes” we have.  I can’t get even a reasonable facsimile of a Maryland crab cake anywhere but at the counter of Faidley’s in Lexington Market, and I’m pretty sure there isn’t a good link of boudin within a thousand miles of Raleigh.

Here’s lookin’ at you, Houston.