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Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region. If you would like to contribute to SFA’s oral history collections, please send your ideas for oral history along with your CV or Resume and a portfolio of prior oral history work to annemarie@southernfoodways.org.

< Back to Oral History project: Southern Boudin Trail

ORAL HISTORY

Daven Hulen


Chops Specialty Meats

A small sign out by the road next to a crawfish flag indicates that boiled crawfish are available today. Large pickup trucks fill the parking spaces across the storefront, so it’s hard to see inside. A sign with a fat pig holding a cleaver over a ham steak hangs on the building’s exterior. It’s a good-humored cartoon that only becomes disturbing if you think too hard about it. Meet Chops Specialty Meats.

Chops began as a modest-sized metal building, and as business grew, they added on—and on and on. Customers walk into the storefront, where meat cases and coolers are packed with stuffed chickens, sausages, and boudin. A few grocery shelves sell white bread, pickled quail eggs, and Cajun pills—an invention that encapsulates Cajun spices in pill form so they’re easier to stuff into meats. A fresh meats case sits in the back, where customers order specialty cuts or get a link of hot boudin to go. Through the doors behind the meat counter is a giant kitchen, where Chops prepares its daily catering orders, and out back is an elaborate sheltered set-up where they handle all of the outdoor cooking: boiled crawfish, fried cracklins, and boil pots for pork boudin. It’s a windy path from the front doors to the back.

Daven Hulen, the store manager, meat cutter, boudin maker, and head caterer, is a busy man. In his early thirties, he’s also one of the younger guys making boudin these days. He started in the specialty meats business when his brother-in-law helped land him a job, and he has stayed in it since. He now manages Chops for the owner, Jeff Delahoussaye. Daven says that he enjoys his work, which is a good because his days are long—a twelve-hour shift is more common than not. When asked about boudin, he explains it simply: “rice and gravy in a casing.” And it’s simply good.

Date of interview:
2009-02-18

Interviewer:
Mary Beth Lasseter

Photographer:
Mary Beth Lasseter

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