created over 2 years ago | Tagged:
AS dusk fell on a sticky summer Sunday, Paul Outlaw, in camouflage shorts and matching baseball hat, an undershirt tucked beneath his apron, stood on a platform attached to a converted delivery truck and taught some Brooklynites how to eat crayfish.
“You rip it open,” he said, demonstrating how to pinch the bottom of the tail to extract a bit of meat. “And then you want to crush the head and suck the brain.” Whoosh — that little guy was gone. Matthew Freundlich, visiting from St. Louis, whispered to his friends, “This is not a meal I expected in New York City.” “Matt,” one replied, “this is a boring Sunday for us.”
True, Brooklyn has a lot going for it, but even this food-obsessed borough did not have, until now, a truck offering fresh Gulf-area seafood with a postmodern twist. Mr. Outlaw and his girlfriend, Jennifer Catron, are the founders of Jen ’n Outlaw’s Fish Fry Truck and Crawfish Boil, a mobile outpost of Southern food and New York chutzpah. Mr. Outlaw, 30, is from Fairhope, Ala., a town of about 12,000 near Mobile; his family catches catfish with bare hands — noodling, it’s called. Ms. Catron, 26, is from rural Southern Illinois, where fish fries are regular events. Both recent recipients of M.F.A.’s in sculpture from Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan, they share artistic interests that lie somewhere near the intersection of community, capitalism, patriotism and fun times. The truck is all of that.
They found the fish truck for $1,500 on Craigslist; it was already painted with an American flag, which they took as a sign. They installed a double fryer and a 120-quart pot for the boil, and added a hydraulic platform with room for a picnic table in the back. They don’t know how much they spent on the project, except that, for a couple of artists, it was a lot. “If we had wanted to make money,” Ms. Catron said, “we would’ve been business majors.”
On Aug. 8, they made a test run in Bushwick. Since not all their vendor permits had materialized yet, they simply gave the food away: heaping po’ boys loaded with slaw and tangy remoulade, and 100 pounds of crayfish, boiled with corn, potatoes, garlic, onion and spices, steaming from atop the picnic table covered in butcher paper. Ms. Catron, in a candy-striped apron and blue Daisy Dukes, her paper hat just askew, leaned out the truck’s window. “Have you ever had fried pickles?” she called, offering a batch, with buttermilk-dill dipping sauce. “It’s going to change your life!”