Sack: I hunt quail, Jeremy. They’re overpopulated in this region and they’re decimating the grubworm population. You got a fucking problem with that?
Jeremy: Not nearly as much as I do with the attire that you have on, or just your general point of view towards everybody. But let’s go kill some birds. I’m psyched.
— Wedding Crashers, 2005
Webster’s defines crafty as:
1) Adept in the use of subtlety and cunning
The film world defines crafty as:
1) A paradise of eclectically mixed food and drink
2) Where you will most likely find a crewmember if they’re missing from set
The Craft Service table is a common ground. Actors and directors, grips and production assistants, gaffers, and medics — low blood sugar doesn’t play favorites based on the hierarchy of moviemaking. And the bountiful spread available at this little corner of heaven ranges from a Halloween-esque hall of candy to a Vegan’s dream come true of fruits and vegetables and everything in between.
It’s at this very mouth-watering table where I’ve had several memorable encounters — flirting with models while they nibble on…coffee; fighting with a makeup artist over the last bottle of Evian for my boss; telling an unnamed stuntman that I did NOT want to drop acid with him.
Today’s story is about a particular happening in good ol’ Shreveport, Louisiana. It was a night shoot — call time was around 6 p.m. — meaning we wouldn’t wrap filming for the day until 6 a.m. Of course my two best friends, Coffee and Red Bull, would help me through the tough dips and dives of the evening. But after the lunch (or rather dinner) lull, you’re going to need a late night snack to revive you from the unavoidable food coma.
And this is a common practice of craft services. Three to four hours after lunch, there’s a surprise, a sometimes impromptu hot snack: nachos, hot dogs, chili — no one said it was a healthy way to get the juices flowing again.
Anyway, the night in question was special. This was Louisiana, after all, where gumbo is king. And, indeed, we were fed like Bayou royalty with not one, but two kinds of gumbo. This was a mere coincidence, and perhaps created a less-than-amicable showdown. There was the gumbo provided by craft service and another provided by…
Scott, our New Orleans-born 2nd AD (Assistant Director), would commonly leave for the weekend on an excursion to a bit of marshland he partially owned. First time I heard about this I ignorantly asked, “So, what? You take, like, a fan boat on the water?”
“No. I go duck hunting.”
My experience with duck hunting — any hunting really — is limited to Nintendo and the arcade counterparts that I played later in life. Not that I have any problem with eating fowl that is killed. But unlike Scott, and apparently Mark Zuckerberg (as he’s been recently quoted), I have no desire to murder the animal at hand personally.
It’s roughly 4 a.m. Nancy, our lovely Southern belle of a chain-smoking crafty lady, is spooning out gumbo and rice. I’m singing the funky Phish tune in my head, which despite the title, has nothing to do with the delicacy. Until my olfactory sense kicks in, and brings my eyes in another direction…
Out of nowhere comes Scott the hunter, and apparent chef, with a pot of his own: Duck Gumbo, with meat slaughtered by his manly, gun-firing hands.
I’m conflicted. Which way do I go? Do I stay the course and fill my bowl with Nancy’s offering? Or do I take Toucan Sam’s advice and “follow my nose” to the homemade alternative? Better be safe and have both.
No wonder I gained 10 pounds in my 3 months below the Mason-Dixon line.
Am I a gumbo aficionado? No. Well, more so now. Yet I think my New York upbringing disqualifies me from taking on that title officially. Having said that, that homemade duck gumbo was some of the best grub I’ve ever had. Maybe it’s because it was 4 a.m. Maybe it’s because it was free. Maybe because eating a classic Louisiana dish in its rightful surroundings added to the overall experience.
Give me a dark roux, some stewed meat (preferably duck after this surreal experience), a scoop of rice, and a few squirts of hot sauce, and my wistful memories of that fateful night will happily harmonize with my invigorated taste buds. Gumbo, you are a welcomed comfort food no matter where I am on the map.
Our video operator put it perfectly. “We’re in Shreveport, making a flick, eating gumbo made by our AD, who shot the ducks himself. Only in the South.”