I had a very surreal moment last month. Trying to find something at Trader Joe’s, I overheard a man with a British accent asking a store employee if TJ’s carried something called Tony Shasheer’s.
“Excuse me?” the store employee said.
“Tony Shusheery’s?” the Brit said.
“Say what now?” the employee responded.
“It’s a Louisiana seasoning blend,” the Brit said.
“No,” the employee said.
I should take a moment to point out that, defying centuries of Wheaton genetic coding, I didn’t insert myself into this conversation. One, the first rule of Trader Joe’s is “Get the hell out of Trader Joes.” Two, I knew that TJ’s didn’t have Tony Chachere’s.
If you’re not from Louisiana, allow me to explain. Tony Chachere’s is a seasoning blend, a magical little canister of dust to spice up your food. Use it for cooking. Use it on your eggs. Use it for crawfish and crab boils. For those of you from the Eastern Atlantic coast, you should think along the lines of Old Bay. Except Tony Chachere’s doesn’t taste like a dusty sack of stale spices.
Another thing that happened in the last month or so was that I came across a line of Slap Ya Mama products at a World Market here in Brooklyn.
Slap Ya Mama is similar to Tony Chachere’s. Unlike Tony’s, it’s a lot easier for the uninitiated to pronounce. Slap Ya Mama loyalists say it’s better than Tony’s because it’s got less salt. (In fact, Slap Ya Mama was created because someone wanted a seasoning blend with less salt.)
I’m afraid to wade into this particular fight.
Tony’s is made in Opelousas, which is where I’m from. I grew up with Tony’s (I also went to school with Tony’s grandkids). I traveled with Tony’s. I tried to teach New Yorkers for decades how to pronounce Tony Chachere’s (phonetic attemp: sa-sher-ee). Before Frank’s hot sauce came up with the brilliant tag line, “I put that shit on everything,” people from Louisiana put that shit on everything.
Slap Ya Mama is made in Ville Platte, where a lot of my mama’s people live.
In fact, funny little story. My very first news story for Advertising Age (something they thought was a risk since I was just a copy editor) was about Chile Pepper Magazine and the zesty food movement. Slap Ya Mama, made by Walker & Son’s, had been handing out samples at a Chile Pepper Event, so I called up someone at Slap Ya Mama and the inevitable happened. The woman said, “We’re from a small town you probably never heard of,” and I was all, “Honh, honh, honh. Au contraire, ma cher! I got people there!” And she said, “Who?” And I said, “Dis one, dat one and da other one.” And she said, “Mais, I know them!” And then she sent me a case of Slap Ya Mama.
I also have a cousin who works at Slap Ya Mama.
Truth is, I don’t use either one of them that much, unless I’m boiling crabs or crawfish. When it comes to other cooking, I prefer to control the spices myself and more often than not, I’m sticking to salt and black pepper.
That said, I’m curious, for any Louisiana fans reading this. What’s your poison?