More than 400 festivals across the Bayou State honor a variety of foodstuffs and local customs each year, from crawfish and boudin to jazz and zydeco. And this year, Mansura will celebrate its 45th Annual Cochon de Lait Festival.
With great Cajun food and exuberant Louisiana music, this summertime fête is an essential celebration in La Capitale de Cochon de Lait. The four-day festival is full of cooking and enjoying all things hog-related, including the traditional suckling pig roast for which it is named.
This year’s festival begins Thursday, May 9, and ends Sunday, May 12 (Mother’s Day). Throughout the weekend, attendees of all ages can participate in competitions like the Greasy Pig Contest, the Cracklin Cookoff, hog calling, boudin eating, and more. Additionally, festival-goers can expect arts and crafts, dancing, live music performances, and delicious Cajun food specialties such as rice dressing, cracklin’s dipped in cane syrup, and all the cochon de lait you can eat.
But what is cochon de lait?
The French phrase cochon de lait, loosely translated, means “milk-fed pig.” Historically, this tradition was true to name and implied the roasting of younger, smaller pigs—often as part of the Cajun tradition boucherie (“butchery”).
Boucheries were not merely food-centric but work-based social gatherings that began prior to modern refrigeration. Because a single pig yielded more meat and byproducts than a single family could use before it spoiled, a weekly boucherie provided a steady source of meats for multiple families. They worked together in butchering and preparing all manner of pork delicacies, leaving nothing to waste—a practice in sustainability long before it became en vogue.
Each boucherie might produce items like red and white boudin; hog’s head cheese; seasoned pork; gratons, or cracklin’s; fresh sausage; smoked andouille; and, of course, cochon de lait.
Today, boucheries and events like the Cochon de Lait Festival are no longer a practice of necessity. Instead, they are a celebration of the cultural traditions and ingenuity of ancestors who established these local communities and developed the southeastern Louisiana foodways we honor today.
For more information and a full schedule of events, visit cochondelaitfestival.com.
Can’t make it to the festival? Try our recipe for Cochon de Lait-Style Slow Roasted Pork Leg.
Have a sweet tooth? Oreilles de Cochon can fix that!