Ask a Cajun what his favorite lunchtime meal is, and he’s likely to choose a po’boy, south Louisiana’s answer to the hero sandwich. What distinguishes a po’boy from its sandwich cousins is the French bread, flaky on the outside and soft on the inside. It’s not a real po’boy if you aren’t wiping breadcrumbs off yourself after you’re done.
While bread may be king of the po’boy world, the ingredients can hardly be considered peasants. Po’boy shops live and die by the quality of their ingredients, the most common being fried shrimp, fried crawfish, fried catfish, fried oyster (see a pattern here?), and roast beef for the slightly more health conscious. After ordering a po’boy, the question that follows is “How you want your po’boy dressed, cheré?“. Don’t worry, we’re not talking about business casual here no. A fully dressed po’boy has tomatoes, pickles, onions, mayo, and shredded lettuce, though some places substitute shredded cabbage instead. Since a Cajun can never have too many carbs, po’boys are usually served with a generous side of homemade fries, and a pile of napkins, because a sign of a great po’boy experience usually includes having to wipe the juices running down your arms.
But wait, po’boys aren’t Cajun, they’re from New Orleans! That’s technically true, but after what New Orleans did with our gumbo (the tomato fiasco), we’re taking the po’boy for ourselves – consider dat a reparation. And if you New Orleans folks don’t watch out, we’ll go after your beignets next! Anyway, this is a blog about stuff Cajun people like, not stuff Cajun people invented, and the po’boy is a great idea no matter who came up with it first.
There are several competing stories about the origin of the po’poy. In one of the most popular tales, these cheap sandwiches were served to striking New Orleans streetcar workers, called “poor boys”, which was eventually shortened to po’boy. Another theory is that the name po’boy is derived from the French pour boire, or “peace offering”, describing the oyster loaf that men would bring home to their wives to make up for a night out on the town. Leave the debating to the historians, meanwhile, us Cajuns are going to keep shovin’ dem po’boys down our throats.