12181 Greenwell Springs Rd.
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Terry Eldridge grabs one end of a sausage casing and slides it neatly onto the nib of a machine that looks a lot like a helium tank. He flips a switch, and into the thin, silvery sleeve rushes a mishmash of ground pork, steamed white rice and Cajun spices—otherwise known as boudin.
Once the 18-inch casing is filled but not overstuffed, Eldridge trims and ties off both ends, then places his hands at equal intervals and flips his wrists like he’s jumping rope, rhythmically dividing the sausage into three links. All the while, he looks straight ahead, chatting with the customers across the counter and the other guys up the boudin assembly line. If it’s possible to call a burly guy who stuffs sausage casings “zenful,” Eldridge would be it.
Six days a week, this scene unfolds at Jerry Lee’s Kwik Shop, the Central-area convenience store that makes and sells 500 to 1,000 pounds of owner Jerry Lee Duplantis’ fresh boudin every week. “Probably every state in the U.S. has eaten my boudin,” he says.
It started in 1977 when Duplantis, a former federal government employee, launched a small grocery store at the end of a strip mall. Jerry Lee’s Kwik Shop had been open only for a year when Duplantis saw the importance of a hook.
“Convenience stores were on every corner. I needed something to make it stand out,” he says.
Duplantis recalled the popularity of fresh, made-on-site boudin at the “superettes” and family-run meat markets throughout his native Acadiana. He drew on his roots as the son of a St. Martinville farmer, who, along with his nine siblings, had watched his dad slaughter pigs and make fast work of nearly every part. Duplantis was raised on cracklins, hogshead cheese and ham steaks. His mother fried chicken in lard rendered from the pig. And boudin was the family’s special Saturday treat.
“So I said, ‘Well, let me try this boudin.’ I started playing around with making it and sharing it with my Cajun friends,” he recalls.
Eldridge was there. “We threw out a lot of batches,” he laughs.
Eventually, Duplantis developed a recipe he found suitably balanced in rice, ground slow-braised ground Boston butt, ground organ meats, aromatic vegetables and a secret blend of seasonings.
The boudin took off, and Jerry Lee’s Kwik Shop quickly built a loyal local following.
Today, Duplantis and his crew of around 16, which includes his wife and two children, also makes fresh hogshead cheese, cracklins, smoked sausage and barbecue beef that’s served on a signature lunchtime sandwich.
The boudin, however, is the real draw. In the fall, LSU tailgaters swamp the Kwik Shop on game day. The holiday season is also crazy. But regular weekdays are lively, too, with patrons backslapping and stocking up on boudin throughout the mornings and afternoons.
One Tuesday around 10:30 a.m., a well-dressed man interrupts Eldridge’s routine.
“Where’s your boss? I want to say hi,” he says.
“He’s around,” answers Eldridge, nodding to his right, where Duplantis is in a multitasking frenzy that includes checking out customers, helping staff, and catching up with familiar patrons. The man settles in, waiting to greet Duplantis. In the meantime, he places his order.
“Give me five pounds of that boudin.”