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As I was plowing my way through 25 or 30 crayfish Friday night at Ikea in Parmaus, I was struck by how, at three to four inches long, they looked just like miniature lobsters. Maybe they refused to grow up, thinking they would be hard to catch or get thrown back. No such luck.
The crayfish party is an end-of-summer ritual in Sweden, where they are washed down with plenty of beer. In the Paramus home-furnishing store, a pamphlet on the dining tables had beer-drinking songs, but the $9.99 all-you-can-eat admission ticket included soft drinks, not beer; Swedish meatballs and mashed potatoes, cheese and crackers, and desserts ($2.49 for kids).
Crayfish, also called crawfish, are served hot in New Orleans after cooking and turning red in a spicy, lip-smacking boil. The Swedes boil them and serve them cold -- on ice. Pretty much the only part you eat is the tail, and sucking on the cold bodies returns little flavor. This may explain why there were empty tables.
After two plates of crayfish, I joined the cafeteria line for the free meatballs and mashed potatoes (hold the cream sauce), but I didn't like the texture of the meatballs and started wondering where the meat came from. So I finished my meal with those delicious crayfish tails.