Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Boiled Shrimp, Shrimp And Grits, Shrimp Galore!

I'm currently on vacation on North Carolina's Outer Banks with a bunch of family. It's a little more humid than my normal desert outpost, but beautiful and green with a beach, so that outweighs most of my issues with the weather.

Almost-local (from just down the coast) shrimp are everywhere and we bought three pounds yesterday and ate about two of them. First, we had cold shrimp boiled with a purchased shrimp boil. Apparently, I haven't eaten fresh (never frozen) shrimp in a really, really long time. It's not surprising as I haven't lived near a shrimp-bearing coast for a really, really long time, if ever. What was surprising was how amazingly different and better the fresh shrimp were. Texture, taste ... they had it all! (Why was this surprising? I don't know. I'd never be surprised that a fresh, local, ripe peach tasted better than a frozen peach, so why so surprised about the shrimp?)

The cold shrimp were just a peel-and-eat snack at the picnic table outside on the deck. A couple hours later, it was time for shrimp and grits, a Carolina coast specialty usually made with bacon, but adjusted for the mostly veg-and-seafood diets in the crowd. Very cheesy, buttery grits -- yum! Lovely sauteed shrimp with onions and garlic -- also yum! Pretty, too, with a layer of steamed chard between them. Unfortunately, the photos for this aren't on this computer right now, so I'll have to post a picture later. The plates at our rental weren't anything fancy, but they happened to be just the right colors for this dish.

I haven't thought about this in a long time, but as I was writing about the plate colors, I suddenly remembered the last time I can remember eating fresh shrimp. I was in Baton Rouge for a week apprenticing in a university lab and one of the professors invited me to her house for dinner. I can't remember exactly what we had, but the main course involved shrimp. (The salad course involved a dressing purchased from the back door of their favorite bar. It was an odd evening.)

This couple collects dishes from a particular pottery in the Czech Republic. They've visited the site and have at least fifty different patterns, all on display on floor-to-ceiling plate rails in the dining room. For most of the patterns, they just have two place settings, but also have a bunch of complete services. And the point of this story? They choose their pattern every night to match the colors of the meal, so we had carefully chosen plates to match the shrimp. Just like we had with our super-fancy Corelle plates!

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