Eating Native

I stand in Steve Connolly’s Fish Market in Gloucester, a twenty dollar bill burning a hole in my pocket.  I have come to find a piece of monk fish for my daughter, and also a little bit of smoked blue, her favorite for after-school snack.  The smoked salmon looks fresh and tasty; there’s also smoked tuna, mackerel, big chunks of shelled lobster meat piled high in a container on ice.  The woman behind the counter looks me over, as she does at least once a week when I come here to buy the freshest fish around.

“What can I get for you?”

I smile at her and point to the monk fish.

“Just one piece, please.”

She weighs and bags the grayish-white thick strip of fish, and looks at me again.  I have wandered back over the the case with the smoked fish and lobster, and am eying the native shrimp.

“What else?”

“Those look great.  I kind of want some, but don’t really feel like cleaning them.”

I point to the smoked blue, and ask for one piece, then add a piece of the salmon to my order.

“You know, you don’t have to clean them first.  You can boil them and peel them afterward.”

“I know.  I’ve cooked them lots of times.  I…” and I pause, thinking of sitting at the dining room table with a steaming bowl of these tiny pink native shrimp, of breaking off the heads, peeling the shell back a bit, and of pinching the tail to pop out the meat.  I think of the sweetness that is found only in these shrimp.

“Give me one pound, please.  I think I’ll have them for lunch.”

“Just one pound?”  She raises her eyebrows at me, waiting to see if I change my mind.

“Yes.  One pound will do it.”

I stroll out of the market with nine dollars and two cents left in my pocket.

At home, I rush up the back steps and before I even remove my coat, I am pulling the big skillet out from under the counter cupboard, digging in the refrigerator for the garlic, and grabbing the olive oil from the pantry.  I shrug out of my coat, wash my hands, and unpack the paper sack full of seafood.  I turn the front burner on high, set the skillet down on it and quickly chop five big cloves of garlic.  I pour a dollop of olive oil into the hot pan, throw in the garlic, and when it sizzles, dump in the shrimp.  Moisture, moisture.  Water?  No.  White wine, just a splash.  Shhhhhh.   Ssssss.  I toss the shrimp around until they are coated with  golden garlic bits, then go dig in the cupboard for a cover.  I set the timer for two minutes and scan the open dish cabinet for a big bowl.  I find a ceramic pie plate with a high edge and place it on the counter next to the sink.  I hurriedly stick a thick piece of dark bread in the toaster, then turn back to the stove just as the timer beeps.  I toss the shrimp one more time.  They are now a bright, bright pink, and the tiny bellies filled with roe look swollen and ripe.   I dump them into the pie plate in one quick motion and pull one from the pile.  It is hot! and I burn my fingers a little as I twist off the head.  I peel back the widest part of the shell, then, with a pinch of my fingers, out comes the meat.  I put it in my mouth, and the sweet, garlicky, tender morsel makes my eyes roll back in pleasure.  I will not be taking this bowl into the dining room.

I stand at the counter beside the sink and peel one shrimp after another, slower now, and eat.  It feels decadent.  I am not sharing with anyone.  I am not even sitting down.  I am standing in my kitchen on a Wednesday afternoon eating garlic shrimp all by myself and I am happy.  Right here, right now. The toaster chimes and I take out the crisp bread.  I dip it into the broth in the bottom of the pie plate and pick up pieces of garlic soaked in white wine, flavored with the shrimp shells.  Delicious.  I’m certain mine is the only kitchen in town today serving up this kind of luxury for $1.95 per pound.

Today:  5.4 miles.  48 minutes.

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5 Comments on “Eating Native”

  1. Craig Says:

    Ooooh! I am SO jealous!

    Why couldn’t we have had this yesterday when I was actually home for lunch?

    I’m so glad you were able to indulge yourself for a change. It must have been very good. So good, that today’s running experience was reduced to a mere footnote by comparison.

  2. Don’t be SO jealous. You must admit that yesterday’s lunch was also pretty amazing. Remember, there’s always next week…and as Fat Boy Slim sings, “A little bit of this and a little bit of THAT…”

  3. lise Says:

    ok you don’t write this blog to practice writing….you are trying to make the rest of us jealous and VERY hungry. Sounds like a great moment in your day my friend 🙂

  4. sent via Facebook by my friend Michelle:

    “I read your blog today and it made me laugh. I was so there with you. I was at Steve’s
    yesterday, buying native shrimp. I came right home and cooked it up in a saute pan with
    garlic and wine. How funny was that. So So enjoyable. I stood over the counter and
    ate it all without sharing. We are on the same page!”

  5. Michaela Says:

    Hi Elizabeth!
    Great to dine with you et al via Maureen Rich. It was a rich night indeed…great food, good company, excellent conversation…and your meeting Craig romantic story…sigh!

    Didn’t see recipe for twiced baked sweet potatoes?
    Could you fwd? Amazing! Yum!!!

    Till summer at your porch or Jane’s, next up?? Michaela

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