Posts tagged ‘community’
“Do you like shrimp?” My neighbor Bob is at the door, in his hand an empty, clean container, in his eyes that twinkle that he gets when he can pay us back in kind.
“How was the meatloaf? Did you notice it was made with turkey and porcini?” I relieve him of the plastic and ask him in, even though my head is full with numbers. It’s time to chat, business plans will have to wait.
We started this last fall, right after we had moved to Maine, and it’s become a game. He used to making a living digging clams and worms, but now he is disabled and lives alone next door. I’m sure cooking for one must be a drag, so when I make a special meal, a big one, and if it’s manly food, a roast, a stew, maybe some mashed potatoes, we share. Then he returns the favor. Chicken soup with dumplings brought us a plant stand painted lavender, a slice of ham with greens and candied sweet potatoes yielded a pair of dish rags, crocheted in pink and blue. When he ran out of stuff to give he turned to food as well, a box of store brand garlic toast, a huge can of Chow Mein. My lack of enthusiasm over his last offering must be displayed right on my face.
“They’re from the ocean,” he assures me. “No shells. The lady picks them really good.”
Reluctantly – the garlic toast was awful – I agree to give him and his food another try. That evening he brings a pound of shrimp in an old-fashioned Tupperware container; it’s orange with a star burst etched onto its lid. I pop it and am greeted by a clean breeze from the ocean and a sparkling sight. These little shrimp, they are so fresh, each is surrounded by a ring of bubbles like a translucent chain of pearls. They are so pure and sweet, so rosy and so glistening, curled up little buds of life, little cherubs, they remind me of a baby’s bottom. I can’t resist; I try one raw. Delicate and tender, the taste is without par.
I sauté them briefly in olive oil and butter, with just a hint of garlic, a smidgen of red pepper and slivers of fresh lemon grass. As soon as they release their liquid, I turn off the stove. I serve them over angel hair, made from Jerusalem artichoke which is more delicate and tender and complements the shrimp. The rest I turn into a salad with scallions and the tiniest bits of celery, a little sour cream, some home-made mayonnaise. Talk about a taste of Maine!
Right after the feast I look up Maine shrimp on the Internet. Apparently they’re famous beyond the borders of New England and for more than their delightful taste: Pandalus borealis so love the cold waters of the Gulf of Maine they stay here their entire lives, onshore as juveniles then, when they’re one year old, they move offshore where all of them mature as males. But once they’re three they change again, this time into females, and in the winter all those females, bearing eggs, move back inshore to spawn. What an ingenious trick of nature to maximize their yield. And what luck for hungry Mainers – all that tasty protein plus D, the sunshine vitamin, right when we need it most.
“Where did you get these, they’re so much better than the store.” I call up Bob before I finish reading. Why bother with the facts and words when the story can be told by taste?
I can almost hear him beam. “Up the street, in Dutch Neck. You know where all the fishermen live? I can get you more. They’re cheap, but the season’s almost over.”
“If only I could buy up all they have, freeze them for our summer guests. I can just imagine omelet with shrimp, or pancakes… But there’s no space. We just went shopping…”
“My freezer’s empty. You can store them here.”
That’s how I ended up with five pounds of shrimp, frozen at the moment of perfection when they’re as fresh and rosy as a baby’s bottom, and with my first taste of community in Maine.