Friday, April 2, 2010

A fan letter to seafood

Dear shrimp,

Thank you for being born. And your buddy the oyster. And your hard to peel cousin the crawfish. I love you all. I loved you for an entire week and now I feel the symptoms of withdrawal coming on. I visited you in what may be your finest living quarters, New Orleans. I’ve inhaled you in many of your other residences through the years but New Orleans has to be your best address. Or at least where I enjoyed you most.

I want you to know you did not die without a good fight. I suffered for you, but in the end I won. You see, I am rather accident prone. I frequently exhibit cuts and scrapes on my hands from sewing. The Cajun spices you were cooked in got in there. EACH. AND. EVERY. TIME. I. ATE. YOU. Tears streaming down my face, I enjoyed you.

I first partook in the great war of my fingers vs shellfish at a café at The French Market. The waitress sat with me and gleefully showed me how a local peels crawfish and sucks the spiced boil out of you. I should mention my non seafood eating travel mate looked on in horror during the display, while I could do nothing but clap my hands like a toddler at the sight of my first birthday cake. Then I sucked down a pound of you. I was told by the saxophone player nearby that this is a brief seasonal delicacy available for only a matter of weeks a year. Imagine my timing, I was there for it! Shellfish, you probably aren’t as excited about the scheduling coincidence as I. Your loss. Pounds of you. In my belly.

Then, I discovered happy hour at John Besh’s Luke. I’m not much for the magic liquid, I prefer to eat my calories. People in New Orleans seem to take their happy hour very seriously. 7 days a week. From 3-6. I agree with them once I learned they serve $.25 oysters at Luke. Luke and I became frequent lovers. They had the largest and best tasting oysters I have ever seen. I enjoyed their blend of horseradish for the oysters, though they were so good they didn’t need any help. I can’t walk away from an opportunity to catch my sinus on fire, and took in that challenge.

I also partook in an entree of spectacular called Shrimp Farci. Crabmeat stuffed shrimp, fried with a blood orange hollandaise sauce for it to go diving in. The angioplasty I will need was worth it for the sauce. Which I dipped veggies (what was that green looking cauliflower?) and fries in. When I ran out of those I got a straw out and drank it. (not really, dining buddy would have stabbed me with fork)

While out strolling I passed by Acme Oyster House, without a line. Every other time I went by had a line. So I wandered in and threw down some chargrilled oysters. They were very, very tasty. Would I wait hours in line to get them when tons of other seafood places had smaller lines, nah. I would wait hours in line to get any of these items where I live, but not in New Orleans.

The highlight of my food jaunt was discovering Barbecue Shrimp. The New Orleans way, jumbo head-on Shrimp sautéed in Cajun seasoned butter. I went to Deanies Seafood with the intent of having a crawfish boil and some crabs. When I saw the guy next to me get the BBQ shrimp I knew I needed it. I picked an unfortunate day to wear a bell sleeved blouse and my hair loose. This is why rubber bands and stain removal were invented. If I could eat this every day without having a heart attack, I would. The dish is served with a loaf of bread to dunk in the leftover sauce. Like Luke, I went to Deanies more than once. I had a fascinating conversation with a bartender there. He sympathized with my totally-disgusted-with-my-seafood-eating friend and stated he doesn’t eat seafood either. I wonder, that must be like a PETA member working in a slaughterhouse. He said the tips made the working environment worthwhile since most people put the Cajun fire out with beer. I put the fire out with more seafood. Not effective but so delicious.

I had many other good meals, Po Boys at a couple places and breakfast at Mother’s. The debris at Mother’s was great but the ham honestly wasn’t the best I ever had, it was an experience to be had. This trip it was the seafood and the people that blew me away. I had amazing conversations with locals about their history and the history of their proud home. I brought back a large bag of spices to attempt my own crawfish boil and bbq shrimp. If not, I’ll be planning another trip to New Orleans.


Sarah Seafood Slurper

Ps.If I ever find a way to get the gigantic masks from Le Garage on Decatur back to my home, I’ll clear the place out. If you wonder what I am talking about, just go visit. Yes, those are for sale. I stood like an idiot with 1 in my arms trying to figure out how to get it home. And a suit of armor. In case the seafood fight back. I need to have it.