Sunday, June 22, 2014

The "Best" Shrimp

This time last year I was treated to the most delicious shrimp I'd ever eaten in my life. It was a hot weekend in late June and my summer training group had just finished a grueling week at work. Stationed an hour outside of Montreal, our usual weekend routine (conditional on us not doing anything worthy of having weekend leave revoked), consisted of finding a way to the closest city to decompress. The moment Friday evening hit, we all crammed into one buddy or another's car and headed for Montreal. Most people steered directly to St. Catherine's street to numb their dampened spirits with goodies from the SAQ, or visits to Club SuperSex. A good friend and I, however, recovered in a totally different way that only true foodies can understand. After weeks of army food, we wanted a culinary vacation...if only for 2 1/2 days. We made fantastic french toast with a cherry compote, the saltiest margaritas, most caramelized root vegetables, freshest salads, fluffiest omelettes, and the juiciest shrimp! After an afternoon of sailing off Pointe Claire, we returned to the suburbs and I crashed in the backyard next to the pool. It was a nap in the sun made so glorious due to the long induced sleep-deprivation experienced up until that point. When I woke up (badly burnt), to my surprise there was a plate of perfectly sauteed shrimp in garlic and parsley sitting next to me on a table... accompanied by the cook in his dashing aviators. They were perfect! Not overcooked in the slightest, over-garlicky, and peppered just enough. I always try to re-create them at home (see picture), but they never taste as good. I chalk that phenomenon down to the re-occurring mystery of why the same dish never tastes as good the second or third time one prepares it: we associate food with so much more than the mere ingredients in the pan. It's about atmosphere, company, how hungry you are for down-time or good-eats, etc. And so, when I throw dinner parties or bring baked goods to school, I always try to plan the timing and atmosphere to heighten the experience: brownies during all-nighter study sessions before exams, a Spanish paella party on the beach at the end of summer, damn-it-we're-lazy-let's-order-Indian-food-cause-it's-pay-day, or just good tea with a friend when they need to chat. Tetley Orange Pekoe tastes really good with a side of tears... It's all in the atmosphere. Long story short, I made these shrimp on a weekend at home that wasn't as hard earned as the one in Montreal a year previous. The shrimp were delicious, but they didn't blow me away. Some moments in time are best bottled, sealed, and stored away, as perfect little memories not to be replicated. That said, don't overcook your shrimp! A baby kitten dies every time you turn those little crustaceans to rubber! Carry on.

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