One day, my colleagues and I sat outside the office building with our lunch bags in tow. As we unwrapped our sandwiches and got ready to eat, someone got the conversation going by asking us what food we could not live without. One lady immediately said "cheese" and we all agreed. When my turn came, I blurted "juicy, fat shrimps!" They looked at me like I was either out to lunch or had just landed from Mars.
Let me explain. When I was four or five years old, the doctor told my mother that I had an allergy to shrimps and that I’d probably never be able to eat them even as an adult. We were colonized by Spain (before the Americans colonized us) and because they ruled our country for 300 years, they had introduced a lot of things Spanish. The afternoon siesta was one. The manana habit was another (there ought to be a tilde on the first "n"). As for food, they introduced us to paella, arroz a la valenciana, chocolate con churros, chorizo de bilbao, and many, many others. I loved paella, but could not really bury my nose into that colorful platter of "mariscos" for fear that I’d react violently to the shrimps. I felt helplessly deprived.
But time heals, as they say, and I lucked out. Over the years, my shrimp allergy slowly vanished into thin air and I was able to savor all the shrimp dishes that I missed in my childhood. I’d beg my mother for paella, "rebosado" (shrimps coated in flour and deep-fried) and shrimps sauteed in pools of butter and fistfuls of garlic. Other times, I would ask for skewered giant shrimps barbecued on the grill. My mother also had a shrimp dish that she would cook slowly throughout the day in a thick tomato type sauce that was in between sweet and spicy. What was remarkable about this dish was she didn’t remove the skin. By the end of the day, and the cooking was done, the skin was so tender that we ate it with the shrimp. You didn’t even feel the sharp gills – it was like they melted on your mouth. My mother’s culinary treats left me with fond memories. She was one person who bubbled with creativity as soon as she put on that apron. Funny, but I don’t think she ever cooked with a recipe on her hand. She’d improvise – the way she improvised George Gershwin’s pieces on the piano.
I made this shrimp dish last month. I never had the time to post it. The sun-dried tomatoes give this dish that special flair and flavor.
3 tbsp scallions (green onions – sliced as above)
2 tbsp garlic (mashed)
1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes (in oil), sliced into bits
dash of white wine
salt and pepper to taste
Saute your garlic in the hot oil. Add your sun-dried tomatoes. Lower heat to medium and add your shrimps with their tails on. When shrimps turn pink, sprinkle your wine. Salt and pepper to taste. Decorate with green onions before serving.
What would this world be like without shrimps? I agree, cheese is indispensable. Some will give pizza, bread or cheese cake a vote of confidence, but I’ll stick to my guns and give shrimps my vote!