Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Shrimp Fest


The hotel waiter proffered a tray of golden brown, coconut encrusted shrimp in my direction.

Delightful! I took two, paused, and snagged two more. Fresh, gulf shrimp prepared to perfection. My favorite.

I was hanging around waiting to hear Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, talk to a select group of customers and partners, including, strange as it may seem, me. Yep, me and Steve-O-rino, chompin' a little shrimp, sippin' a little champagne and enjoying a beautiful Houston evening in the middle of a cold front that dropped the temperature to a frigid 70. Hey, this is Houston in February; it could be 90.

Mmmmmmmm, shrimpppp, as a drooling Homer Simpson would moan.

I can't get enough shrimp. When I'm reincarnated I want to come back as a shrimp boat net. That would be cool. Tons and tons o' shrimp, all for me, well, for a while at least.

Shrimp takes me back to my earliest memories of Going Out to Eat. I put that in CAPS because when I was a kid Going Out to Eat was a very big deal and we only did it a few times a year, mostly when on vacation, although during a lot of our vacations we cooked in a cabin or on a bar-b-que.

At a restaurant I scanned the menu like a raptor seeking the shrimp dinner. There was always a shrimp dinner. Here's the basic blueprint:

4 batter-fried, golden, butterfly shrimp
potato salad or cole slaw
French fries

That's your basic Restaurant Shrimp Dinner. Occasionally I would score 6 Batter-Fried, Golden, Butterfly Shrimp and that restaurant would hold a special place in my heart forever.

Fast rewind to Nogales, Mexico on the Arizona border. We went down there for a short vacation, staying on the American side, of course, but venturing into Mexico for a day of shopping and dinner. Our destination was a place called The Cave and it was quite a hike to get there, up long staircases in a dark part of the city. Eventually, we found The Cave and it was exactly that: a restaurant built into the cliff face. We asked for a table as far into the cave as possible to experience the full ambience!

Being in Mexico I had no hope of getting shrimp. Miles from any water and, well, it was Mexico and we were at a Mexican restaurant. Tacos, burritos, enchiladas, all of which I liked very much, would be offered and I was cool with that.

Imagine my surprise when I spied Deluxe Shrimp Dinner. Imagine my dismay when that's all I spied; no shrimp count. My dilemma was whether to order a yummy Mexican meal (bird in the hand) or venture for the Deluxe Shrimp Dinner, unknown shrimp count (bird in the bush). I solved this problem by actually asking the waiter how many shrimp came with the Deluxe Shrimp Dinner. The waiter didn't speak much English and basically shrugged his shoulders.

I rolled the dice and went for the Deluxe Shrimp Dinner, then spent the next 30 minutes regretting my decision.

Finally, it arrived.

The Deluxe Shrimp Dinner was a misnomer. Expecting 4 perhaps, at the outside, 6 shrimp, but being Mexico, far from water and all that, maybe 2 shrimp I was presented with a

Shrimp Fest.

No less than 30 shrimp. A huge, heaping platter of shrimp mound. Shrimp Mountain. The Mother Lode. More shrimp than I thought existed. All the shrimp, all for me.

I was shrimply overwhelmed.

It took me quite a while to munch through all that shrimp, but every bite was a delight. I nibbled, I gnashed and I got shrimply revenge on all the 4-6 cheapskate shrimp dinners I'd had in my life to that point.

I was so impressed by the Deluxe Shrimp Dinner at The Cave in Nogales, Mexico that I tell the story to this day.

Just did.

1 comment:

Amy said...

Steve Ballmer is a pretty tall shrimp!