As much as I love shrimp, I’ve never touched them raw before. On Sunday, something strange possessed me and I found myself at the fish counter asking the guy behind the counter for a pound of headless shrimp. I actually had no idea how much shrimp would be enough shrimp, but I stood off to the side long enough to see that most people asked for a pound. The shrimp monger handed me the plastic bag, and I threw my dinner into the cart and went on my way. It wasn’t until I got home that I stared at them sitting on my kitchen counter and realized I had no idea what to do with them.
After a call to my mom and some shrimp video tutorials found online, I pulled myself together and went back into the kitchen. First there was the de-veining business. Bobby Flay made it look easy, and sure enough — a cut right down the middle, a little tug there — it was a cinch! In that moment, I felt so real, so connected to the food I was about to eat, a feeling our hunter and gatherer ancestors must have felt. Here I was, rolling up my sleeves and de-veining my own shrimp.
I thought this was pretty darn spiffy and was still riding high on my wave of food competence well into Monday, when work sent me to our new Boise office. During the day, I discovered that the vending machine in the kitchen didn’t require any quarters and couldn’t believe my good luck. After a hard day’s work, and a bag of Tater Skins and an almond chocolate bar later, I got to celebrate the grand opening of the new office and mingled with the Boise team over wine and stuffed mushrooms.
Having spent the entire trip in the office, I struck up conversations with the locals in the hopes that I’d get a better feel for what Boise life was like. One guy put it like this — he had lived in California for 8 years and in all that time had never known his neighbors, not even their names. Here, the first week they moved in, his neighbors had come over to introduce themselves with pies, a gesture I had written off as something that only happens in the movies. I knew what car my neighbors drove and what they sounded like when they had sex (there was unbelievable amounts of talking), but we had never exchanged baked goods with one another. I had a feeling the kind of relationship he had with his neighbors was very different than the one I had with mine and I felt a little jealous.
When I asked what he did for fun, he told me that he liked going hunting. I imagined ducks being shot down from the sky, and thought maybe I could relate to him with my recent shrimp gutting experience. Nice being able to work with your hands and know where your food comes from, huh? I might have said. But then he said he went after bigger game. “The challenging part of hunting bears is getting them back to your car. I mean, that’s 300 pounds you have to carry back with you!” He talked briefly about the methods he employed which made it possible to put bear on the table for his family, but I had stopped listening. Boise had me beat at every turn. The vending machines, the friendly neighbors, the bears.
I called Alan later to tell him about the things we could hunt if we moved here and related the bear story. When I finished, he said “Oh my god” which I wasn’t sure if that was meant to mean “We’ve got to move there now” or something else. But then, he hadn’t been the one to de-vein the shrimp. Maybe I could start him off with that and see where things go from there.