Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Ode to Shrimp

Though Bubba was talking about shrimp out of the Gulf of Mexico, the same can be said of our delicious little shrimp that come out of the Gulf of Maine. They are truly a staple here in Maine and can be found on just about every restaurant menu in the state. Even the pizza places put them on their pizza.

So it is a sad thing to announce that the 2014 Maine Shrimp Season has been cancelled. To those of us who grew up with shrimp in our bellies, it is like a member of the family has gone missing and we don't know when or if he will be coming home.

Here is my ode to Maine shrimp and a look inside my relationship with my FAVORITE crustacean and quite possibly my favorite food of all time. Please note that when I talk about shrimp, there is no question about what type of shrimp. To me, the Maine Shrimp is the only one that matters.

  1. When Gurnet Trading Co. first opened, I picked shrimp. I picked them for hours and hours and hours after school. I picked until my fingers were numb and sore from stabbing myself with the shrimp spines. I stayed up until 1 AM cleaning and packing shrimp. 
  2. Though I haven't had them since she passed, my grandmother's shrimp bars are my most favorite party appetizer ever. They are like dense little quiche squares with no crust. They are made of shrimp, broccoli, and cheddar cheese. They are best served cold, though I would always snag one before it had "set up" because I was so impatient. When my grandmother would ask me what I wanted for my birthday, the answer was always shrimp bars. If and when the season opens again, I will hunt down her recipe and post it for you. 
  3. Shrimp are super easy to cook with and therefore regularly save my hide when I don't have a plan for dinner.
  4. My favorite way to eat Maine Shrimp is fried. I call it seafood candy. It is the only food I have eaten to the point of being ill. And I have done it on multiple occasions. It's the only food I have found my self capable of "binge eating." Perhaps closing the shrimp season is a good thing? No never! I condemn myself to 20 lashes for heretical speech. 
  5. When I was in college my mom once packaged up a box of live shrimp and shipped them to Maine Maritime Academy. Most kids get cookies and ramen in their care packages. I got 8 pounds of live crustaceans. 
  6. This next one might be considered a little improper, so you might want to skip it if you don't sometimes giggle at bathroom humor. Another time at school, David and I put on a "u-peel-em" feed with our friends. We ate mass amounts of shrimp and consumed cases of beer. The next morning we got up and drove to Sugarloaf to do some skiing. Once we reached the top of the mountain, David comments that he feels a bit gaseous. Then seeping out through layers and layers of long underwear, ski pants, and jackets comes the foulest rotten shrimp stench ever. It enveloped us and crept in through even our ski masks. We laughed so hard that we collapsed in the snow. More than 6 years later we still remember that fart and laugh about it, joking that his ski pants still retain their rotten shrimp stench. 
  7. I remember very little from elementary school. But I do remember going on a field trip to shrimp boat. Mountains and mountains of tiny shrimp flip flopping on deck. Great big nets. A slippery deck on big steel boat. Squid and other little critters that came up with the shrimp.  
Shrimp invoke some of my strongest memories. It's strange to think that simply the loss of a food source can bring up such strong emotions. 

But to some it is not just the loss of a favorite food. It is not just the emotional impact. There will be very real economic consequences as well. Those fishermen who rely on the industry to feed their families will be scrambling and struggling during already difficult times. 

Then there are the retail impacts. In the winter, Gurnet Trading usually employs 2-3 seasonal but full time employees to clean and package shrimp. That is two jobs gone in just one small market. We are just one market in many that will not be able to employ shrimp pickers this winter.

Our menu, like many others in the state, is going to be demolished by this closure. We will have to remove some of our most popular products. Here is a look into how our menu will be impacted. 

Our Fish Market
  • Frozen Shimp - gone
  • Live Shrimp - gone
  • Fresh Shrimp - gone
  • Stuffed Scallops - modified (the stuffing contains shrimp)
Our Take-Out
  • Fried Shrimp (pint) - gone
  • Fried Shrimp (basket) - gone
  • Fried Shrimp (dinner) - gone
  • Fried Shrimp Roll - gone
  • Shrimp Salad Roll - gone
  • Shrimp Stew - gone
  • Fisherman's Platter - modified
  • Seafood Chowder - modified

So let us all have a moment of silence for the 2014 shrimp season. Let us hope the we can get the fishery on track to sustainability, else we loose yet another industry and source of income. 

Tonight I will leave you with two questions.

What is your favorite shrimp dish?

How will the closure impact you?