Friday, September 13, 2013

Creating a happy shore memory 1,000 miles from the shore

My book club reads to eat. For the past eight years we have met monthly rotating between each other’s homes and December is my month because it is lobster fest. Every December. In my selfish attempt to create a fond memory of the shore, now that I live in the Mid-west, I suggested the book “ Lobster Chronicles” several years ago so that we could eat lobster. We read to eat, and select food themes based upon the book we are reading and “Lobster Chronicles” seemed like a great way to introduce my friends to lobster, which many of them had never experienced.

I grew up on the East Coast where eating lobster, clams, shrimp, oysters, and crab was a was just part of my experience – from Maine to Maryland I expected a special weekend meal to include some kind of fish that had been caught nearby. Hosteling on Cape Cod, camping on the beaches in Maine or escaping a hot kitchen in Baltimore and cracking crab claws on the picnic table out back, there was always fantastic food and friendship shared. Holidays included lobster, with New Year’s Eve featuring a lobster salad made from leftovers, family gatherings in Maryland ensured crab feasts, and weddings often featured hog roasts with a clam bake. My fondest childhood memories are related to family, friends and food and the extra special memories added the shore to that mix.

The sea breeze, sounds of the waves, the gulls calling out, the taste and smells that lets you know that you are somewhere alive, vibrant and salty…and the sand; cold, wet, dry, hot, rough, soft, ever-present, thousands and millions of grains of sand that come together to provide a place for the waves to connect. The shore, oh boy…do I miss the shore here in Minnesota.  So I’ve decided to recreate my happy shore memories, right here with my family and friends…now all I need is the food and the ambience and my book group is all in.
So here is how I made it happen – the recipe for creating a happy shore memory 1,000 miles away from the shore:

FOOD
  •        Lobster – I begin by ordering the lobster, which includes talking to the local grocery department meat department to find out when they receive deliveries of lobster and how long they will hold them (so I can select the date)
  •         Shrimp for a shrimp cocktail
  •          Cocktail sauce
  •          Butter
  •          Corn on the cob
  •          Vanilla ice cream

I have selected the shellfish which are successful here. Clams and crab are very difficult to get fresh, and even though I have tried to order steamers, I usually end up with huge clams which are only good chopped into chowder - so lobster and shrimp it is. There are no cheddar biscuits, no fork food – part of the fun in the sharing of a feast like this is formalities go out the window. I am trying to create an experience of sitting around a picnic table, with newsprint spread out on the table, paper towels act as napkins and no one cares how much Old Bay ends up on the beer bottle. The only worry is whether or not the butter will make the wine glass too slippery. Jeans are expected apparel and dish towels act as bibs.

EQUIPMENT & SUPPLIES
  •         Plastic table cloths
  •        Bucket for shells
  •          Claw crackers
  •          Picking forks – like skinny fondue forks for pulling meat out of the claws
  •          Rolls of paper towels
  •          Dishcloths for bibs
  •         Large platters for each individual to act as a plate
  •          A large canning pot for cooking the lobsters
  •          Butter warmers

Growing up by the shore, I fully expected that all kitchens have claw crackers, and crab mallets and picking forks and small sharp knives to cut through tough shells – so for those of you reading this who would also have the same expectation, make no assumptions and plan ahead, some of this equipment may be difficult to find – and while you can substitute with common items lying around the house, it will be far more enjoyable and create a closer experience to fond shore memories to have the appropriate equipment.

AMBIENCE
  •          One CD player playing sounds of the sea recordings, if you can find one that has an occasional gull calling out – that is fun, I usually pick out a few from my local library
  •          A second CD player playing fun music that you can envision dancing on the beach to – you can’t go wrong with Reggae
  •          Serve beer from a barrel
  •          Put a few fans around to simulate a breeze
  •          Encourage guests to bring flip flops and wear shorts, sunglasses as headbands
  •          A bowl of lemons, rolls of paper towels on the tables and a large serving platter for the lobster
  •          Pictorial instructions about how to eat a lobster
  •          I splurge and turn up the heat for the night

Each of these components will help you create a new shore memory. Have fun with it, put yourself in the experience and you and your friends and family might even forget that you are miles away from the shore. Friends, family gathering around food at the shore, it just doesn’t get much better than this...from my table to yours...enjoy.

What is your favorite beach/shore memory? 

I had been wanting to write this post for a while and then an opportunity came up to submit stories to a group collecting stories and recipes as a fundraiser to support the rebuilding efforts of the Jersey Shore. Because this is not about the shore, I do not know if it will be included, but I will encourage all of you to subscribe to their feed and support their efforts by purchasing their book when it is published.

Here's some information about their work: Savoring the Shore is a cook and memory book in the works to celebrate all things delectable at the Jersey Shore. Shore lovers including home cooks and chefs are asked to share their recipes and anecdotes in this cookbook. Proceeds benefit Sandy relief and rebuilding efforts for the Garden State. For more information about purchasing their memory book contact them on Twitter @savoringtheshore, savoringtheshore@gmail.com. http://savoringtheshore.com/

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