September 10

Barbecue Shrimp Day

Maris. Maras. Barbecue Shrimp. Marie Laveau. Cocktail.

Days Until. . .

Coolinary ends 3

Food Calendar

Today is Barbecue Shrimp Day. It won't be a national celebration, because a) no other part of the country has shrimp as fine as the white shrimp we have right now and 2) no other place understands that "barbecue shrimp" is a misnomer. There's no smoke, grill, or thick sauce. Instead, they're cooked with a sauce Richard Collin once described as "all the butter in the world, and half the pepper." A little garlic, Worcestershire, and paprika are in there, too.The dish was invented at Pascal's Manale in 1954, when a customer asked Pascal Radosta to duplicate a shrimp dish he had in Chicago. The resulting dish wasn't like the one this guy had found, but he liked it even better. Barbecue shrimp soon became the signature dish at Manale's, where most tables include at least one order of the things.It's essential for barbecue shrimp to be made with large, intact, unpeeled shrimp (about 10-20 to the pound), with heads, shells, tails, and everything else still there. Much flavor comes from the juices and fats in the head. Whole shrimp this size, drenched in sauce, are a mess to eat. Especially if you insist on peeling the shrimp. (I just pull the heads off and eat the rest, shells and all--although I do not recommend this to you.) Chef Gerard Maras made a major improvement in barbecue shrimp in the 1980s, during his tenure at Mr. B's. His trick: whisking in the butter at the end of the cooking process. Emeril Lagasse developed the only good peeled version of barbecue shrimp, making a very intense stock out of the heads and shells, and incorporating it back into the butter sauce. It's a great idea, but a lot of work.Every restaurant has its own version of barbecue shrimp, but to my tastes, the simpler the recipe, the better they are.

Tenuous Food-Sports Connection

Today is the birthday, in 1934, of Yankee home run slugger Roger Maris, my boyhood baseball hero. He batted left and threw right, as I do. Hit sixty-one homers in 1961, topping Babe Ruth's best single season. His name originally was spelled "Maras," same as New Orleans chef Gerard Maras. The chef renovated barbecue shrimp during his tenure at Mr. B's, where it's still the best version in town. (See above.)

Gourmet Gazetteer

Mount Plantain is in the extreme southwestern corner of Massachusetts, in the lofty Berkshire Mountains. It rises to 2077 feet, towering above the Appalachian Trail, which runs around its eastern slope and past Plantain Pond at its base. It's a popular area for hikers, and the pond has docks for fishing boats. It is very unlikely that plantains--from a tropical tree--grow in this cold climate. The nearest restaurant is the Stagecoach, three miles northeast up the Appalachian Trail in Sheffield.

Deft Dining Rule #614

Shrimp always taste better with the shells and heads still in place.

Edible Dictionary

coquetier, (koe-keh-TYAY), [French], n.--An egg cup, usually made of china or ceramic in an hourglass shape. It holds a single boiled egg upright so that it can be cracked by the eater and eaten with a small spoon. It's particularly useful for soft-boiled eggs, or eggs that have been scrambled and returned to the shell. The egg cup also figures in the history of the cocktail. Among the many stories of how the cocktail came to be is that it was originally served in an egg cup by a pharmacist in New Orleans. "Coquetier" was corrupted by incoming Americans into "cocktail," or so it's said.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez

If you have even a suspicion that the shrimp are completely cooked, they are.

Creole Icons

Today is the birthday, in 1801, of Marie Laveau, the most celebrated historical name in New Orleans voodoo circles. Her name has been used in connection with many dishes, a beer, and a restaurant. Her supposed tomb in St. Louis Cemetery (its authenticity is disputed) is among the most visited in the city.

Food Namesakes

Yma Sumac, a Peruvian singer who was famous for her alleged four-octave vocal range, was born today in 1922. (Sumac is a spice widely used in Middle Eastern cooking.) . . . Actor Philip Baker Hall was born today in 1932. . . Siobhan Fahey, who was a singer in the Irish band Bananarama, turned on his mike today in 1958. . . Professional snowboarder Travis Rice hit the Big Snowbank today in 1982.Golfer Arnold Palmer was born today in 1929. He played in the Masters tournament fifty times in his career. He has a good, non-alcoholic beverage named for him. An Arnold Palmer is half lemonade, half iced tea. Very refreshing.

Words To Eat By

"I think somebody should come up with a way to breed a very large shrimp. That way, you could ride him, then, after you camped at night, you could eat him. How about it, science?"--Jack Handey.

That would be the perfect size for barbecue shrimp.

Words To Drink By

"I love drinking now and then. It defecates the standing pool of thought. A man perpetually in the paroxysm and fears of inebriety is like a half-drowned stupid wretch condemned to labor unceasingly in water; but a now-and-then tribute to Bacchus is like the cold bath, bracing and invigorating."--Robert Burns.