Thursday, July 30, 2009


left to right: Martha, Steve, Moi, Chef Ben
Just look at the steam coming off the bowls of Frogmore Stew!!

I've been working on my August column for the Durham Herald-Sun for the past couple of days. I am just about ready to send it to my editor-- after I head over to the Wine Authorities and ask a couple more questions. (Important to get my facts straight, I guess, since they are the subject of the story-- and I wouldn't dare get on their bad side since I expect to continue drinking there for a long time to come.) The research that I must do for this writing! Imagine.
Anyway, I spent last week lounging on the beach at Sunset. It is actually an island. Nothing but houses, one fishing pier, a couple of shops for necessities (like beer, ice cream and pink cowboy hats) and lots of sand. A new bridge is being built to replace the ancient one that, although it is a landmark, is very outdated and causes traffic to snarl. Evacuating during a hurricane would be scary. We discovered Sunset about 25 years ago and love going there with our boys. My mom went with us a couple of months after my dad died and I hope it was a healing place for her. Last week, I read three books, ate lots of shrimp, walked each morning with my BFF (who just happened to be there, too, with her family), walked each afternoon with Steve, found some sand dollars (ok, Steve found them, not me), got sunburned and relaxed with my boys.
The last night we were there, we ate dinner with BFF Martha's family. They go to Sunset each year (her late father loved it there) with her brother, Ben, his family and Helen, Martha and Ben's mom. Ben and his wife, Deirdre, made Frogmore Stew for all 14 of us. Martha and I went to the grocery store to buy small red potatoes, fresh corn on the cob, Old Bay seasoning, sausage, lemons and limes. We bought the shrimp at Captain Jack's on Beach Street. I knew the ingredients since I was helping pick them out, but I had no idea what a feast I was in for.
To say that it was delicious is an understatement. But I just can't come up with a better word. We served ourselves paper plates full and sat down around a huge table to eat. Forks optional. Peeling shrimp and popping them in my mouth, then licking the seasoning off my fingers, one by one, is the taste of the beach, in my humble opinion. Every single ingredient was cooked to perfection. No mushy potatoes. Corn still with that crunch when you bite into it. (Steve popped a lemon rind into his mouth before I could stop him-- he hadn't been shopping for the ingredients and thought it was squash. James King and I saw the whole thing, so he couldn't deny it.)
The conversation was great, the laughter was loud, teasing among family members and reminiscing about past beach trips was shared and enjoyed by all. There is much to celebrate in life. Marriages (and remarriages!), a year's worth of birthdays, memories of loved ones who have left us behind and and an unspoken, yet shared knowledge (at least by the adults present) that in a year's time the group around the table could change. Life has a way of doing that in a 12-month period. To quote Helen, once again... Sometimes you just have to live with life.
It's context that makes these meals enjoyable. It's who you are with and where you are that you remember when you think of a certain memorable meal or glass of wine. Isn't it wonderful that you can simply let your mind wander back and recall vivid images, tastes and smells?
Maybe I am just being nostalgic since my 51st birthday has now come and gone, but the past year has been an amazing one for me. I finally realized, as I wrote a thank you note yesterday to the generous benefactors who made my sabbatical experience possible, that my six months in France will never end as long as I have my memories. Life moves on at a fast pace and either you choose to live it, with the fun and not-so-fun parts or you get stuck and can't move on. I choose to live today and anticipate what's just around the bend.

Uncle Beano's Frogmore Stew
New Potatoes
Sausage (Chorizo, Andouille, hot Italian or some other spicy grind)
Red Onion
Old Bay Seasoning
Hot Sauce
Minced Garlic
Allow 1/3 to ½ lbs of shrimp and one ear of corn per person. Cut corn in halves. Chop sausages to half inch or so. Cut potatoes in quarters.
Bring big pot of water to boil with slices of lime, lemon, and onion. Add minced garlic and a few jabbers of hot sauce (also some beer, if you like), and a few shakes of Old Bay. Add potatoes, corn and sausage. When potatoes are on verge of being done, add shrimp and cook for about 3-4 minutes until shrimps are done.
Spread on newspapers (the cooked food, that is), dust heavily with Old Bay, and serve with cocktail sauce, butter, or whatever moves you.
Merci, Ben!
Bon appétit, y'all!


Salamanzar and Grand Poobah Wine Swami said...

Will you be reproducing that shrimp boil? If so, I am there with beer in hand for all. Hope your BD was fantastic. This is going to be the best year ever! - Salamanzar

The Sabbatical Chef said...

It could easily be reproduced... summer ain't over yet!! I think the WA article will appear in Aug. 12 Herald-Sun. It was fun to research and write! See you soon, I am sure.

Martha said...

The food, the family and the friends were all awesome! The perfect celebration for the perfect night!I'm glad I was there :)