I’m not thrilled with shrimp.
I supposed they taste alright, but before cooked, they look like naked aliens. Or like the waste product of a whale.
So when my son-in-law announced “I’m making shrimp stew for dinner,” my stomach did a little ‘oh shit,’ dance, but my mind leapt in joy and my lips blurted out, “Wow! That sounds delicious!”
Whatever he prepared, I would have responded as enthusiastically and happily for three reasons:
#1 He cooked so daughter Nadine and I, the special guest for the weekend, could sit around the couch and drink wine while we watched. And on that Saturday night, my stomach would accept shrimp or lima beans or even sautéed liver, just because I was in the same room with my favorite New England family.
#2 While Dan cooked, my little grandchildren, Sophie and Clark, scampered in and out of the kitchen like soft fuzzy gerbils.
#3 And while the shrimp sizzled, my brother Chuck, who I see once a year if I’m lucky since he lives in Maryland and I live in California, found a way to Boston, and to this N.E. family, for a quick 24-hour visit.
The Cabernet he brought with him was too expensive: ruby red with expressions of cranberry and plum, which coated our mouths and minds like a soothing lubricant.
“My dog Oliver got in so much trouble this week,” Chuck complained as he petted Nadine and Dan’s sweet Golden Retriever. “He peed on the new rug, and he never misbehaves like that. I think he wanted to get in trouble.”
“Why would he want to get in trouble?” I asked, nibbling on the salsa and chips Nadine offered.
“No dog, or man, wants to be perfect all the time,” Chuck answered as if the comment made sense.
“Well, neither you nor Dan have a thing to worry about then,” Nadine said with a laugh to her uncle.
I gulped some wine as I looked for Dan’s reaction, but he was too busy chopping onions and green peppers and celery and throwing it all into his simmering tomato-based stew. Actually, right about then, Dan looked pretty perfect to me.
“I love shrimp,” my normally non-effusive brother announced. In fact, the more wine I poured in his goblet, the more he loosened up and the wider he smiled. I could have hugged Dan for making a dish I wouldn’t like, but that gave such joy to Chuck.
“I love shrimp too!” I said as I poured more wine into Dan’s glass and clinked it with my own.
“Cheers!” we toasted to each other, to shrimp, and to ordinary family get-togethers that are extraordinary in their ability to make us happy.