Saturday, May 23, 2009

the best way to take your lumps

on a trip back from a work project in reston, (virginia) i had the opportunity to visit my good friend colleen in maryland. i took her up on the awesome suggestion to lunch at jerry's seafood, where she has worked for many years. not only was it a moment of pure crustacean heaven, but one of great meditation on the experience of farm to table. (or in this case, shore to table). jerry's seafood restaurant is top notch dining, and i was in for a (sur) real treat.

lunch took the shape of a full on tasting of just about the entire menu. residing currently in a seafood challenged state, this was two hours of oceanic bliss. seriously. colleen was at the helm, so i sat back with relaxed abandon. lunch began with a trio of crab soups. traditional bisque with cream with sherry, curried crab bisque, and traditional chowder - tomato based with corn and lima beans. each more delicious than the other, with velvet finish on the bisque, fresh crab chunks, and just the right seasoning. the chowder was a perfect contrast to the creamy duo, and i finished every drop in each cup.

colleen was working the lunch shift, a light business on hand, so luckily had the chance to frequent my table. between short life snippets on the family, dogs, and updates on the boat, she delivered the white glove treatment in professional service and personal attention. i was completely spoiled.

i grazed through the menu.
perfectly fried shrimp, in a light batter that jerry has used for years. the shrimp was tender, and i dipped them (lovingly) in the home made remoulade sauce. crunchy, light and sweet. the sauce was dead on.
my beverage of choice: ice tea, perfect strength, unsweetened and lots of fresh lemon. next, bacon wrapped scallops, moist with a hint of hickory smoke. perfectly cooked, sweet and salty.
a deep fried crab ball comes full of that jumbo lump. i squeeze fresh lemon on it and take a slow bite. how could it be so good?
my palate took a cleanse with jerry's famous house salad. crisp, fresh, in a chilled plate. garden fresh veggies, and amazing blue cheese dressing so chunky with blue cheese it elicits complaints some days of "too much cheese". is that even possible?
as i sat at the table, i took a moment to meditate on the simple joy in dining alone. through the window i saw billowy clouds that were shingled in the sky in a way that you can only view in the north atlantic. between the shuttered blinds at my table i saw cerulean blue and white, a bright yellow school bus sat in the parking lot. it framed a perfect glimpse of a simple afternoon in lanham, maryland.
right then, we went deep into the chesapeake for what could only be described as heaven in a shell. colleen cleared the many small plates to make room for a giant mound of sizzling crab. jerry's crab "bomb" was a 6 oz. snowball of the biggest lump crab i've ever seen. bound only with fresh mayo and old bay seasoning, it was cooked to perfection in a blistering hot broiler. good lord. seriously. i was blown away, far into the waves of the eastern shore, lingering, reliving my years spent in Annapolis, my love affair with crab - and every bite took me back to a delicious memory.
once we visited pooh on the eastern shore, and amy, grace and i went to the most dilapidated crab shanty, just barely standing. cultivating soft shells in what looked like commercial porcelain sinks. the entire structure was crooked, and we walked the creaky planks in true awe. nets, traps all around, owl decoys swung back and forth on the dock. i remember that day as if it were just this afternoon. i always will.
i remembered tuesday nights at the blue channel inn in arnold, with colleen and crew, all the crabs you could eat for ridiculously cheap...beers, vinegar, butter. trays and trays of prehistoric dinner.
kentmoor marina had its own allure; crabs on the deck, all you could eat, salad, soup, a pound of steamed shrimp. it is what marylanders do all summer long. repeatedly, with fervor. just like a good italian and wednesday night spaghetti, this is the simple pleasure of living and working on the coast. it inspires me to write respectfully of traditions that cannot be replaced by anything else.

as if to outdo her own self, colleen tops off the feast with a perfectly fried soft shell crab, meaty and loaded with back fin. I linger in the moment of that bittersweet taste of the fat, and my endorphins are way beyond opiates. so full, but not willing to leave one leg on that plate, i pick and nibble and just like that crab, devour the entire body, limb by limb. i am on the verge of purge, but couldn't fathom leaving one thing out. i hoist up, as hootie would say, and finish with dignity.
i quietly soak my time and study colleen's face as she tells me about the new pups, furniture for the house, old friends' whereabouts. we talk about mary e., odenton, gail, truffles, blaine, the dd garage, sydney, dino, camille. colleen is just as i remember her. big brown eyes sparkle, she talks with her hands, and speaks with a quick, unique cadence. her posture is just as i remember, upright, her skin tanned from weekends on the water. she does not look any older, but i think tempered by the events that have enveloped her life in the past years. she tells me funny stories, spins yarns in her fisherman style. she freewheels with so much openess. she has always filled my heart with rainbows and sunny days. she still she does. brings me to tears with a dose of old fashioned loyalty and never forgotten friendship. i thank the goddess for holding some things dear, whether near or far.
so we carry on about the state of things. coll girl insists that i try a slice of lemon pound cake, from the special lady who makes all of jerry's desserts. it is scrumptiously lemony, dense and perfectly not too sweet. a puff of whipped cream on the plate. we continue our discourse and she decides that i must try the coconut cake. it is huge, and furry with coconut shreds, creamy filling in the middle. i barely gouge it with my fork, but can't resist one bite. coconut is high on the list of my weaknesses.
i am filled up, with good food, good friendship, and the sunshine inside me from the sea shines out to everywhere i look. it is divine crab crack, at its finest.
we end the lunch with a thorough tour through the kitchen. it is a simple and sparse area, white paneling. stations are quiet right now, but i can picture the madness on friday nights. we pass the crab picking station, and colleen finds yet another gargantuan lump of pristine crab. pops it in my mouth, like an after dinner mint for poseidon. i am beyond belief, especially when i see the rack of proofed portuguese rolls, and once again transcend to my remembrance of how well colleen loves, and shows it without even knowing. she talks of every important part of what makes jerry's kitchen hum, in short concise detail. she has pride and respect for what she does and those she works with. i am proud to be her friend as we stand in the kitchen at jerry's. she is so easy to read. a breath of fresh air in this complicated emotional world we have constructed.

walking the red carpet, lunch like this never tasted so good. inside this delightful meal, i am bedazzled one more time to taste the realness of friendship, the beauty of our earth and sea, and to share this loving exchange of a small and perfect slice of life. if you were with me at jerry's, you'd be full of sunshine, too. feel the rays washing over you with happiness. i wish you were.
what goes around, sometimes does come around again in our lifetime.
thanks for so much xoxo

1 comment:

allen vella said...

great story, wonderful writing...we need to go there when you get settled, my mouth is salivating now!