We are a little prawn crazy in this house.
Yes, we use the term “prawn” exclusively, not “shrimp” because David is Australian and they all seem to say “prawn” instead of “shrimp” over there and it sounds better with their accents, so the rest of us just go with it.
Lucy began her love affair with prawns at a restaurant in Australia at Bondi Beach. It was last year in October. Edie was three months old and spent most of her time in a pouch on my belly and was interested only in my boobs and the stuff that came out of them. Lucy, however, had grown into a voracious eater. She loved anything she could eat with her fingers or dip in a sauce or tear up into little pieces.
We found this restaurant on the beach. I can't remember the name. We sat on the second floor on a monster of a balcony, with our shorts and sandy feet, looking out over the water.
Now the water was something special, a kind of indescribable deep blue, laced with creamy rolling foam. But it was the sky itself that moved me. An Australian sky is one of a kind.
Maybe because sitting at the bottom of the earth gives you a fresh view of the whole universe of sky above us, but it just feels infinitely high and long and bright and endless. It’s actually brighter in Australia, like they just use a higher wattage of light bulb to light up their days. Anyway, I remember watching the sky meet the ocean from that balcony.
And Lucy chowed on the prawns. I can’t remember the exact recipe, something with trace amounts of cilantro, chili and lime I’m sure (because the Australians love their Thai ingredients), but she loved it. She barely looked up at us, just touched and pulled apart and dipped and savored each pearly nugget of meat and I realized we had a fish lovin’ girl on our hands. It wasn’t her first prawn, but it may have been the one that made her fall in love.
Now, prawns (wild ones, not the chemicalized, bad-for-the-environment, farmed stuff) is a common Saturday Lunch or casual Friday night supper at our house. We do it a bunch of ways, but perhaps the most fun for Lucy is the “Peel and Eat” variety.
Here’s the recipe and man, is it simple: I just throw a couple pounds of raw, un-peeled prawns into boiling water until they turn pink, about 3 minutes (Don't over cook 'em or they'll be tough), throw them in a bowl, set out some drawn butter (or just melt a stick in the microwave), set out an empty bowl for discarded shells, make a quick salad and throw some crusty bread on a board. I put everything on the table and call the troops.
Then, I let the kids pull out their own prawns, peel them, dip them and eat them. Lucy loves it. Her fingers get all juicy and buttery and fishy and her mouth glistens with prawn juice. And Edie is getting into the act now, too. She loves munching on these little guys and carrying the shells around in her hand and dropping them on the living room rug and behind the table. Sometimes the floor around the table looks like the bottom of an ocean after a feeding frenzy.
This kind of informal gathering at the table is also great for having someone in to eat with you at the last moment because it feels welcoming to come to someone's house and slide up a chair and dip your hands into a common bowl and have your fingers bumping into their fingers, and pulling out a meaty prawn and dipping it into a bowl of warm butter and hoisting the whole dripping, buttery, messy thing right into your mouth and catching the warm juices with your free hand. And the best part - not worrying that you're making a mess because everyone is making a mess and it's all okay.
So satisfying for big people, lots of fun handy work for the little ones.