Monday, June 7, 2010

Cap'n Bill

As I made final preparations for the Low Country Boil for family and friends on Friday to celebrate Alyssa's graduation, the last item on my errand list was to buy shrimp. I pulled into the parking lot of the local seafood market where I normally buy shrimp only to discover it was closed. Well, not just closed, but out of business for good. Great, what's plan B? I had no plan B as I had noticed the shrimp at Publix were farm raised in Thailand - and I certainly can't serve those! I decide to try out a new little place that had recently opened. I couldn't even remember the name, but knew it was fairly close by and I didn't have time to drive downtown to the only other fresh seafood markets I was aware of.

In the middle of a downpour, I pull into the parking lot of a convenience store and walk up to the tiny portable building off to the side advertising shrimp for $4.99. Wow...that's a terrific price! As long as it's fresh, I'm in great shape. I'll be home in a jiffy and will have saved a bundle of money.

Dodging puddles I run up to the sliding window of Cap'n Bill's and an old lady with a raspy voice asks: Whatchya need today?
Natalie: Ugh...shrimp. Do you have large?
Old Lady: Yeah. How many you thinkin' you gonna need?
Natalie: I think 8 pounds will do me. Thanks. Are they fresh?
Cap'n Bill jumping up from his folding chair: Just off the boat this morning. Those guys were alive just a few hours ago.
Natalie seeing the old lady (who I now surmise is Cap'n Bill's wife) slinging, what looks to be, whole shrimp onto the scales: you have any shrimp WITHOUT heads.
Capt'n Bill: No ma'am. That's how shrimp is caught - with heads.
Natalie: Well, yes, I realize that, but I normally buy them WITHOUT the heads. I confess, I've never deheaded a shrimp. (Not really knowing if "dehead" is the proper verb to use - but then I don't think Cap'n Bill and his wife are big on formal grammar)
Cap'n Bill: Oh, it's easy (he demonstrates popping the head off while I calculate how long it will take me to do 8 pounds) - would take me five minutes, maybe seven to do all of 'em.
Natalie: Wow, um, I'm a little pressed for time this afternoon. I'm thinking I wouldn't be nearly that fast. (Nor do I want to smell like raw seafood for the party) Can I pay you to do them? (Knowing full well he could really take me to the cleaners, but with four hours until forty people arrive for dinner - I'm fully prepared to pay him top dollar)
Cap'n Bill: Is this for a Low Country Boil?
Natalie: Yes.
Cap'n Bill: Oh, well, then you should just throw 'em in the pot just like they is. They taste a whole bunch better with the heads on. People can just pop the heads of theirselves.
Natalie: Wow, I never knew that, but I'm accustomed to the head being off and so would really love to serve them that way tonight. I then notice his wife smirking and suspect he's simply having a good time pulling my leg.

After a little more begging and flattery directed at the great price and freshness, Cap'n agrees to decapitate the shrimp - for no charge. Hmmm...sweet talk pays off, and I'm invited inside the one room, smoke filled shop. Great - now I'm going to smell like a cigarette. But it's that or stand in the rain. He does indeed complete the job in less than seven minutes only for me to see the scales and realize I bought just over five pounds of shrimp. The heads comprise nearly half of the weight so this is not going to be nearly as cheap as I had originally thought. I sheepishly ask for him to prep a few more pounds to bring me up to eight pounds total, and I again offer to pay him for his trouble. He refuses my offer, hands me my crustaceans and instructs me to tell my friends about him and come back the next time I host a Low Country Boil.

Consider it done, Cap'n Bill.

The final product!