I was just talking to someone about the famous “Shrimp Fried” dinners we used to have when I was a kid. Periodically through friends of my Father we would get fifty or sixty pounds of fresh jumbo shrimp (I know that this is an oxymoron) that were the size of prawns, still in the shell. That caused a party at our house, and everyone would come over for the dinner. We had a two family house back in the day in Detroit, but it was just family, and the kitchens in these flats were huge. There are days when I long for that old kitchen, as ten people could sit at the kitchen table and still three people could be cooking around the crowd and the overflow would be sitting in the dining room, and I still enjoy having a formal dining room from these old memories.
Everybody that wanted to partake of the shrimp dinner had to work for their dinner. We had an assembly line set up at the kitchen table. One person would just keep pulling the shrimp out of the bag, a couple of people would crack and remove the shells from the cold shrimp, the next group of people would slit the shrimp and remove the mud vein, the next group would then open and “butterfly” the shrimp, and the last group would toss the shrimp into a big bowl of mixed beer batter. Then the shrimp would be taken from the bowl of batter and placed in this huge pot, what ever happened to it, I have no idea, but the pot was full of oil and fully hot, and the shrimp would begin to be fried. At the same time that the shrimp was being fried, there were other batter bowls filled with mushrooms, onions, garlic and cauliflower that were being deep fried along with the shrimp. All of this heavy fried food would then be tossed in a colander to eliminate some of the residual oil. At the same time, there was another big pot, that we always maintained in the basement refrigerator that all of the bacon drippings from breakfast meals were stored. This pot was used strictly to fry all the hand-cut French fries that were also going to be served. As you can see there were a lot of people required for this dinner, as there was a controlled chaos going on in the kitchen. Not to mention there was a huge salad being prepared as well that had besides the lettuce, radishes, carrots, green peppers, garlic, white onions, scallions and tomatoes. Then there were the loaves of fresh bread that was just sliced at the bakery and the sticks of butter everywhere for the bread. In today’s health conscious society, this may not have been an accepted dinner, but it was comfort food for all that came to help in the preparations. I can also remember that there were never any left-overs afterwards.
All of this food was accompanied by beer, cases of Molson Canadian Beer, the beer of choice in our house, as the family had come over from Ontario. There would also be wine, usually jugs of Italian red wine, sometimes home-made and sometimes store bought. I remember one of the dinners I brought two bottles of Italian white wines that I had bought, because I was in that early discovery mode, tasting all types of wines to find what I liked and did not like. When I brought out these two bottles of wines, there were questions of my man-hood bandied about (all in jest), because red wine was the only wine that was usually consumed by all, but there were some willing to try these wines brought in by this young heretic. These were both white wines from the same district of Italy, the Romagna and both were reserve wines from the same producer Pasolini. I had brought a bottle of Albana di Romagna 1969 and a bottle of Trebbiano di Romagna 1969. Albana was one grape varietal from the region and I noticed that on the label it had DOCC indication, which in hind sight I find curious as officially it was not recognized until 1987. The Trebbiano is another varietal and this label has no indication of DOCC and yet it was granted in 1973, which to my way of thinking should have been the label with DOCC on it, as they were closer to the actual date. Trebbiano is the Flagship varietal for this region for white wines. I do recall getting vindication after dinner from those that tried the wines and enjoyed them, from the others that did not, my sanity was still in question, but those were younger days and fond memories.