Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Shrimp Eater

When Samuel and I were little and spending time in Hawaii, I loved to swim and snorkel. It was kinda my thing. Samuel liked to fish. He and his friend Jacob spent their time with their little fishing rods in the ocean. They started off just catching little reef fish, mostly wrasse, but then they moved on to eels and flounders and the like. But, before they even caught wrasse, the boys would take little fishing nets, crouch on lava rock walls and catch the little paleolithic "shrimp" that swam around the shallow parts of the reef. I say "shrimp" because they're  creatures that are an opaqueish white (I think they have no pigment), about an inch long and about as thick as a flower stem with bug eyes and very long antennae that we for some reason called "shrimp".
Jacob's dad, who grew up in Hawaii, taught them to catch "shrimp". I remember the day very distinctly, it was the first time he brought a fishing net to the beach and told the boys that they were going to go catch things. The boys followed him like puppy dogs, and naturally, I was curious too, so I came along. He swiped the net in the shallow water and it came up with a "shrimp" in it. He pinched it between his forefinger and thumb, held it out to us and said "who wants to eat it?" And for some reason, the same strange compulsion that once led me to put a snake down my shirt for $20, I said I would eat the "shrimp". 
So I grabbed the thing from him and put it in my mouth, still jumping. I crunched down and swallowed as fast as I could. It jumped as it went down.
Since I was keeping up with the boys, I couldn't grimace or shriek so I smiled. "That wasn't too bad." And so I became The Shrimp Eater. And for years and years to follow, on days when the wrasse fishing wasn't good, Sam and Jacob would grab their little nets and go catch "shrimp". I ate them, fresh out of the sea and still jumping, until I grew up enough to decide that it was gross and I was going to stick to smoothies. 
Next Christmas, when all the little kids are here, I'm going to pass on the crown. I'm fairly confident Lizzy will eat shrimp.

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