Ladies and gentlemen, the following collage of photos illustrates why I continue to return to Florida after all these years*. Florida seafood – there ain’t nothin’ like it. Git yerself to a crab shack, sit yerself down, and git dirty. Last night, my parents took me to a crab shack on the side of the highway between Tampa and St. Petersburg. This is the food I dream of wherever I am – Japan, Guatemala, Italy, Dublin, in bed. Anywhere. The meal of champions. The meal of foodlust.
*I mean, apart from family, friends, and bare-assed cats that hate me.
Tampa, where my parents now live, is on the Gulf Coast of Mexico – about an hour and a half South of Crystal River, where my brother and I grew up. This time of year, the Gulf is warm as soup and the air heavy with humidity; a far cry from the moody gray Irish weather I left back in Dublin.
Why, hello, Mr. Crab.
If you think this would be a given, you’ve never visited the Gulf Coast.
As of this moment, the oil spill hasn’t affected seafood supplies – we hope.
And now we get to it. First course: New England Clam Chowder. Buttery, savory, and thick with clams and potatoes.
Next: gator bites. Gator does not taste like chicken; it tastes like gator. Delicious, delicate, chewy gator fried up crisp and seasoned with squeezes of lemon.
The main attraction: blue crabs dusted with spicy seasoning. Ordinarily, my traditional Florida Foodlust meal ends with U-peel-‘um shrimp, but last night, I went for the beast. These beauties were served with drawn butter, lemon wedges, nutcrackers, and mountains of wet wipes.
Crack, crack, crack. Careful – crab claws spit. Get your shoulders into it, ’cause them shells is hard. Don’t forget the tender white goodness inside the body, just underneath the bladders. On to the next crab. And then on to the next.
See y’all again next year.
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