Saturday, November 20, 2010

Shrimp Cocktail: What's in a Name?

What's in name?  Sometimes a lot. South Carolina's state dance is The Shag.  Start talking to a Brit about all the people shagging on the dance floor and they'll have a friggin' heart attack.  

Back in the early 70's, my parents went on a business trip to Spain.  I would have liked to have been an adult in the 70's.  First, your company sent you on biz trips to SPAIN.  Everybody had a couple of drinks at lunch and when you got an invitation to a party, you WENT, happily.  Today, a business trip is on your dime to exotic places like Myrtle Beach.  If you order a vodka/tonic at lunch some nosy broad at the table next to you gives you the "oh, great, I'm sitting next to an alcoholic" vibe.  And heaven forbid someone actually invites you to a party.  Life is just so darn busy, in a crummy way, that I certainly can't be bothered with a PARTY.  Inserting fun into my stressful existence can't possibly be the answer!  Ok, sorry, I digress...

So, mom and dad went to Spain and they had a blast.  Dad told everyone that mom was fluent in Spanish (a couple semesters = fluency...NOT) so they slipped away from the others as often as possible to avoid her responsibilities as 'official translator.' On one of these outings, they found a little cafe in a teeny tiny town.  They stopped in for some vino tinto and a bite to eat.  They ordered a shrimp salad-type dish.  I don't know what on Earth it might have been called, so all you Spanish majors, don't ask me.  Anyway, they loved it and upon returning to the States, my mom recreated it to the best of her memory.  It's shrimp, shredded lettuce, pickles or capers, and a 1000 Islandish sauce, and boiled egg.  Whenever she made it, she would serve it in these little cocktail glasses, or I guess maybe they're called parfait glasses.  Little glass bowls elevated on stems.  So, the Webber family referred to it as shrimp cocktail.  And, the confusion begins.

On a trip to Fripp, mom and dad had some big party to go to.  Katherine and I were probably about 8 & 10 at the time, so we decided we'd go to the big dining room on our own.  (In those days, you could let your kids roam free on the island because everyone knew each other).  Mom and dad gave us "the card."  Back then, we just showed people "the card" and we could get food, drinks, stuff, seemingly for free.  Just choose what you want, flash "the card" and walk away.  Nice and easy.  So, we got all dressed up and walked over to the dining room.

Katherine is a big fan of mom's shrimp cocktail, so when she saw it on the menu, she was quite excited.  She placed her order.  But, when it came, we locked eyes.  What was this?  I mean, really, what is it?  The waiter placed a cocktail glass in front of my little sister that was filled with cocktail sauce and had boiled shrimp hanging from the rim of the glass!  I'm sorry, were we not clear?  This is obviously some kind of joke.  So, we just politely employed the procedure we'd seen grown-ups do from time to time and sent it back.  That's right; this isn't what I ordered, take it away!  So, then, we had the manager at the table apologizing profusely and asking what else they could bring.  I'm sure that woman was so baffled about what she was apologizing for. I wonder if she still thinks about that night when she sees a shrimp cocktail.

Anyway, we finished eating whatever else we ordered, flashed "the card" and went on our merry way back to our condo.  When mom and dad came in, we told them all about the crazy mix-up.  How could a restaurant not know what shrimp cocktail was?  Then, mom laid it all out for us.  HER shrimp cocktail was really her version of a Spanish shrimp salad.  We just CALL it cocktail.  

That would have been really good to  know.  

There's no telling how many employees of that dining room and kitchen thought either they had lost their minds or that we were two little uppity kids who didn't know jack about fine dining.  Either way, we still maintain that shrimp cocktail is much more than boiled shrimp hanging from a glass of cocktail sauce (probably really humiliating to the shrimp I would think).  Now, we just know that we have to make the distinction between Mom's Shrimp Cocktail and the rest of the world's Shrimp Cocktail.  Nomenclature!

1 comment:

  1. "That would have been really good to know." Or not, then we wouldn't have this fun little tale! :)



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...