I felt very European this past month as I took to vacation in good August fashion. But instead of escaping the heat and oppression of the city in traditional fashion, my parents decided the perfect place to take their children was Washington D.C.
Washington D.C., for those who don’t know, was built upon a swamp according to George Washington’s plans. Until the second half of the 20th century, anyone who could afford left the city in the summer months to escape the sweltering humidity and the putrid smells of the ex-swamp. Most people, hearing I was going to DC in August cautioned me against the horrific landscape I was about to enter. “Why are you going there?” they would say. I think if I had said I was going to Afghanistan, I would have gotten a more positive reaction.
There were some personal reasons for this trip (like visiting my dad’s family and various family friends) and as it was the place where my parents met some 30 years ago, they have a certain fondness for it, regardless of weather. I was happy to visit relatives, but what I was most excited about was all the various seafood us west coasters never ever see.
I have my own Proustian moment of peel-and-eat shrimp, accompanied with a harrowing tale of being lost in one of the more dangerous DC neighborhoods when I was a kid. The story ends with me and my younger cousin buying a couple pounds of the shrimp and being amazed something so simple could taste so good.
Peel-and-eat shrimp for the uninitiated are medium sized shrimp, aka delicious delicacies, boiled with Old Bay seasoning and wrapped up in some newspaper. The title describes it all – you pick off the shells with your fingernails, the spices lingering on your fingers long after you’ve finished however many pounds of shrimp you ordered.
And then there are the Chesapeake Blue Crabs, which surpass any King Crab. But those belong to the middle half of my trip, complete with a crusty sailor and wooden hammers to crack them open…
So before I even got to DC, I was already planning what kinds of seafood I would eat. The museums were already falling behind on my list of priorities.
To Be Continued.