The canon of weirdo Gentile party foods I grew up blissfully unaware of—ambrosia; grape jelly meatballs; anything involving, dear God, gelatin—would not be complete without shrimp puffs, a delightfully ’50s canapé comprised of crappy supermarket sandwich bread that’s toasted, then topped with a mixture of shrimp, mayo, and cheese, then broiled to an appealing golden brown.
Despite its final coloring—especially when the toasts are, say, left to sit in a hot oven a bit longer than they should, thanks to a negligent and slightly tipsy hostess juggling too many things at her own housewarming party—this may in fact be the whitest food in history, culturally speaking. Though I guess hotdish, a Midwestern casserole that combines canned cream of mushroom soup with canned vegetables and hamburger meat and tops the whole thing off with frozen tater tots, might have a bone to pick with that appellation.
Oo la la!
What, exactly, is “shrimp sauté au citron”? Is it a rustic French classic, a recipe passed from peasant housewife to peasant housewife to cartoon food critic to, improbably, my Jewish, Pittsburgh-born grandmother? Is it a home cook’s approximation of a fancy restaurant entree, something you might find in Chapter V of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 1? Or is it, perhaps, a made-up name meant to gussy up a dish that might better be described as “shrimp in a frying pan”?
When I was 10 or 11, my family took a trip to Club Med. It was my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary (!); to celebrate, they brought their whole brood—four sons, three daughters-in-law, a whopping 12 grandchildren—down to Florida, where we enjoyed a week of sun, sand, and scheduled group activities.
Years later, I can only remember bits and pieces from the trip: the thrill of taking a ride on the flying trapeze, my cousins’ brief but passionate obsession with bocce ball, seeing a group of leotard-clad women (who were either much younger or much older than I am now) perform a passable rendition of the “Cell Block Tango.” (I think I laughed pretty hard at “Lipschitz!”) Continue reading