Lexi is my cousin. Actually her parents stopped calling her “Lexi” sometime in the mid-90’s, but I never got the memo.
A while back Lex’s sister Ashleigh, a high school senior, died suddenly. It was a horrible, tragic time, and I immediately flew back to Georgia to be with the family. I hadn’t seen much of Lex since she was little, and though the week is now a blur, there is one thing about that time that I’ll never forget — the food.
There was food everywhere. I spent most days with Lex, fielding phone calls and accepting a constant stream of food gifts. At night Lex and I would look around in utter amazement at the massive quantity and variety of food, which overflowed every fridge/freezer/countertop/cooler/tabletop visible. It was astounding. The worst part was that neither of us felt like eating, so we survived on vanilla Boost drinks the entire week.
Until the post-funeral reception, that is. Then even more food arrived, and we’d sort of had our fill of food, people, and being semi-sociable and polite. We just wanted silence and peace, but we were surrounded by a constant flow of literally hundreds of people. We had to do something.
As I remember it, Lex started it — we knew we needed to start eating again, so she brought me a little something to try, and then I brought her something to try. Things sort of degenerated from there, and at one point she started mixing foods together (therefore, this was all her fault). She brought me some hideous concoction that she’d pulled together from a few of the many tables stacked two and three platters deep with every sort of food and pseudo-food imaginable. I didn’t want it, I really didn’t want it, but I ate it anyway because she absolutely insisted. Then it was my turn — I took a huge cocktail shrimp, dipped it in this disgusting pinkish orange jello-ish salad thing, added extra cool whip for good measure, took a sesame noodle from some salad and wrapped it around and around the goopy mess, topped it with unidentifiable canned fruit from the edge of that pinkish orange jello-ish salad thing, sprinkled the whole thing with brownie crumbs, topped it with a greasy pea, and gave it to Lex.
She ate it.
I really didn’t mean for her to eat it, but she did. She ate it. I really just meant for it to be admired for its creative sculptural and colorful qualities, but she ate it. Then I ran from the room because I knew it was her turn.
I never, never eat shrimp without thinking of Lex. Granted, I don’t serve my kids anything like my shrimp-jello-cool whip-noodle-pseudofruit-brownie-pea creation, but I do serve shrimp in various upgraded forms regularly.
This next addition to The List is for you, Lex.
#8: Shrimp Fra Diavolo
The kids love this dish. Maybe it’s the taste, but I think maybe part of the initial allure was the fact that it’s a flambe dish, meaning you get to purposely set fire to the thing and the kids get to watch. The spiciness can be adjusted to suit various tastes, but fortunately I’ve convinced these kids that spicy=good. We usually serve this over pasta, but sometimes I’ll throw a good loaf of bread on the table and some salad greens and everyone can create his or her own concoction, like a bread-greens-hot shrimp stack, open-faced sandwich-style. No jello-ish cool whip-y salad toppings allowed. Find the recipe here on my site.
The List currently sits at 8…