Last Monday, I finally had the occasion to take my ten year old son Zach, to the Buford Highway Farmer's Market. He came willingly, with the promise of ramen noodles, Japanese "Sprite", and a big fish that we would take home to cook for dinner. The trip did not go exactly as planned however, but it was still quite an adventure.
We began cruising the produce department, Zach's eyes wide, taking in the array of exotic fruits and vegetables. He wondered if we should buy an enormous jack fruit to put in his sister's lunchbox as a joke. We opted for a dragon fruit instead. We picked up some baby bokchoy and wasabi peas before heading to the seafood counter to source our dinner. We walked slowly down the length of the counter, looking at all of the beautiful whole fish and other seafood. Zach even struck up a conversation with a fishmonger and inquired about the snails and octopus. I loved watching his genuine curiosity and lack of shyness. I loved the fact that he is interested in food and cooking. I loved the fact that were were going to have a fresh fish to prepare for dinner that night. Or were we?
My dreams of a fish dinner came to a screeching halt when we happened upon the very last section of the seafood department. "Crawdads!", Zach yelled. He has been having a bit of an obsession with crawfish ever since the Super Bowl in New Orleans, earlier in the month. We had wanted to have a crawfish boil that day, but had not found any live ones for our pot and ended up with red beans and rice instead. So, after his month long wait, he was finally going to get his crawfish boil. I let him pick out some to take home with us. He took his time picking out the "best" ones with the tongs and carefully placing them in the bag of ice. I should have known we had a problem, when the child inquired if the crustaceans could breathe in the bag.
We finished our exploring and checked out with our multitude of exotic goodies. As we were loading the grocery bags into the trunk, Zach asked if he could hold the bag of crawfish on his lap. On the way home, I watched my child peek into the bag every so often to see if the crawfish were still alive. I could tell, that not only were we not having fish for dinner, we were not having a crawfish boil either. I was told matter of factly that we could not kill these crawdads. Zach spent the rest of the ride home, googling what crawfish eat and how to take care of them. Lucky for these little fellas, we had a brand new aquarium at home, that was in need of inhabitants. So now, over a week later, that bag full of crawfish, originally destined for my stockpot, are now living a life of luxury in a twenty gallon aquarium, in my basement.
Turns out Zach is a great "craw daddy" himself. His brood gets plenty of shrimp pellets and decaying lettuce and are doing quite well, despite the fact that one of them had his claws ripped off by one of his tank mates. I'm not sure how long these "pets" will be around, but I know for certain, they will be well taken care of while they are in Zach's care.
Of course, I could not write a recipe for a crawfish boil, or pasta or dip after this crazy, yet heartwarming story. So, a vegetarian dip, inspired by all the goodness of a Cajun crawfish dip is what is on the menu for today.
I loved the fact that this dip is vegetarian, but still subtly reminds my tastebuds of the flavors of a seafood boil. Keep it passionate people! Cheers!