going tribal- west coast seafood boil

Good Lord. I haven't written a damn thing in over a week. I did spend a good portion of my cyber-absence on Salt Spring Island, to attend the birthday party of my friend and former culinary school classmate, Myles. As he was very much in the mood to celebrate the arrival of his next year of life, he decided to prepare a spectacular and unique feast for his guests.....

Though I had never before experienced a seafood boil, I once saw an episode of Julia Child: Lessons With Master Chefs where she goes to Louisiana to visit a young Emeril Lagasse (during his pre-BAAM! days) to observe him making his version of a craw fish boil. This famous regional dish is made by first boiling up an enormous cauldron of specially seasoned water and then adding potatoes, onions, garlic, corn on the cob, lemon wedges and, finally, fresh craw fish. When all ingredients are fully cooked, the liquid is strained away and the piping hot contents are then scattered directly onto a newspaper or plastic covered table. This outdoor communal feast is eaten without cutlery, shell crackers or seafood forks....just bare hands, plenty of cold beer and lots of paper napkins. After Emeril has strewn his creation out onto a newsprint covered table, he sits down to lunch with Julia, teaching her how to suck the meat from the head of 'these mud bugs'. She ends the episode back in her studio kitchen, where she summarizes by referring to the dish as a 'terrific table'.

I think that the West Coast version Myles created was even more impressive than Emeril's. Substituting the craw fish with a seafood medley of local mussels, skate, whole crabs and B.C. spotted prawns made for a truly spectacular spread. The length of the table was decorated with small white dishes of hot sauce and home made aioli intended for dipping. Ice cold cans of Lucky Beer were not only thirst quenching libations.....it was soon discovered that slamming the base of a beer can onto a crab claw served as the perfect shell cracker, at times spraying milky crab juice onto fellow diners. As we devoured the feast and discarded our emptied shells onto piles of seafood shrapnel, we kept remarking at what a fun way it was to dine. Eating outdoors with our hands.....in celebration of our birthday boy, friendship and a bounty of beautiful food. I'll take tribal bonding over fancy restaurant dining any day. Especially that day.

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