I look forward to Saturdays because I can clear out the mudroom that is the repository of all the newspapers and other recyclables that accumulate in our house during the week. By mid-morning I drive a
loaded car to the local dump where I do my part for the environment: paper, bottles, cans, and plastic in one bin, cardboard in another, and real garbage in the big hopper.
It’s at the hopper where enlightenment occurs. Bill and Roland are in charge of the dump, directing where to put stuff so it all goes where it’s supposed to. I’ve learned a lot about single-stream waste from these gentlemen, but I recently got unexpected words of wisdom when I arrived one winter day with a plastic bag full of discarded
shrimp heads and tails.
“So you peeled your own shrimp,” said Bill, eyeing me with both suspicion and disbelief. “Where are you from, anyway?”
“Well, yes,” I stammered. “It’s shrimp season and I couldn’t resist buying five pounds from the roadside peddler. I have a bunch of recipes I’ve waited all year to try.”
“But where are you from?” he persisted, his eyes narrowing.
“I moved here a few years ago,” I replied, dodging the question. I felt guilty of something, but didn’t know what.
“I thought so. Same mistake I made when I moved to Maine,” he explained. “When the season opened, I rushed out and bought 100 pounds of fresh, Maine shrimp. Couldn’t wait to taste them succulent little morsels I’d heard so much about. Took me all day to peel five measly pounds and it was really, hard work! I gave away the remaining 95 pounds I couldn’t face. Broke my heart.”
Now it was my turn to regard him with suspicion and disbelief. “How could you DO that?” I shrieked. “You walked away from all that shrimp, the best in the world?”
“Not really,” he said, his voice soft. “Like all Mainers, I eat tons of shrimp. I’m just happy to pay more for the processor to peel them for me. Whatever they charge per pound for peeled shrimp, it’s a fair price for all that work. And you’re right about one thing: It’s the best shrimp in the world,” he declared, grabbing my garbage bag from me.
I watched as he pitched the bag into the hopper and started the motor that would crush my shrimp shells into oblivion. I hope they end up as fertilizer.
On the way home, I stopped at the fish peddler’s truck and picked up another bag of just-caught shrimp.
Merrill Williams is the publisher of Maine Food & Lifestyle magazine.