When we think of "American" food, what comes to mind? Apple pie, fried chicken, clam chowda.... While all these are well and good, nothing has ever struck me as more American than creole and Cajun cuisine. Not only is it a cuisine born and bred here, but it embodies what is supposed to be the American spirit - that is, the "melting pot". African, French, Spanish, and Native American traditions all combined to create this extravaganza of deliciousness. And speaking of melting pots, how about one filled with shrimp, potatoes, and corn, all seasoned to immaculate perfection.
This is what we encountered at my bar (I'll just call it "The Local" from here on out) this just passed July 4th.
A little background info: The Local is a sweet little place I go, only serving beer and liquor, filled with a handful of sweet people. The owners and fellow patrons love to feed. There is no working kitchen, but they have a nice grill and patio area, and the tradition in the year and a half they've been open is to take turns feeding. Asking for money if you've provided is not allowed, and if you cook, everyone gets to eat. Period. No matter who shows up. The only rule is: if you eat, you sometimes have to cook. That's it.
This holiday's feast was brought to you by the two owners and my friend Dave, a kind and excellent guy and a personal chef by trade. Aside from the aforementioned low-country boil, there were grilled Italian sausages with mozzarella, peppers, & onions, grilled corn and asparagus, and the most beautiful perfect grilled peaches dressed in ricotta, almonds, and candied ginger. And boatloads of watermelon, which I ate with what my mother would call a "shit-eating grin", gleefully spitting seeds into the gravel. A feast of the American South. Yet the best part was still "the boil." As soon as it came out, dumped in a majestic, steaming pile onto the paper-covered picnic table, folks gathered around, cell phones flying at full mast, snapping pictures of that glorious mess.
A beautiful pile of food like that invites folks to stand around picking and eating and shelling and picking and eating and shelling. And talking. And smiling. And laughing. The smacking of lips and the grinning of grins and the talking of talk. And that's exactly what we did.
Thanks, the Local, thanks Dave.
Makes me proud.