Tuesday, November 24, 2015

All you can eat shellfish, if you can eat shellfish

Kathleen is still in Minnesota today, so it’s a good time to hit the legendary seafood buffet at the Pala Casino Spa and Resort near San Diego. Shrimp, Lobster Tails, Crab Legs and other steamy hot shellfish in buttery abundance. But first, dear friends, a cautionary tale:
In the fall of 1983, our friends Hannah and Mark were to be married in Washington, D.C. We took time off of work for an adventure in our nation’s capital to see the wedding and take in the sights. Ted Mondale, a mutual friend, had made arrangements for us to stay with his father in the D.C. home the family had purchased when he was a Minnesota Senator.
The former vice president was in the early stages of his unsuccessful bid for the presidency, so Kathleen and Stan were warned to keep a low-profile because it was important for the candidate to be able to maintain his tight schedule. He needs his sleep, Ted cautioned, and we would be staying in the bedroom next to him. And don’t disturb the dog in the front room, he added. \
We promised to be perfect guests and we really meant to be, honored and fortunate to enjoy such distinguished hospitality.
Our jovial host greeted us in the modest kitchen. We shared a fun-sized box of Poppycock and a light-hearted conversation with the candidate, most gracious at the end of what must have been a demanding day. We managed a keepsake photo (below) before departing for an evening out.
The Secret Service had not yet been assigned to the residence, which was probably a good thing, considering what was ahead.
In the kitchen... before The Incident.
Nearby Baltimore is known for its Orioles and for its seafood. The next day we found a famous shack where they dump steaming mounds of boiled crab on newsprint-covered tables. We cracked away at them, slaking the tender morsels in melted butter and washing them down with cold beverages, discarded shells crunched under foot. Sated, we hurried to meet friends for treats at a popular D.C. restaurant near the capitol.
The first obvious hint of trouble accompanied the dessert tray piled with chocolates, cakes and other sweet temptations. Kathleen wasn’t interested. In fact, she had disappeared.
We found her outside with some sketchy street people, “getting some fresh air.” She was miserable, sick and confused, with no idea what was going on, but she didn’t want to spoil the party, ruin the fun. Kathleen rarely drinks alcohol and she hadn’t been drinking that day. So it couldn’t be that, we knew. We didn’t know anything about any allergy to shellfish. Was it the flu? Upset stomach? Why all of a sudden?
Windows were wide open, allowing in the cool breeze this pleasant evening as our taxi dropped us back at the house on the quiet D.C. street. The inside lights were off, our kind host had retired, but had thoughtfully left the porch light on. Beneath his open upstairs window were two large bushes framing the entry.

Food allergies are a wretched business.

As we emerged from the cab, Kathleen headed straight for the bush directly beneath the window where the candidate for the Presidency of the United States of America lay in repose. She was not quiet. She was not quiet at all.
We do not know about our good host, but for sure we awakened the dog, who began barking furiously at this rude night intrusion.
We had to just wait there and suffer until the final essence of boiled and buttered crab had been totally rejected. Meanwhile, we wanted to shout “Really, she hasn’t been drinking at all tonight! We don’t understand what is happening! We can’t help it! We’re so sorry! We’re so ashamed!” but that would have only added to the unfortunate cacophony we had already generated and had so solemnly promised to avoid.
Years have passed and nary a shrimp nor a crab leg nor a lobster tail has crossed Kathleen’s lips. This situation has provided a small benefit. Now at a courtesy buffet, or wedding reception or other polite event, Kathleen has standing instructions to take a full allotment of seafood to dish off later, allowing Stan to avoid looking like the pig he can be when opportunity presents itself.
“The incident” itself was not soon forgotten, becoming part of our forever Washington Wedding trip lore. At occasions for years to come, Ted would remark with a wink, “You know, that bush on one side of the house is growing a lot faster than the other.”


Anonymous said...

Sure explains a lot.
We have two slight connections to your story.
Our second Summer in Minnesota was 1984. Fans of "A Prairie Home Companion" we were thrilled to get tickets in August of that year. As we waited in line behind some ropes to enter the theater, all of a sudden some black limos pulled up and we first saw some national tv reporters we recognized, (Brit Hume was one), then a bunch of guys in three piece suits, ear pieces and worried looks, followed by the Mondales who were here to see the show. Inside the theater most people were respectful and allowed the candidate and wife their space. Even the show host's only reference to the special guests in his audience was a little more emphasis on "Mondale" at the end of his usual "Dales" litany. Our celebrity struck 11 year old daughter Holly and her cousin 10 year old Emily unabashedly went back and obtained VP Mondale's autograph. Though I am rooter for the other political team, I only have the utmost respect and regard for that Minnesota institution.
Upon moving to our new home on Abbey Point, we struck up a quick friendship with our new next door neighbors and did what new friends do and invited them to dinner where I prepared my favorite grilled shrimp dinner. I can still see the distress in Kathleen's eyes when she saw what was for dinner. I was embarrassed and she graciously ate the side dishes. We had a really nice time and have learned our lesson to inquire about diet limitations when preparing a meal for guests.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I know how Kathleen felt! The sickest I've ever felt was about 25 years ago -- food poisoning from some mayonnaise that had got warm in a take-home box from a restaurant. To this day, I hesitate to eat take-home leftovers !!!!!!!


Sosie said...

So Kathy isn't concerned about the current California crab crisis? She's done with defending the pursuit of crabs. It seems.