After driving through Tennesse and Alabama for what seemed like an eternity, we finally arrived at our small beachside town for vacation. Although our car was stocked to the gills with things we knew we'd need, we still had provisions to procure before settling into our quaint effciency overlooking the Gulf of Mexico.
Local farmstand for produce, check.
Liquor store, double check.
Seafood market, check, check, check.
We found the most reputable fresh seafood market in town. Reputable, because they offered boat to market fresh seafood/shellfish both retail and wholesale, meaning their product went very fast and stayed incredibly fresh.
It was insane. The shop operated at a frantic, cash only, pace. Money was flying over the counter like mad. Pick. Point. Bag. Pay. Leave. When they sold out of everything, they closed. It was that simple.
While Michael and I mulled over fresh whole flounder, pompano, and triggerfish filets, a small docile asian gentleman made his way to the counter and ordered 4 pounds of colossal head-on shrimp. Wow.
As the sweet-cheeked counter clerk finished bagging his enormous shrimp, he shouted, "Take the eyes out!"
The bustling fish market became very quiet and still.
The baffled clerk looked up and said, "What?"
"Take the eyes out", he implored.
Beat. Beat. Beat.
Why on earth would you purchase gorgeous behemoth shrimp with pointed spiny heads and beady eyes if you wanted the eyes taken out? Really? Why? Eyeball by eyeball? It could take hours. We didn't have hours.
I was impressed with the clerks I've-seen-it-all-composure. "Sir, you'll have to take care of that yourself.", she matter-of-factly replied. Fair enough, I thought.
As she plopped the bulbous bag of shrimp onto the scale, he pleaded, "No, no, no. Take the eyyyeees out!" You could have heard a fish scale hit the floor. The burly market boss slowly slithered to the counter and barked, "Sir, we do not remove their eyes here."
With utter desperation, the gentle asian gentleman pleaded, "Take the eyes out before you weigh!"
A quiet wave of understanding undulated throughout the market.
Take the ICE out. The ice. Ohhhh, the ice.
The clerk pulled two chunks of ice from the bag, tossed them back onto the massive pile of shrimp, and weighed his ice-less bounty. He handed over what appeared to be a few thousand dollars, snatched his catch, and scurried out the door.
"Next!", the surly market boss shouted. Feeling a bit intimidated, I mumbled, "I'd like 2 pounds of triggerfish, a pound of head-off, tail-on 16-20 count shrimp, and 1/2 pound head-on jumbo shrimp."
Adding, "With eyes......and ice."
His stern face melted into a soft smile. "Yes, sir."
At that moment, our vacation began.