Longleaf Stories

full circle in the hundred acre wood

Mid-day Saturday we got our tasters up for something fishy, loaded into Boss Hog (a/k/a the van), fixed two cups of ice, grabbed a couple of bottles of Diet Coke and drove into town. We arrived at Joe Patti’s Seafood Market at the zenith of the weekend rush. Wading into the throng, our noses were assaulted by a complex gumbo of smells, mostly distinctly non-fishy, including sun tan lotion and stale cigar smoke lingering on a huge man’s pseudo Hawaiian shirt.

Undeterred, Buck grabbed a number and got into line. His number was B07. The Joe Patti folks had just announced A80 over the microphone, so I ducked into the adjacent Amangiari deli while Buck waited his turn. I scooped up the non-seafood ingredients needed for the evening’s feast, including fresh fettuccine, English style double cream, Italian plum tomatoes, Romaine lettuce and Feta cheese. For our impromptu picnic lunch, I found a small container of freshly made West Indies crab salad, a chunk of butter kaese cheese, and a very hot just out of the oven baguette of French bread. Oh. My. God.

I stepped out into the maelstrom of humanity again and swam over to where Buck was paying for his purchases: a portion of jumbo Gulf shrimp and one of huge sea scallops.

Feeling the hot bread against my leg through the bag, we pardon me’d and gently pushed against the tide to the exit. Buck had found a parking spot for Boss Hog right at the water’s edge. We drank our sodas, broke off hunks of cheese and warm bread (you know, the good kind where it has a nice crackly crust on the outside and is tender as a mother’s love on the inside), and ate bites of the crab salad from a shared container. We watched seagulls wheeling around the decks of the fishing boats, pelicans swimming in patient circles, and a great blue heron standing one-legged on a post.

That evening I played in the kitchen. All my tiny bowls of ingredients were mis en place just as they should be when one is preparing something rather complicated so that it comes out looking simple. Getting the fettuccine and sauce ready at just the right time, while sauteing scallops and shrimp so they’re not overcooked is an experience akin to what I imagine juggling might be. I must tell you, darlings, a glass of wine on the sideboard was an absolutely essential accoutrement to my serenity!

Buck says he lives like a Piney Woods Pasha.


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