One Last Family Gathering

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One Last Family Gathering

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The world changed as we Alabamians knew it on Friday, March 13th, 2020, as that was the last day that our school systems remained physically open before our governor mandated forced early system closures ahead of the approaching COVID pandemic. As a high school teacher, I uneasily said goodbye to my students and promised to see them on ZOOM the following Monday. When I arrived home, I found that my wife had contacted each of her family members to invite them to a seafood feast planned in our home for the next day, Saturday the 14th. We had recently purchased a tremendous variety and quantity of seafood for a planned early summer river gathering, including shrimp, crawfish, and fish; however, the pandemic was likely not going to allow for such a future gathering, and we knew of no way in which we could consume so much seafood ourselves, and were equally incognizant when we might gather as a family again, so this was essentially planned as a “McRight family last supper” (pardon the blasphemy, but that’s how we coined it). We had prepared each of the dishes before, save for Tamsie’s new experiment, her crawfish cheesecake. We had enjoyed crawfish and shrimp cheesecake at a wonderful restaurant, Roux 66, while traveling through Natchez, Mississippi several months previous; that culinary experience informed our desire to recreate the recipe at home! Thus, our sensory memory of better times and a delicious meal beckoned us to return to that sensory experience and give the recipe a try.

We researched online recipes to combine basic ingredients, including shrimp, crawfish, cream cheese, onions, eggs, and bell peppers, with two cheeses, minced garlic, Creole seasoning, salt and pepper, heavy cream, and a shrimp boil mix. The cheesecake was delicious, and the combination of garlic, crawfish, and shrimp contrasted with the sweet richness of the cream and eggs to make for a delightful dish. To this day, the smell of shrimp makes me think of those early days of the pandemic because our kitchen was filled with the aroma of that decadent crawfish cheesecake, shrimp scampi, a shrimp boil, fried fish, boiled shrimp, and fried shrimp. We hosted approximately twenty-five family members, we laughed, we talked about the future, and we expressed concern over what the coming days might bring. Afterward, we dismissed pandemic talk to release our concerns for the shank of the evening, as we were living for the moment and celebrating our being together.

I remember thinking but it might be a long time before we could get fresh seafood again, because we did not know if the opportunity to find fresh seafood would avail itself again in the near future, nor did we know if grocery stores would remain open. That was a time of complete uncertainty. I will likely never again enjoy a shrimp meal without thinking about March 14th, 2020, as the world in which we had lived mere days before somehow now seemed different, foreign, and unsettling.

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This item was submitted on August 8, 2021 by Troy Rogers using the form “Share Your Story” on the site “A Journal of the Plague Year”:

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