My mom and dad loved having these as a weeknight meal. They were quick to put together, fun to eat, and best of all, very easy to clean up. Often, my mother would purchase pounds of shrimp and store them in the freezer, saving them for a day when we wanted a hearty meal that could be put together in minutes. To serve the cooked and seasoned shrimp, we’d lay out a bit of newspaper on the table along with cocktail sauce and a big empty bowl to hold all the shells. Then, we’d sit around peeling and eating shrimp and corn on the cob until we were completely stuffed. I loved how messy and laid back it was — for once, I didn’t have to worry about clean hands or holding my fork correctly (In my constant race to shove as much food into my mouth as possible, it was inevitable that 9 times out of 10, I wasn’t holding my fork properly. My mother was always happy to point this out. She say, “Hold your fork correctly,” in a very stern, no-nonsense voice, and I’d throw her a dirty look because adjusting my fork meant I went a nanosecond without eating. How dare you, mother.).
There is also a seafood boil place in downtown Austin called The Boiling Pot which I liked a lot as a kid, though we would nearly always order crawdads there. Being somewhat of a picky crawdad eater, I couldn’t eat any of the tail meat if there was even a speck of crawdad guts on it, so I was constantly scooping the crustaceans’ innards out with a plastic knife, then scraping them on the newspaper-covered table (lovely). Once, my entire side of the table was completely smeared with the blue and green and brown guts of dozens of crawdads, like a culinary Jackson Pollock. It’s blasphemous to nearly everyone in Cajun country, but I just couldn’t reconcile sucking those little half-bodies.