This recipe and story are also in my book, Pork Chops & Applesauce with a story titled, Aunt Joy Recalls Childhood Memories, about when my aunt and uncle were dating back in the 1950s. The recipe has gone through its share of changes and updates over the years but I figure that’s what cooking is all about, and I’m sure if my aunt was still with us, she’d be the first to agree with me. Enjoy!
“It’s impossible that you’ve been married 47 years!” I cried out over the phone. I called Aunt Joy, who lives in San Diego to thank her for a delicious shrimp stew recipe she recently shared with me and the conversation generated sweet memories of the 1950s.
Joy tempered a laugh. Her slow, husky modulation conveyed a soothing tone that is so familiar to my dad’s side of the family. “It’s astonishing to me too that the years have passed so quickly,” she said. “It seems like yesterday when Jack and I eloped to Idaho and my sister, Gloria, surprised us with a wedding cake she’d whipped up in Mama’s kitchen.”
“Were you the bride Uncle Tony and Uncle Ken pushed down Main Street in a wheel barrel?” I asked.
“Yes, they took me on a ride through town in a wheel barrel; it was my brothers’ version of a wedding announcement. They reveled in capturing a new bride, then racing through the streets with her squealing and making a fuss.
“The day my brothers whisked me away for the ‘wheel barrel’ soiree, we took a detour through the feed store where Daddy was purchasing chicken feed. They wheeled me right past him and he didn’t even look up!” Joy was fully appreciating that September 29, in 1953.
“Your granddad had such a dry wit! I’ll never know whether he was ignoring our antics or if he really didn’t hear the ruckus!” I could tell from the warmth in her voice that she was smiling.
I was seven when Jack and Joy were courting, and I was totally committed to being their number one pest. Every afternoon Jack drove Joy home from school, and when I saw his gray sedan come barreling up the long, dusty driveway I’d run and hide on the backside of the shingled house. Hunkered down near the heady, pale pink peonies that my grandmother was so adept at cultivating, I’d wait until the dust, and the silence, settled around their car.
When the two lovebirds were in the middle of their predictably long goodbye, I’d sneak up onto the wide running board, “Ha, ha! I see you…you’re smooching!” I’d chirp at them in an obnoxious childish tune.
With a furrowed brow and crimson face, Joy would demand, “Go away! Leave us alone you silly kid!”
“I’m gonna tell Gramma…I’m gonna tell Grandpa, I’d sing bouncing up and down gleefully.”
“Will you go away if I give you a nickel?” Jack bribed.
Placing my hand firmly on my hip and with my lower jaw sticking out as far as it would go, I’d holler smartly, “I wanna see it first to make sure it’s real!” As if I would have known a fake nickel from the real thing yet I was repeating what my uncles said when funning with each other.
“Oh, here it is! Will this get rid of you?” Jack smiled, showing his perfectly straight, white teeth, and knowing the next day we’d be going through the same ritual.
Calling my aunt was a gentle reminder of how time finds a home between the many folds of our lives. It’s an inevitable journey, one which for most of us moves swiftly and silently through the vestibule of life.
It’s pleasing to me that an elegant shrimp stew recipe was the impetus for re-connecting with my aunt, and much like the savory memories of my childhood, this recipe is delightful.
Shrimp Tomato Stew with Zucchini
1 1/2 pounds fresh uncooked shrimp (21 to 31 count), peel and remove tails, rinse
1/2 cube butter
4 garlic cloves, pressed
5 small zucchini (about 6″ to 7″ long) cut into 1/4” slices
4 tablespoons onion, chopped
1 teaspoon dried Italian herbs or 1 tablespoon fresh basil, finely chopped
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes, do not drain
1 to 1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese, freshly grated (divided)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Place butter and garlic in a 2 ½ to 3-quart (deep) glass casserole dish; cover and microwave for about 30 seconds, or until butter has melted. In the order given, layer shrimp, zucchini, Parmesan cheese, onion, herbs, Parmesan cheese and tomatoes over butter/garlic mixture; top with small amount of Parmesan cheese.
Cover; microwave 25 minutes or until zucchini is tender and shrimp are pink. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve in a bowl with hot Jasmine rice. Yield: 6 servings
Note: Uncooked shrimp are gray when they’re purchased, cooked shrimp are pink. Uncooked shrimp are used in this recipe to avoid over-cooking.
Original recipe comes from the kitchen of the late Joy Ann Pape, San Diego, California.