Every Labor Day weekend, Joshua and Jineui gather 30 or so lucky friends for a four-day camping extravaganza by Manresa State Beach. This is not a hardcore outdoor experience -- this year, there was a badminton game going near a very well stocked bar and a four-burner kitchen set up within snacking distance of our tents. For the price of an hour of downtown parking, some of us could even enjoy a hot shower. It's definitely more about extreme eating and drinking that any thing resembling "camping," but there aren't too many things that bond people together better than wide, shaded hammocks or Scrabble marathons or jumping and screaming together in the ocean's cold waves.
For months leading up to the trip, I obsessed about what I was going to cook. If any of you had chatted with me in the last several weeks, I would have bugged you for banana-leaf grilling recipes. Fish rubbed with lemongrass and chile and then mummified in fragrant banana leaves? Or a nice Yucatan-style marinade poured on some pork and then all that succulent goodness wrapped up in the leaves? Or cute little packets of gingery straw mushrooms? Or maybe otek-otek?
Then, I realized I just didn't have enough time to hassle with banana leaves.
Then, I saw a sale on wild-caught Gulf shrimp.
Then, I got an email from a PR agency. Did I want to try some new regional recipes from a classic seafood seasoning company? I had just hosted a big Zatarain's tasting a few weeks ago, so I was somewhat curious about how the East Coast classic would compare. I made a point of specifying two tins of each new flavor. But in that funny PR way, a few days later a huge box arrived with a gigantic logo stamped on the side. Inside, a big stockpot. A stockpot that I do not need. In a box that was a waste of someone's time to produce and pack and ship. There was one set of seasonings, even though I had requested two for testing and photography purposes. (This isn't expensive stuff, folks. I'm not asking for two tins of caviar.) And my favorite...there was one pot-holder. Stamped, of course, with a big fat logo.