On the way off of the docks one of the cousins in the other boat bought a hundred pounds of shrimp off one of the shrimp boats that was just getting back to shore at the same time they did. The boat captains had their helpers clean all of the fish at the end of the trips too. This kept the fishing boats up to their ears in chum but it was also a great service to give the paying customers some nice fillets instead of whole fish and work to bring home. The trip was a great success and it was time to cook.
Out in the grass by the pool they setup tables and outdoor boiling pots that some of the family brought down with them. In one pot they boiled the shrimp and started putting it in ice chests. Nolan and the other boys his age were quickly recruited to begin peeling the boiled shrimp. It was a great job because they got to eat as they went. In another pot they were frying up the fish. One of his great aunts went down the grocery store and got several large paper grocery bags as well as fries, cornmeal, salt, pepper, ketchup, all the tartar sauce they had, buttermilk, some lemons and onion and few odds and ends.
The men gathered together, beers in hand, and began to cook the fish. Cornmeal and seasoning went into the paper bags and buttermilk went into a big bowl. They dunked a few handfuls of fish in the buttermilk, then into the bag to shake on the cornmeal, then back to the bowl and back to the bag before they took it all out and dropped the fish into the hot grease. The smoke and the smell filled the courtyard in front of the hotel pool which the manager had cleaned out. The courtyard had people swirling around in every direction as the fish went into its own ice chest so that fries and hushpuppies could be made. There ended up being about 6 ice chests full of dinner and 3 more full of beer.
The women were buzzing around from inside to outside. They had made more preparations than anyone began to realize. They brought out pitchers of sweet tea and lemonade, pies of various kinds and one of Nolan’s aunts even made two large carrot cakes. This was one of the reasons Nolan love family reunions so much, it was a far cry from a frozen pizza at home. Even when his parents cooked it was usually shake and bake chicken with canned green beans or some such thing. But this food was incredible and Nolan had a purpose. He was peeling shrimp which made his hands into working hands. It the only place where he ever really felt a sense of community despite not ever having thought of it in those terms.
When he finished eating and swimming the day was all but over. Everyone just rested for the afternoon and ate left overs and sandwiches for supper or suuppah as his Mississippi family would say. They had the greatest accents, slow and sweet as they wanted to be. Nolan felt a lot of comfort when he heard a Mississippi accent, it was like home for him even though he only came once a year. One of his sweet aunts came by and asked if he wanted to go with them to Ship Island the next morning. Nolan didn’t know what that was but it sounded like something to do so he said yes. There was a crew of about 20 organized that wanted to go to Ship Island and another crew of about 20 that decided they would rather go to Beauvoir to see the old plantation of Mississippi’s son to rise to the level of president. A significant achievement even if the south did lose the war of Northern aggression as it was known to many of them.