My parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary this past weekend, on the 17th. I think that’s a pretty big deal. And I’m particularly excited that they got married, because otherwise we would not have been able to celebrate that milestone on Dauphin Island a couple of weekends ago. Nor would I have been born, which was pretty important, too – at least to me.
If there is any activity that makes me hungry, it is swimming. I’m not sure that floating around in the ocean or excavating the moat around my sand castle counts as real exercise, but somehow I got pretty hungry anyway. Our lunches in the condo were tame but plentiful – sandwiches, chips and dips followed by two limited edition flavors of Golden Oreos– lemon crème and birthday cake. (Nothing really beats an original Oreo, but I try not to let a new flavor come along without trying it at least once.) As a side, I had a few bites of West Indies Crab Salad I’d picked up at Bayley’s restaurant on the way to the island. It’s basically just crab meat and onions marinated in cider vinegar, oil and cold water, invented by Mr. Bayley back in 1947. Simple but tasty, and also a check mark off one of my eat-it-before-you-die lists.
Our second evening there was family photo night. We all donned our white tops and khaki bottoms and took as many shots as possible before dark-thirty, then caravanned to dinner. Despite the legion of culinary options in Mobile, we chose to forgo the long drive and went across the street to Islanders.
We started with a big plate of fried crab claws, another family Dauphin Island tradition. I should have been wary when it said “market price”. But hey, we were celebrating. For the main meal I found myself in a menu dilemma. They had shrimp and grits, a dish that always grabs my attention. Even when there are other enticing selections, I always wonder “what amazing rendition of shrimp and grits might I miss if I don’t order it here?” The other option I was considering was a pork ribeye, which I had never seen on a menu before. I figured I was at the beach so the seafood choice was the logical one. The shrimp and grits were decent – they had little bits of Conecuh sausage mixed in, too, which added to the Alabama-ness of the whole thing.
The next morning was play-time in the kitchen. Younger brother made pancake bites – little mini-muffins made from pancake batter, served with syrup. I brought along my deep fryer and made donuts from canned biscuits – buttermilk Grands with a hole cut out of the center. I’m not usually a big fan of canned biscuits, but when you deep-fry them and pour on the glaze, they take on a new personality, one I would like to spend more time with. So we had pancakes that were muffins and donuts that were biscuits. Twisted but fun.
At dinner we went back to the ocean, so to speak. Skinner’s Seafood, just down from the hotel, provided us with local grouper filets – some we fried and some we blackened for fish tacos. We also brought home steamed shrimp, which Younger Brother combined with an oven roast of corn cobettes and the tiniest little potatoes I’ve ever seen, for a spin on a low country tradition. Needless to say, we ate long and well. Again. Thank goodness I got up at dawn to run ten miles on the beach every morning. Right. Dessert was chocolate cobbler and homemade vanilla ice cream which didn’t really want to freeze. It was more like vanilla milkshake poured over chocolate cobbler. But does that sound bad? Nope. It was just fine.
After a quick snack breakfast the next morning we checked out and headed for the end of the island to catch the ferry over to Gulfshores. While we waited, we all got ice cream at the little monopoly shop at the ferry departure point, because it’s never too early in the day for ice cream. Besides, it was hot, and that Coke float was just what Dr. Jay ordered. Literally, that’s what I ordered. They didn’t get it wrong.
Younger Brother and fam headed to points east, while we cut north to Foley. We had some last-minute school shopping to do at the outlets, and had our sights set on Lambert’s Café for lunch. Since we’d just had ice cream, we waited till mid-afternoon to go and the parking lot was still packed to the gills. Once we were seated, they began bringing the “pass-arounds” – fried okra that they spoon out on the middle of the table on a paper towel, and the famous “throwed rolls”. If you haven’t been to Lambert’s before, you need to be a little wary. They throw the rolls. Across the room. They are amazingly accurate throwers, but one toss to Son ended up smacking me directly on the right ear. Another hit Doc on the head, split in two, sending one half spinning directly into Daughter’s hands. The Wife took one for the team directly on the chest. And the food just kept coming. I considered sustaining myself solely on the pass-arounds – macaroni with tomatoes, black-eyed peas, cabbage, fried potatoes with onions. That would have more than filled me up. But I noticed they had deep-fried hog jowls. How could I not order that? The server described them as similar to thick-sliced bacon, and that’s essentially what appeared – a plate full of curled pieces of thick fried bacon. Wow.
I’d love you to believe that I came home and ate low-fat yogurt and salads with no appreciable dressing for the next week, or that I actually ran those early-morning miles on the beach. But some of you have seen me since that weekend and you know better. It was worth the sacrifice to celebrate such a big day. Happy 50th, Mama and Daddy!