Cancun has become synonymous with debauchery. Spring break. College students out of control. MTV. HPV. THC. The Id and the dangerous ocean. Drunkenness, wantonness, excess. Tacky, inauthentic tourism. A city without memory or consequence. A vacation destination for those who seek to leave behind American law and basic human decency without having to forgo speaking English and eating Bloomin’ Onions. But for us, it was an oasis. For four years we lived in Mexico. Mexico-Mexico. In a town without a bank. Where bone-thin stray dogs roamed the washed-out town square and the dump was a pile of garbage on the side of the road that was regularly set ablaze.
Chelem, where we have a house, is a fishing village, sort of like Rockland, where we live now, except instead of art galleries there are makeshift stalls all Summer that sell string bikinis and plastic sand toys, and rather than fried clam bellies and chowder the seasonal people eat ceviche and cochinita pibil. Octopus in place of lobster. Soccer, not croquet. There are surprising similarities, though. Chelem has a daily market, where you can buy fresh produce, flowers and fresh meat. A farmer’s market, without the liberal arts degree. Both are low-key resorts, without a permanent roller coaster. Carnies tow in flashing rides for a few weeks a year, but mostly what there is to do is walk and relax, swim if you dare, do a bit of boating, spend time with family and friends, reading, eating, and sleeping in a comfortable place more tranquilo than your home. Breezy hammock seaside spots, both. Wild and weird and wonderful.
We lived there for a long time without respite. Without wanting or needing the garish bloated trappings of a culture we felt smug to have left behind. Until the day we longed for them, and longed hard. It hit me first. I craved a break. A few days without the power going out and scorpions in the bedclothes and the daily sadness of dirty children and dead dogs. A drive across the peninsula to the clear blue Caribbean was our quick remedy, the solution to feeling isolated and being strange. Everything was so green well-maintained, shiny, pretty, safe and fun. For a hundred bucks, we could get tossed by the ocean and take cocktails by the hotel pool, get a steak from Ruth’s Chris and shop for new jeans at the pristine outdoor mall. We could play the carefree Americans on holiday.
It was there that we discovered Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, a restaurant we had not been familiar with previously. Everything about it that is earnest (read: lame) seemed marvelous, familiar and positive. We’d order very large, silly drinks, and let ourselves get caught up in the spirit of it all, part of the show. The thing I’d order every time and was never disappointed was this, what the menu calls “Shrimpin’ Dippin Broth”. It is delicious. My favorite way to have shrimp – with spice and butter and lots of crusty bread for dunking.
Bubba Gump Shrimp Company Copycat “Shrimpin’ Dippin’ Broth”
For the broth:
- 1/2 tablespoon butter
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon Cajun spice
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 chicken bouillon cube
- 8 ounces clam juice
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon sugar
For the shrimp:
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
- 1/2 tablespoon garlic, minced
- 1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1 baguette
- 1 cup cooked white rice
- Lemon wedges
For the broth:
In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter, and in the melted cook black pepper, Cajun seasoning, and garlic, about 5 minutes. Add bouillon cube, clam juice, Worcestershire sauce, and sugar. Bring to a boil then turn down the heat to low until ready to serve.
For the shrimp:
In a large saute pan melt butter. Add Worcestershire, black pepper, Cajun seasoning, garlic and shrimp. Cook shrimp quickly, approximately 2 minutes. Combine shrimp and broth and serve with bread, rice and lemon.