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Beach Treats

August 10, 2012

The sunscreen won’t come off. I’ve showered with soap and I’ve scrubbed with washcloths, and I still feel it on my skin.

So it didn’t rain in East Hampton yesterday. That means I went with my family to the beach. No, I still haven’t had my fried chicken. Aunt S. is already suggesting that the last batch she had from her favorite place wasn’t quite up to snuff, and perhaps the joint isn’t what it used to be. That’s not stopping me from driving out to Herb’s Market in Montauk to pick some up for lunch shortly.

I did hear that Herb’s is for sale, so perhaps that has something to do with it. Let this be a lesson to you. When you hear something is amazing, make a special trip out to eat it right away. Don’t wait for a return visit. Because you never know when things might take a turn for the worse.

For what it’s worth, Young Mater Fussy and Little Miss Fussy loved the beach. Me? I love other kinds of beaches. You’ll never guess what they all have in common.

That last line was a rare moment of sarcasm. Naturally they all have to do with food.

Take for example the Florida Keys. I love the beaches of the keys. Not in the heat of summer, but in the comfort of winter. Lounging out in the shade of a chikee hut, listening to the high notes of the wind through the palm fronds and the bass notes of the waves rolling into shore is one of life’s great pleasures. Moments like this call for Frozen Rum Runners. And it’s even better if you are at a place where someone will bring it out to you and charge it to your room.

But elsewhere in Florida there are restaurants right on the beach. I remember one in particular where there was a delicious and cooling gazpacho with one extra-large and delicately tender, poached shrimp. They also made an amazingly refreshing iced tea with just a hint of mango.

As a kid I remember vendors strolling along beaches, pushing along carts filled with refreshing lemon ices that you would scrape up with that little wooden spoon.

These days I look for clam shacks as I explore more of Rhode Island. My mother has a thing for lobster rolls. But there is something about the salty sea air that always gets me in the mood for fried foods. Those are pretty nice beaches.

There was even an amazing beach in the California town of Pacifica that had a Taco Bell right on the sand. They had a wood deck, and a walk up window so surfers could order their seven layer burritos. Or you could sit inside and warm up by the fireplace while watching the sun sink beneath the horizon.

I suppose to some these pristine and undeveloped beaches are a rare and beautiful thing. Probably I’m a heretic for suggesting otherwise. But I’ve never been into picnics either. Which isn’t to say I haven’t had my fair share of amazing ones. It’s just that I never find they are worth all the effort.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. August 10, 2012 9:26 am

    I agree that salt air and fried food go together. My memories of the Keys include trying to eat as many conch fritters as possible. Some are clearly better than others. If you ever want to take a tour on the road…Tour de Conch Fritters in the Keys.

    Not sure if the weather will cooperate, but there are some good whale watches in that area.

  2. August 10, 2012 11:22 am

    I’ve never really gotten eating on the beach. I’m hot, I’m on sand, I’m sticky with sunblock… and I want to eat? Eh, no. I’m lucky if I can get myself to tote along a bottle of water. I’ll eat once I leave the beach, after a shower if I can fit one in.

    • August 10, 2012 9:00 pm

      I’m not crazy about eating on the beach either. I like to be physically comfortable while I eat and hot and sticky is not comfortable.

      Although what upstaters call beaches is another story because then I can avoid the sand and find a nice grassy spot to park my chair in. Preferably under a tree. In that case, bring on the food. I love a picnic at the lake.

  3. Mr. Dave permalink
    August 10, 2012 1:15 pm

    I am the complete opposite. Give me a dreary, gray, chilly day on a deserted beach in Cape Cod. This is about the only time I enjoy the beach. I have an aversion towards brightly colored “tropical” sorts of things.

  4. August 11, 2012 2:09 am

    I’m deeply biased here, because I think Long Island beaches–inundated as they’ve become with more people (ten years or so ago when I was a middle schooler and early teen they were noticeably less populated than now)–are up there with the best ones ever. A lot of it has to do with how the island itself is shaped by the water–you don’t get beaches that look like that anywhere else. But then, I was born on Long Island Sound, and I’ve got that very particular brand of sea in my bones. I have a lot of beach feelings, but I’m a summer baby born on the coast.

    We’re very particular about beach food in my family. First, if you can’t carry it half a mile out to get away from the crowds, you’re not bringing it, so that limits a few things. Normally we pack some sandwiches–I prefer chicken salad or ham, sometimes cold chicken cutlets with mayo, a bag of chips or pretzels for a side, soda or bottled water for drinks. Simple, basic, nothing too complicated. I like to sneak some M&Ms because the outside doesn’t melt in the sun but the chocolate does. The beaches I frequented did normally have a snack stand, but like I said, we’re beach loners so it was a hike back. All the same there is pretty much nothing I love so much as salty fries with warm ketchup on the beach. But then, hungry from the waves, everything tastes better out there.

    Also, you’ll want to use oil-based cleansers to get off the tougher sunscreens. It feels weird, but as someone who wears heavy-duty SPF on my face everyday, it makes a huge difference in getting all that stuff off!

  5. August 11, 2012 10:01 am

    I lived in Hawaii until I was almost ten, so my beach memories are a little different. The nearest beach was Kailua Beach Park, and there was a little stand up near the showers and parking lot where they sold saimin and shave ice – so that’s what I always associate with beach cuisine. Saimin with fish cake and a little shoyu and maybe a 25-cent cone – heaven. There were places nearby that offered plate lunches, and we sometimes stopped at one of them on the way home. Nowadays on trips to the beach, we pack some sandwiches and sodas, or if it’s New England we stop at a clam shack or some such place. Beach cuisine really seems to differ from region to region, which I suppose makes sense. It’s all about maintaining your sense of a vacation – that temporary suspension of reality – and that, to me, involves indulging in foods you might not ordinarily eat on a regular basis.

    • Kerosena permalink
      August 13, 2012 10:59 am

      Mmmm, saimin by the beach! I didn’t know that was a thing until I went to Hawaii, but it seemed like such a natural pairing I decided to go with the flow. I’ve attempted to make it at home, and I’ve come pretty close, but it’s not exactly the same.

      It’s so much better than the bologna and cheese SANDwiches I remember from growing up!

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