The Fake Shrimp

And I’m the shrimp,
The smallest of all,
They call me the shrimp
Because I’m not very tall.

Who knew that my theatrical claim to fame would be at the age of ten, singing a song about fish, and being photographed in a shrimp costume?

Our school, not having the money to pay for royalties for a more well-known Broadway-style musical, instead, for our annual play, performed a creation called Time Fog, a historical tour of the history of Nova Scotia, as written by the school’s music teacher. It dealt with the expulsion of the Acadians, the founding of the City of Halifax, and even Confederation. One scene explored Nova Scotia’s rich fishing heritage.

I didn’t play the Shrimp in the stage version, I was a mere extra, but the play had gotten such a huge amount of coverage in the local news that the school was asked to create a recording and slide presentation to send around to other schools. The kid who played Shrimp was sick on recording day, and being the first person in the line of sight of the music teacher (being able to fit into the shrimp costume didn’t hurt) I was the lucky gal who got to wander through the school to the set, trying to keep the other kids from pulling off my many legs.

But I was, ultimately, the fake Shrimp. And the kid who brought the role to life onstage never let me forget it.

I was reminded of my Shrimp role recently when I picked up a package of soy-based shrimp at the local health food store. It doesn’t actually say “shrimp” on the package anywhere, it’s “Szechuan Style Stir-Fry”, but what comes out of the little shrink-wrapped blob is definitely meant to look like shrimp.

Although I was pescetarian for many years, I stopped eating shrimp early on. After reading the works of Dr. Vandana Shiva about the destruction shrimp farming has caused in coastal India and Thailand, I couldn’t justify it. I didn’t like the things that much. In recent months, even Wal-Mart has hopped on the sustainable shrimp bandwagon, and is supposedly refusing to sell any shrimp not farmed in a sustainable manner. Given that shrimp farming has been linked to the destruction caused by the 2004 tsunami, this is definitely a step in the right direction.

But back to my faux shrimp. The product is made by a company called Montreal Veggie Gourmet, who are most well known for their seitan-based Smoked Wheat and Roast Wheat, pastrami and roast beef copies that are probably the most authentic faux meat products I’ve ever had. I figured these would be good too.

Now, they look like the real thing. Freakishly so. They’re even pinkish on the outside to look like the various sections of the tail. Taste-wise, shrimp tend to take on the taste of what they’re cooked in; on their own, they’re pretty bland, so a soy copy works pretty much like all soy-based products do, sucking up the sauce they were cooked in. It was the texture that was wrong. So very wrong.

Shrimp is one of those meats with a bit of bounce. No matter how it’s cooked, it’s always slightly tough, with a bit of spring to it. My faux shrimp were doughy, almost fluffy, inside. It was sort of like eating a shrimp-shaped ball of bread.

As there were only six in the package, we managed to finish them, but afterwards, Greg and I looked at each other and admitted our buyer’s remorse.

I don’t know whatever happened to the kid who played Shrimp. I don’t even remember his name. But somewhere out there, there are photos and recordings of me, pretending to be the Shrimp, and like my soy-based shrimp product, probably doing a really bad job of it.