Sunday, July 5, 2020

Interviewed Carolyn Simon at Vermilion Bay Seafood, Tony Chachere Recipe

Vermilion Bay Seafood fresh shrimp
bought from shrimpers

"...Your alternative is a tasteless imported sorry excuse for a shrimp that was harvested in a pond farm in another country..." ( - Virginia Billeaud Anderson interviewed Carolyn Simon at Vermilion Bay Seafood about the history of her shrimp business.)

Interviewed Carolyn Simon at Vermilion Bay Seafood, Tony Chachere Recipe

In south Louisiana, it’s customary to begin a conversation with a stranger by rattling off the names of your relatives. Inevitably, you discover that the stranger went to church with your grandmother or duck hunted with your uncle or sits near your brother in law at the LSU football games. When I contacted Carolyn Olander Simon to ask a few questions about her business Vermilion Bay Seafood at Cypremort Point, Louisiana, I began our conversation in the customary manner. “Carolyn, were you acquainted with Daddy’s first cousin Helen Beaullieu Chachere?

She was. They were friends.

I highly recommend my readers buy only wild-caught fresh shrimp that comes off a shrimp boat. Your alternative is a tasteless imported sorry excuse for a shrimp that was harvested in a pond farm in another country with underpaid labor. Louisiana shrimpers who catch shrimp with boats and nets and fuel and rubber boots, perhaps a link of boudin and a cold beer for lunch, should be supported.

It’s not easy. Louisiana’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is there to tell them when to catch, and where to catch, and how much to catch, and shrimpers must navigate regulatory requirements such as turtle-excluding devices for shrimp nets.

One of the most intriguing things about shrimp boats are the birds. Sea birds, especially gulls, are naturally attracted to the contents of the shrimp nets and to the fish discarded by the boat. Those noisy screechy aggressive little despots apparently find it easier to scavenge a boat than to dive for their dinner. Gulls swarming a boat can seem deranged. I don’t know the names of the other birds that follow Louisiana shrimpers, most likely skimmers and egrets. I do know that plump pelicans typically hunker down near docked shrimp boats. In 1861, the honchos who ran the “Gret Stet” high jacked the pelican for their state flag.

I asked Carolyn a few questions.

Virginia Billeaud Anderson: When did you open, tell me about the history of Vermilion Bay Seafood.

Carolyn Simon: It started with my father Leo Olander. It was around 1965. He began unloading his shrimp boat. We had a retail market in New Iberia, and a seafood restaurant. I would drive the shrimp to market when I got off the school bus. In 1970 he opened H & L Seafood and we began buying from other boats, when I was 18. From 1975 to 80, while my husband and I helped my parents with the shrimp business, we opened Vermilion Bay Seafood to buy and sell fish. My parents got a divorce. I got divorced. My mother passed away, so I run the wholesale shrimp business.

VBA: You’ve been working in the shrimp business since you were fifteen years old, or before. Do you sell other products?

CS: Now I’m 70. We buy shrimp and crabs at the dock. This year I started selling frozen packaged peeled and de-veined Louisiana seafood products.

Vermilion Bay Seafood fresh crabs

VBA: Do you own the property on the canal?

CS: We own the property.

VBA: How is it determined which shrimpers will arrive to sell their catch? Do you have agreements to buy from certain shrimp boats?

CS: Three of my brothers own a shrimp boat, and three of my 4 sons own a shrimp boat. These 6 are my main suppliers. My three sons who are shrimpers are Leo Simon, John Simon and Daryl Simon. When my sons are not shrimping, in the winter months, they fish and catch crabs. They also catch crawfish.

VBA: Carolyn, my sister Marie is one of your customers. Miss Ruby is a pretty boat. Who owns the Miss Ruby?

CS: Miss Ruby is owned by my son Leo Simon.

VBA: Do you ever buy from others, from strangers?

CS: Occasionally, strangers come from another area, they might trawl from Houma, want to unload, I try to accommodate them. I won’t turn a boat away.

Before I contacted Carolyn, I called my brother David who spends a great deal of time catching speckled trout in Vermilion Bay, and knows practically everyone in Cypremort Point. David was cranky. That can happen if one of his friends, Harold Schoeffler for instance, catches a boat load of trout. Did David know Carolyn? “Everyone knows Carolyn. She has the shrimp dock.”

“Tonight, I’m gonna make em cry!” That, legend holds, was Tony Chachere’s battle cry when he cooked a meal for friends. In 1972, at the time the south Louisiana culinary icon began marketing his famous seasoning mix which now sells around the world, Tony published Tony Chachere’s Cajun Country Cookbook. I snatched the following recipe from Tony’s cookbook for readers to use when they buy Carolyn’s wild-caught fresh large shrimp at Vermilion Bay Seafood.

Broiled Shrimp a la Tony

12 large unshelled shrimp
1 clove garlic, cut fine
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Slit unshelled shrimp down the back, cutting 3/4-way through to remove sand veins. Marinade shrimp for two hours in mixture of remaining ingredients. Place shrimp in a broiling pan and pour marinade over shrimp. Broil 7 or 8 minutes, turning once. Use as appetizer. (Serves 4)

Since it’s customary in south Louisiana to identify people by enumerating relatives, Tony Chachere was the brother of Joe Chachere who was married to Daddy’s first cousin Helen Beaullieu Chachere, who was a friend of Carolyn Simon.

Cypremort Point Louisiana
337 867-4369

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