How to prepare crayfish has become a shared meditation
My cousin refused to eat grapes if it was not peeled. “It takes too much time and pain to peel it,” he said. “I’d rather not eat it than peel it.” We’re in an era of maximum food convenience – with 24-hour food and grocery delivery, quick, casual meals, and a dizzying array of prepackaged meals – so it’s no stranger to the argument.
However, I’ve always liked foods that take a little extra effort to eat, especially crayfish. Since I was young, I have found the complicated process of breaking open crayfish claws for meat to be appealing. My Chinese parents were confused, “There isn’t a lot of meat and it takes you so long.
In their opinion, the end is eating and the preparation of food is only a means to that end; the simpler the process, the better. I was too young to fully explain why I loved the ceremony surrounding the eating of crayfish so much, but as I got older I realized that I enjoyed going the extra mile.
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This is probably because I try to have the same attitude towards life: I am more enthusiastic about doing things that require challenges and persistence. Eating complicated foods strengthens my willpower; I face the difficulty, overcome it and enjoy the result. I have kept this in mind as I have spent many years abroad, not all of which have been easy. I know I will overcome any difficulties I face, however, as I conquer the Peeled Crayfish.
It is a meditative experience. Peeling crayfish requires my eyes to watch, my brain to think, and my hands to process. The way I use my teeth is almost animalistic, and I find myself satisfied with the ability to control my body with such precision.
There is also something inherently social about food, like crayfish, that requires extra preparation. When I was a student in Toronto, I used to eat at Captain’s Boil, a seafood chain, with a friend of mine where we would order a basket of seafood. Looking back, he considers her to be one of our best experiences over the years.
“When both parties are forced to get messy and don’t come across as a perfect, polite being, the distance between people is closer,” he says.
And of course, having both hands busy pulling meat from tiny crayfish claws forced us to put our phones down and, in turn, focus on each other. Although many of my relatives still prefer cooked meals as a means of achieving their ends, I still enjoy taking the trip to get there.