The Mast-Head: Shrimp on the Beach

Destined for a cooking pot

   A child’s bucket, full to the top, of mantis shrimp sits in the office refrigerator. I picked them up on the beach early Tuesday, just after sunrise, before the gulls could get to them.
    There was a lobster, too, that I considered taking, but it was nearly snapped in two by the waves Hurricane Sandy pushed up, and it had already begun to smell. The mantis shrimp are destined for a cooking pot, provided I can get the sand off them.
    Oddly, until the bad winter storm of Dec. 26 and 27, 2010, I had not known that mantis shrimp existed in these parts. I had read about them and their remarkable snapping ability. After that storm, I found a couple of them dead along the beach; on Tuesday, the wrack line was strewn with them. I could have picked up hundreds.
    Several species of mantis shrimp — though not the ones we have here, apparently — have club-like claws they use to stun prey. Researchers have become interested in the appendages’ composition and structure, wondering whether what gives them remarkable strength could be useful breakthroughs in military or industrial applications.
    It is lucky that the Star office is in a part of town where we are among the very few on Long Island with electricity. This means that I can keep the rare haul fresh and presumably edible until we can have them for dinner.
    There is a range of interest in our family where shrimp is concerned. My wife, Lisa, is allergic to them; the 11-year-old loves them; the 8-year-old will eat a few, and Ellis, who is 2 and a half, spit them out the few times he tried them.
    Preparation, from what I saw on the Internet, is basic. You just throw them in a pot or on the barbecue for about five minutes, peel them, and eat with soy sauce. As the frenetic pace of post-storm reporting and activity subsides, I hope to find a moment to get them on the table. We’ll see what the family says — that is, if I can get rid of the sand.