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  • Writer's pictureJay Murray

Shrimp Tewksbury

Updated: Nov 14, 2023

For whatever reason, though it’s likely due to my burgeoning fame, I’ve been the recipient of a whole bevy of unsolicited email messages. Many are recipes, the senders presumably seeking some constructive criticism of their efforts, and one such recipe caught my eye: Shrimp Mozambique.

To be honest, my initial take on the dish was that it probably began in some home kitchen in Iowa, or Utah, or maybe one of the Dakotas, or that it might even trace its roots back to Canada, straight from the pages of Harrowsmith Magazine. I certainly never encountered it during any of my surfing expeditions to Mozambique, where the smell of Portuguese colonialism lingers still, and nowhere more pronounced than in the hotel kitchens. Seafood is prominent in coastal Mozambique, and shrimp is a local favorite, but I normally only enjoyed it grilled and slathered in piri piri, or in a curry with coconut milk, or in a creamy stew with hints of 2M lager, the local brew.

In fact, it wasn’t until I was strolling down a street in Portugal City, the de facto capital of Portugal, that I encountered Shrimp Mozambique in the wild. It was on the metric version of a 12 foot by 24 foot billboard advertising Goya Sazón with a QR code that directed me to a recipe. Apparently it’s a popular dish in Portugal City, and I’d have to guess, other parts of Portugal as well.

So my curiosity sent me to our local library, where I endeavored to learn more. It seems that Shrimp Mozambique is more of an idea than a specific preparation. There do seem to be some unifying elements between the many recipes I uncovered among the stacks. All featured shrimp, duh. Most, if not all, called for piri piri - a malagueta pepper based hot sauce - and about an eight ball of dried spices, usually garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, oregano, and often Goya Sazón, the one with the saffron. Then they began to diverge. Some said to add beer, some preferred wine, and one I saw instructed me to use a dry white wine if I can’t seem to locate Super Bock or Sagres in the States. Why I can’t substitute Bud Light, my new favorite beer out of principle, is lost on me.

Be that as it may, I do want to share a shrimp recipe with you today - not one that appropriates another culture’s cultural appropriation, but one of my own. It’s early afternoon here, so I’ll take a shower, make a shopping list and get to work. Tata for now.

Sorry, for the delay - that took much longer than I'd expected. Here's the thing, though... I got nothing. I had some shrimp, well, that's pretty much it for my ideas - some shrimp. I had bought my shrimp at Market Basket in Tewksbury. Tewksbury is where I buy beer. Specifically, Treehouse Brewing is where I buy beer (and they make an amazing key lime amaro as well) and on the way home there's a Market Basket on the left. It's on the right when I head into Tewksbury. So I grabbed some shrimp at Market Basket, along with a reusable bag of terrible ideas. But, I thought, maybe I can delve into the history of Tewksbury, so I detoured to City Hall where Linda was exceedingly helpful. Turns out, wouldn't you know it, there's Shrimp Tewksbury! But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Way back in 1734, Edwin Billerica had a bone to pick with one Wayne Tewksbury, his brother-in-law and fellow landowner. Seems they had a territorial dispute of some sort, and both agreed to allow the local constabulary to mediate. The local constabulary, as local constabularies were wont to do at the time, proposed a duel. The two consented and met at high noon, one day to be known, inexplicably, as 1pm for about half the year. They didn't duel, however, as expected; rather they agreed to amicably divide the territory: in Bill's hopes that one day he would be the titular character in a Broadway musical, and in Wayne's, that his name would be forever etched into the granite tablets of the culinary repertoire. Bill's ancestors still await their moment in the spotlight; Wayne, posthumously, of course, achieved his dream.

But let's not dwell on the past. Linda taught me about Shrimp Tewksbury. That's the dish in the photo the Tewksbury City Hall archives was gracious enough to share with me. A "Tewksbury" dish apparently refers to its two main sauces. One is a fermented tomato sauce enriched with a bit of egg and butter (what the French call a tryst), while the other is another classic French recipe, a pâte sorti, (apologies to Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin for my mispronunciation). In the photo you see Shrimp Tewksbury served in the traditional manner - over a sunchoke hash - but don't be afraid to improvise. Recipes here.

Epilogue. Wayne and Janet Tewksbury went on to form the Wayne and Janet Tewksbury Foundation, and spent their twilight years selflessly opening their home to the feral hominids of New England.

On a side note, it's a little known fact that Wayne Tewksbury devised the metric system in his stable workshop; therefore the recipe calls for these archaic measurements.

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