This post appears over a few blogs. I've been self-referential before, linking to old posts and between Mojourner blogs, but this time it's a matter of there just being two approaches to the same focal point: Spot Shrimp, Pandalus platyceros. Here, I'll do the heads--over at Mocavore, I'll deal with the tails.
In Hawai'i, shrimp tales involve the whole thing. Even though not everyone partook, every time shrimp or prawns showed up intact, some people could be counted on to rip off the head and suck down the juice before mocking non-partakers. But on the Salish Sea, that doesn't happen, and I can breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that my manhood and epicuriosity won't be maligned for my reluctance to slurp green guts. A woman who grew up fishing and cooking Northwest critters and another whose husband fishes for a living both said not to eat the heads. One allowed as to how I could make a broth, but didn't sound too sure, much less enthusiastic.
So what you do is snap off the heads and toss 'em. Unless you are friggin' frugal. In which case you make the shrimp-head broth, realize that not a single person you know will help you eat it, chicken out on eating it yourself, and decide to re-purpose. [In the interest of self-referentiality, may I digress and link here? If you can figure out why, I'll, uh, give you a prize, maybe.]
The broth I recognized as the far superior aromatic kin of that weird shrimp ramen stank, a single waft enough to dispel my 30-year befuddlement over why anyone would want shrimp-flavor. But I still didn't eat it; I fed it to an apple tree. No particular reason.
Then I was left with a kettle o chitin and shrimp sludge. The dog was beside herself wanting to eat it, roll in it,...whatever it took to immerse herself in the smell. I figured raccoons and rats and various vermin would be similarly attracted if I were to compost it, or even work it into the garden. In the end, I decided to bury it in a pit near the base of a Japanese maple that decided to come up a couple of years ago. Then put a rock on top to keep the dog out. If the rats tunnel into this cache, no prob. They'll transport pieces and transform the rest into poop. It'll return to the earth, if not that particular maple.
The tides sent the plankton. The shrimp incorporated the plankton. The fisherman plucked pots of shrimp from Hood Canal. And I traded some cash and a stash of willow bark and red ochre for a few pounds. Thus flows the migration of primal sea life into an Olympia garden.
This ain't natural, I suppose, but a pulse of shrimp protein into urban soil a few dozen miles from where it was caught falls far short of bizarre. Unlike the petrochemicals flowing year-round from the other end of the globe, this fertilizer was an unexpected gift. That smell my family couldn't stand will feed flowers some day. Shrimp stripes will echo in maple bark.