The ocean scares the shit out of me. It’s unbecomingly large, powerful, filled with violent predators like sharks and jellyfish, salty, angry, and requires me to don a swimsuit, which I hate. Because even on the *rare* days where my abs are behaving themselves, I’m constantly worried that the bottoms are going to wedge themselves between my butt-halves or a titty is going to pop out of left field when I reach over to grab my margarita or someone will show up at the beach in the same swimsuit I’m wearing, but will look way, way better, and then I’ll have to slit my wrists with a sharp shell that may or may not still house a hermit crab.
When hurricane Katrina happened, I was very, very sad for all those suffering people. I was markedly sadder for all the suffering pets, but that’s just a side effect of my pet-centric sociopathy. I did feel, however, a very strong sense of “I TOLD you this would happen.” I’ve been warning anyone who would listen about the ocean for a long, long time. “It’s dangerous,” I’d say. “It wants to kill you. It wants to blow you around with hurricanes and swallow you with a giant tsunami and unleash jellyfish onto your legs, and they’re invisible, which is completely unfair because how many other predators are invisible? Besides viruses and bacteria and fungi, I mean. NONE. That’s how many.”
I’ve remained comfortably landlocked for as long as I can remember. When hurricane Ike came sweeping through Texas, I listened to the reports very carefully, finding out that we’re too far inland to experience much more than a fairly intense rain. I liked that.
But now my landlocked status is being threatened directly from multiple sides. The worst of which is not only an oceanic threat, but a GULF COAST oceanic threat, and I’m pretty sure the gulf coast is the worst coast for hurricanery.
What adds insult to substantial injury is that the base I’m discussing is a giant bunghole even when it’s NOT being attacked by giant bodies of water. I’m looking at you, Keesler Air Force Base.
Can you IMAGINE? No, you can’t. Not unless you’ve lived there. But let’s try to paint a picture for you, shall we?
First, the food scene. There does appear to be a food scene of some sorts down in Biloxi. And it centers on two basic principles.
A) Things that are fried
B) Things that can swim
There is an active fishing community, including sportfishing, and when they’ve caught things, they take them to shore and batter them and fry them. And then they win awards like “biggest fish” or “most successful catch” or “most obese state in the history of the United States of America.” No, I’m not making that up.
What a gifted state.
But surely there are some other things to keep me occupied in the area, right? Like, oh, say…gambling? Yeah. TONS of gambling in Biloxi. It’s like Vegas if Vegas got cheap and moldy and smelled like fried fish. I’ve never gambled. Not out of virtue or anything, but more because I prefer to spend money on tangible things and also I hate playing cards so, so, so much. Like, I’d rather spend an evening participating in major acts of arson than sit down for a “poker night.”
Here’s to hoping that the blanket of casinos in Biloxi have at least given rise to some decent Vegas-style restaurants.
Real estate in Biloxi is almost too depressing to mention. There are plenty of grand, sprawling antebellum homes to be had, but so many of them were just gutted by hurricane Katrina, and now they’re building these high-rise apartment buildings, and EW. EWewewewew.
The nearest Whole Foods to Biloxi is 80 miles away. EIGHTY MILES. In a different state. There are three Wal-Marts within 10 miles. Can souls bleed? Because mine is right now.
When I tried to find out what foods I could make that were native to Biloxi, or at least Mississippi, it was one giant FAIL. Everything was fried-catfish-this and po-boy-that and oyster-this and September-seafood-festival that.
And there’s nothing wrong with those things, if you’re a seafood lover. IF you are a seafood lover. IF.
But I am not, and I didn’t want to cop out and make the good ol’ Louisiana gumbo or traditional southern fried chicken and biscuits. I wanted to make something truly Mississippian.
First, every time I have to spell Mississippi, my brain things “em EYE ess ess EYE ess ess EYE pee pee EYE.” That’d drive me to drinking mouthwash after about 2 weeks.
Second, I did make fried chicken using sous-vide a few days ago, and it was FANTASTIC. I marinated boneless, skinless thighs in buttermilk, then dried them off and put them in a plastic bag with butter and Frank’s Red Hot sauce. They went in at 160 F for 4 hours, then got dipped in egg and salted panko crumbs. A brief swim in some 375 F oil and they were golden brown and delicious. The outsides–perfectly crispy. The insides–flavorful and juicy and perfectly done. I ate mine with honey and a salad. It was the best fried chicken I’ve ever had, and it all came from cheapo boneless, skinless thighs.
Mud pie is basically a semi-liquid brownie in an oreo crust, topped with either frosting or peanut butter or toasted marshmallows. Sometimes there are pecans. It sounds great, right?
HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. No. It was not great. Maybe I’m a shitty cook. Maybe my heart wasn’t in it after looking at real estate. Maybe the thought of early-onset diabetes shivered my timbers. But I didn’t like it.
I didn’t go fancy, but went with the slapdash homey version. There are some versions that involve coffee ice cream and some other business, but everything I read said the authentic stuff was this brownie-like concoction in a crust. I made a crust out of graham crackers and cocoa, since I didn’t have any “chocolate wafer cookies” like it requested. Then I made the filling of egg yolks and butter and chocolate and sugar. Then I baked it until a crust formed on top. I slathered the top with creamy peanut butter, then stuck wads of mini-marshmallows on top to toast. In Colorado, marshmallows dry out, so you have to keep them tightly sealed. In Texas, the humidity is so pervasive that, even tightly sealed, the marshmallows glob together into great hunks of marshmallow. I was drinking wine and watching Criminal Minds on A&E;, so I wasn’t about to start picking individual marshmallow hunks off of the glob. I just stuck wads here and there and then toasted them with the blow torch.
I called Chris over to try the pie with me, and it was the second time in my adult life that I have not finished a dessert. So sweet and cloying that I felt my teeth rotting in my head like a meth addict, and so sticky that the greying stumps of tooth left in my mouth were cemented together. No thank you.
I will happily admit that this was poorly made. But as delicious as “cake in a pie crust” sounds, it really is excessive. Maybe the extra sweetness cuts through the coating of fat in your mouth after eating a meal that consists solely of fried food. I don’t know. But I didn’t like it, and I really, really, really love sugary food.
So, the pros and cons of Mississippi.
Pro: It is in the contiguous United States
Con: Barely. And not anywhere near to home, nor close enough for family to visit
Pro: It has an ocean view
Con: Sometimes that ocean view is extra close because the ocean is coming in through your windows and doors, driven by gale-force winds and spite. “Oh look, honey! We can see the ocean from our front.. *gurglegurgle*
Pro: It has a very pronounced food culture
Con: of foods that I won’t eat
Pro: It is close to New Orleans (about 80 miles)
Con: I don’t care
Pro: It has an active casino nightlife
Con: I’m not a showgirl, my name is not Lola
I’m too emotionally exhausted to think of any more pros. Please, military. Please don’t make me go to Biloxi. Please. Or Alaska. Or Ohio. I’ll be good, I promise. I’ll bake cakes for my soldiers and play Lee Greenwood on repeat and stop plotting with Chris for him to wander the streets in assless chaps in a direct flout of don’t ask, don’t tell. PURLEAAAAASE!