It started in the last week of February during a lunch service.
Word came back from the dining room that one of the members was asking, "Is it in? When will you have it?"
The Chef and I just rolled our eyes and sighed. In addition, I felt a cold, nasty chill descend upon my soul.
Yes. It's that time of year.
The time of year that the little old ladies of Virginia live for. Like migratory birds, some internal compass directs them to dining rooms all over the Commonwealth to ask, pleadingly, "When is it coming? Do you have it?"
All up and down the central Eastern Seaboard, chefs begin to feel like digging their own graves with the despair that grows like a tumor as they pick up the phone to call their seafood purveyors: "Ok. Are they running or what? Oh! You've just got the first ones in? Hell, yeah. Give me a dozen sets, God help me." They hang up the phone, and ask themselves, "How did they - those little old ladies - know it was time?"
And every one of those chefs know that for the next month - all through March - those little old ladies will be coming in like mindless zombies to order the unholy hell that is...
Shad Roe. And how they love it. They worship it. They plan their lives around it.
And, oh, how I hate shad roe!
At the Club, we're paying $7.95 a set for sacks of fish eggs from one of the greasiest, trashiest fish on the planet, and we're charging a king's ransom for the privilege of being able to consume it.
The little old ladies don't care.
They would sell their retirement condos in order to partake of a set of bloody, membranous sacks of fish roe dredged in seasoned flour and fried in butter and topped with a lemon-caper cream. Or a bacon and apple butter sauce. Or a chive butter. Or a brown butter. I could top this horror with goat turds, and I'm sure they'd still order it.
By now, you're probably thinking, "Gee. Chef Mojo has some issues with shad roe, doesn't he?"
Damn skippy I do, pal.
Because I have to cook those things up, and let me tell you, there ain't nothing nastier than one of those bastards exploding in a sauté pan and covering your hand - or as was the case yesterday, on my face - with hot, blistering fat. Because they do explode. See, the damn things are mostly water, trapped in a tough, thin membrane. And no matter how many little holes I poke in them, invariably one of them blows up during service, creating yet another layer of blisters and burns over yesterday's blisters and burns.
For a whole month.
But joy of joys! I am told that the harvesting of these devious eggs will be severely limited this year! Yes, the Commonwealth, in its infinite wisdom, has decided that shad are being woefully over fished. Perhaps, it won't be so bad this time around.