Current Weight: 166.2 lbs.
All my life, I've had a love/hate relationship with shrimp.
When I was very young, I remember my mom had a short-lived longing for single-serving shrimp cocktails. They were sold in small, bulbous glass jars at the supermarket -- right next to the fresh fish, ironically enough. This may surprise you, but it wasn't the image of diced, day-old and unsold shrimp swimming in cocktail sauce that turned my seven-year-old stomach. My most lasting memory is how one empty four-ounce jar could make our tiny apartment smell like horseradish and shellfish for days.
My dad favored the peel-and-eat variety. And, if my dad was eating shrimp for dinner, this meant one of two things: (1) it was "share-a- frozen pizza night" for me and my brother -- an especially cruel food tactic since these were my childhood obesity years, when I could've easily completed a three-way with two of Mama Celeste's pies by myself. Or, (2) we were visiting my dad's family in Georgia, where beer buckets full of fresh shrimp were a summertime BBQ staple -- along with heaping helpings of mocking laughter whenever I asked if there were any hot dogs or hamburgers.
Years later, while sitting in my junior high school Spanish class -- having conquered my obesity issues and feeling better about myself than ever before -- a room full of 15-year-olds learned that the Spanish translation for "shrimp" sounds an awful lot like my last name. On the plus side, the adolescent teasing unified the cool kids, the un-cool kids and the faculty for a few weeks.
Despite these seemingly insurmountable anecdotal challenges, I actually do like shrimp.
Like most unsophisticated American adults and/or anyone who orders off the kids' menu, I prefer it fried if I'm eating shrimp by itself. When it's used within other entrées, I'm a little more particular. Some shrimp-based dishes don't really fill me up. For example, Mrs. Bootleg has a recipe for a garlic-shrimp angel hair pasta that's tasty, but not very satisfying. (Don't tell her!) As you might imagine, I'm all over shrimp served in something hearty like jambalaya, seafood gumbo or my wife's ridiculously delicious spinach-and-shrimp enchiladas.*
*-- And, if Mrs. Bootleg is reading this, I like to point out that you haven't made this in forever.
Essentially, I'm no different from anyone else in that shrimp isn't usually my first choice off of a seafood menu, but I'll eat it if it's placed in front of me.
So, did you hear that Taco Bell -- the most trusted name in imitation Mexican food -- is now serving shrimp? With expectations appropriately lowered, I ordered the "Pacific Shrimp Taco combo" this past Friday. I wasn't expecting much in the way of culinary authenticity and considering Taco Bell's occasionally inconsistent cleanliness, I'd be lying if I said there weren't other gastronomic thoughts on my mind.
Here's the marketing department's description from Taco Bell's website:
A warm, soft flour tortilla filled with six succulent shrimp marinated in a mix of spices, then topped with crisp shredded lettuce, fiesta salsa, and avocado ranch sauce.
From the picture above, it's obvious that the first, second and third most dominant flavor comes from the avocado ranch sauce. I mean, it's everywhere. With my first bite, the sauce was all I could taste until that familiar shrimp flavor snuck through right before I finished chewing. The flavors never really balanced out for me, but the shrimp actually was seasoned pretty well by fast food standards. The fiesta salsa wasn't all that bad either, but with the pint of avocado ranch sauce that topped my two tacos, I could only intermittently taste it.
Believe it or not, there's some surprisingly decent eatin' in here. The Pacific Shrimp Taco doesn't have an overpowering seafood flavor and with a little mix n' match diligence over the other ingredients (ditch the lettuce and ask 'em to go easy on the avocado ranch) Taco Bell could have quite the sleeper meal on its hands. As it stands, most TB eaters will be scared off by the shrimp concept and the rest will run the other way based on one cell phone photo posted on this lightly-read blog.
Grade: 3 (out 5) Calories: 180 Fat: 7g