Sometimes A Shrimp Donut Isn’t Just A Shrimp Donut
Accras de morue and beignets de crevettes in Paris
Paris’s past and present come alive at Place de la Bastille.
There is a market here, every Thursday and Sunday, the block filled with over a hundred stalls of green grocers, butchers, bakers, fishmongers, vintners, and my favorite, the cheesemongers.
There are also ready-made meals, thank god, because we came to the Place de la Bastille to eat now. The sausage sandwich was delicious and the four-cheese panini was fine. The winner was the stall selling accras de morue and beignets de crevettes.
Both are deep-fried seafood snacks from the French Antilles. Beignets de crevettes literally translates as shrimp donuts, but they’re unlikely to be found at your local Dunkin, unless you live in a particularly hip end of Brooklyn or Berkeley.
The whole shrimp is battered up, deep fried, and served with cocktail sauce. If you live far away from a Caribbean restaurant, your local Chinese joint might do something similar.
The accras de morue are a little harder to figure out, unless you have a particularly sharp taste palate. They are deep fried balls of minced cod with spices, crunchy on the outside and soft and doughy on the inside, spicy and sure to slap you awake on any Sunday morning.
It’s appropriate I got the meal here on the Bastille, where the French Revolution began, proclaiming the republic of liberty, equality, and brotherhood. France became the nation of human rights. Yes, there was the mountain of severed heads, the Napoleonic invasions in the name of the revolution, the crushing of the Commune, the conquests of French Africa and Indochina, the Dreyfus Affair, Vichy. But the revolution moved human rights forward and gave activists a powerful rhetorical weapon in the name of treating others with dignity.
Today, those revolutionary ideals are in danger. As President Pussy Grabber is intent on tearing down whatever made America great in the first place, Marine Le Pen, head of the far-right National Front, stands high in the polls, ready to leave the European Union, shut France’s doors, and lead Europe on a path of xenophobic hatred towards non-whites.
Like Trump supporters who think tacos will soon replace hamburgers, Le Pen voters worry accras de morue and beignets de crevettes will replace croissants and pain au chocolat.
You can’t shop or eat your way to a revolution. But sharing a breakfast of accras de morue and beignets de crevettes can at least signal that you believe France—or any society—should be open to a brotherhood of all, as the revolution claimed.