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Robert St. John

Restaurateur, author, enthusiastic traveler, & world-class eater.


August 9, 2010

POINT CLEAR, AL— In a journal on my bedside table, I keep of list of things I hope to see before I die.

1.) My children graduating from college with graduate-level degrees
2.) The Louvre
3.) Victoria Falls
4.) The Caribbean Islands by sailboat
5.) The Great Wall of China
6.) Fiji
7.) Canada by cross-continent train
8.) The Northern Lights
9.) A Mississippian in the White House
10.) A Jubilee

The majority of things on my list, I can— and will— do something about, as I have a certain amount of control over my travel. Hopefully, my kids will do their part when it comes to the first item on the list.

There are two things I can’t control: A Mississippian in the White House and observing a jubilee in person. I am beginning to think that I will witness the former before I ever experience the latter— Run Haley Run!

Actually, if I ever were lucky enough to be a part of a jubilee, I would do much more than observe. I would be knee deep in the Mobile Bay, net in hand, ice chest by my side, being a full-on participant netting shrimp, and crab for the chest, and throwing flounder on the banks of the bay as fast as I could.

A jubilee is a natural phenomenon that occurs sporadically in Mobile Bay. During a jubilee, massive amounts of shrimp, crab, flounder, and other marine life migrate quickly into the shallow waters near the shore. This substantial seafood swarm lasts anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours, then it’s gone.

No one knows for certain why this happens. Most of the theories have to do with lack of oxygen in sections of the bay. Personally, I’m not worried about the “why” I just want to be part of the “when.”

I write this sitting in the lobby of the Grand Hotel in Point Clear with a view of Mobile Bay where thousands of people have scrambled for fresh-caught seafood during previous jubilees. While visiting with my friend, John Nordan— a mainstay, morning and afternoons, in the Grand Hotel lobby— I learned that there was a jubilee a few months ago. Life is all about timing.

I visit this place so infrequently; the odds of me being here during a jubilee are slim to non-existent.

There are stories of people sitting in the lobby and dining in the restaurant of The Grand Hotel when someone rushes in and yells, “It’s a jubilee!” Scores of hotel guests rush to the water’s edge and wade in the Bay, gathering up flounder by hand and throwing them onto the shore where another person places the fish in whatever container could be found in the mad dash. I would love to witness that, and the subsequent scramble for easily caught seafood on the shores of the bay.

If the stories are true, it is, without question, a hotel employee who rushes in. Locals would be way too busy hauling in seafood to take time to let the tourists know that this rare occurrence is taking place.

I have put several friends on notice and let them know that I am “on call” for the next jubilee. It doesn’t matter if it is three in the morning, I will hop into my car and make the two-hour trek to Mobile Bay to try and experience one of the Southern seafood world’s greatest splendors.

And the next time you’re in The Grand Hotel in Point Clear, look for my friend, John Nordan, maybe you can talk him into adding you to the call list for the next jubilee.

West Indies Salad

1 lb. Fresh Lump Crabmeat
1 Medium Onion, chopped fine
4 oz. Canola Oil
3 oz. Cider Vinegar
4 oz. Ice Water
Salt and Pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and gently toss. Refrigerate for several hours.

Purple Parrot Crabmeat Martini

1/4 cup Red onion, small dice
1 lb Jumbo lump crabmeat (gently picked of all shell)
2/3 cup Lemon-flavored salad oil
2 Tbl Olive oil (not extra virgin)
1 1/2 tsp Absolut Citron Vodka (optional)
1/2 cup White balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup Ice cold water
1 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon Hot Sauce
2 teaspoons Cilantro, chopped fine
2 teaspoons Parsley

In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients and gently toss with a rubber spatula. Be careful not to break up any of the lumps of crabmeat. Cover and store in refrigerator 12 hours (toss every hour or so) to let flavors marry. Gently turn over just before serving, as the lemon vinaigrette will separate.

Divide crabmeat mixture between 4 lettuce-lined martini glasses. Drizzle excess vinaigrette over the crabmeat to wet the lettuce. Garnish with a rosemary skewered olive for a light and cool first course or double the recipe and serve on a lettuce-lined plate for a luncheon salad.

Serve the leftovers in a decorative bowl on the coffee table to be spooned atop your favorite cracker.

Yield: 6 servings, appetizer
4 servings, salad

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