Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Sugarloaf Fish Fry

It was the perfect day to go out and have lunch al fresco however when I saw the heavy traffic lining Highway One at the Sugarloaf Fire Department I had second thoughts about open air dining in a huge rugby scrum of a crowd.

We parked at Wayne and Chuck's and left Cheyenne comfortably ensconced with their dogs out of the sun in the cool of their home. We took off to find fried fish on an 85 degree, Sunday afternoon.

This annual event raises money for the volunteer fire station on Sugarloaf at Mile Marker 18 and they told us they have been there for 47 years. This year's event was heavily advertised so we expected crowds but it was quite then organized affair.

On our way across the crowded parking lot we passed early birds leaving with their loot and in fact later in the proceedings I found three novels worth scooping up at the book stand. Actual paper novels, not electronic downloads.

The firefighters displayed and demonstrated stuff.

While burly mannequins kept an eye on the proceedings including this fearsome character from the Florida Division of Forestry.

An unattended gas tank caught my eye as we got in line for food. It acted harmless, probably cowed by all the equipment surrounding us.

There were just two porta-potties which seemed inadequate for the number of people present but I never saw unruly mobs laying siege to them. "They're not selling enough beer," Wayne, ever the savvy businessman suggested.

The line seemed endless, winding it's way up the mountain side like a funeral procession in Shangri-La.

It looked even more formidable from the middle of the crocodile.
Wayne got bored and wondered about the grammar of the sign posted on the wall. It would have taken an eight foot leap to descend over the rail to the ground where the toilets were located, a fact that seemed more salient to me than the syntax of the signage.

It seemed like they were giving away fish on the scale of the miracle of the loaves and fishes...

And the crowds resembled the biblical proportions of the mob gathered to have lunch with Jesus and his Fishers of Men.

We shuffled forward and admired the recent hard work of the firefighters during the unpleasantness of Hurricane Wilma in 2005, up to their waists in water:

The fire station itself alongside the Overseas Highway took a pounding too. I did not enjoy Hurricane Wilma one bit even though I was secure in the Police Station in Key West. It was a stressful time.

Happy days are here again and we got our food in very short order. The line moved extremely efficiently and very smoothly to it's inevitable conclusion.

The fish was perfect, the batter crisp and not salty, the coleslaw had a mystery ingredient, horseradish by consensus that gave it a fresh bite and even the beans were smokey and rich. It was quite a delicious lunch for $14.

Interestingly enough the Fire Department was heavily promoting sustainability at the meal with t-shirts invoking recycling and reuse, cups were made from post consumer recycled plastic and the cutlery was effective and fascinating. It wasn't plastic at all but some form of cellulose.

This was, as Wayne insisted a slice of true Americana and he's from the mid West so he knows all about straight America's obsession with folksiness. The conversation at lunch was tedious with the questioning following the line of where are you from and whether we lived here year round, and having established that we lived in the Lower Keys our neighbor from far away Key West promptly started lecturing us about where to eat in Key West as though we lived on the far side of the moon.

That she liked all the massively expensive tourist traps suggested to me she needed to get out and explore a little but she had no curiosity about us or our lives or anything outside her own small orbit. I ate and kept my head down to avoid being rude.

We spent some time wandering the flea market where I bought my books and took a seat (for sale, 75 cents) in the sun to watch the world go by. The palms waved in the breeze as did some of the more extroverted headgear on display.

Next year come and spend some money because it's a well organized and run event for a good cause with delicious food.

It annoyed me no end but I had to admit to Wayne that he was right, it was worth it. Well worth it.

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