Shrimp Pasta

Bridget Gordon
Jan 31 · 9 min read

cw: food, shellfish, pasta, dieting, diabetes, mental illness


  • 1/2lb frozen shrimp
  • 1lb cherry tomatoes
  • 1lb fresh spinach
  • 1/2lb white mushrooms
  • 1lb whole wheat pasta
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Grated Parmesan cheese, to taste


Check your bank account en route to the store. Figure out how much you can spend and, from there, work out a rough shopping list that will let you get at least a week’s worth of dinners. If you only have $20 or less, don’t worry — you can do this.

Go to the produce section. Grab a carton of cherry tomatoes — grape tomatoes are also fine — and a carton of chopped mushrooms. Have a moment of immense relief when you see that both are on sale. Then grab a bag of spinach — you will feel a little bad when you see that the price has gone up from a few weeks ago. That’s ok. This isn’t going to ruin your errand. Allow yourself a few seconds to process those feelings. Only a few seconds, though — you need to get back on the bus in time to make your transfer and not be charged for a whole new fare.

Pick whatever else you need from the produce section. Take a cursory stroll down the aisles for shelf-stable items. Realize that the few things you really need are cheaper at the other store. Coffee is so much more expensive that the convenience of buying it here doesn’t justify the added cost.

Start thinking about a protein for dinner tonight. Let out a quiet, defeated sigh when you see that chicken breast has gone up in price. Scan the cheaper cuts of beef and realize none of them look good. Wander around the store for a bit while you think of an alternative.

Eventually, find yourself in the seafood section of the frozen foods aisle. See that they have frozen shrimp — it’s on sale at $7.49 for a 1lb bag, but it’s still more expensive than anything you had budgeted for. You’ve also never really worked with shellfish before, and you’re wary of spending a lot of money for something you might fuck up. But you start to come around on the idea — it’ll keep in the freezer for a long time, and you recently watched a video on prepping and cooking shrimp that made you feel confident you could tackle it. And anyway, it’s a new year — a time to try out new things, right?

You put the shrimp in your basket and head to checkout. The final bill is about $5 more than you had budgeted for, which is a lot for you right now. You briefly consider putting some things back. You don’t have much time to decide — there’s another customer behind you, and the bus is going to be here in five minutes. You pay for everything, bag it all up quickly, and hustle to the bus stop as quickly as your aging out-of-shape body and the ice on the ground outside will allow.

Once you’re home, put everything away, then heat up some leftovers for dinner. You’re too wiped out to cook tonight.

The next day, post a joking status on Facebook telling your friends what you’re making for dinner and that they have a few hours to get to your house if they’d like some. Mull over reaching out to a couple friends directly to non-jokingly invite them over. Be overcome by another bout of crippling anxiety — they’ve been more frequent since the holidays — and end up not inviting anyone. Take some time to work through the anxiety. Then take a little more time to work through the feelings of regret for not pushing through it and inviting some friends over.

When you’re ready, fill a large pot with water and put it on high heat. Add a sprinkle of kosher salt (about a teaspoon, tops) and half a tablespoon of olive oil.

Grab the bag of shrimp from the freezer. Empty out about half the bag into a strainer. Run the shrimp under cool water for about 3–5 minutes, then allow to drain. Transfer to a bowl. Prepare the shrimp for cooking — you’ll want to make sure the heads, tails, and outer shells are removed, and that it’s been de-veined. The batch you got has no heads and is already de-veined. All you have to deal with is the tails and the shells. Pick up a shrimp and grab the tail by the base. Twist it about 90° toward you, then pull away from the body. Slide your thumbnail underneath the outer shell and peel off, like an orange skin. Repeat with every shrimp.

Wash your hands and pull up the web browser on your phone. Once you have it, search for ideas to use discarded shrimp tails, because you feel bad about wasting anything. After a few search results turn up nothing appealing, realize you still have a lot to do before the water boils. Throw away the tails.

Quickly wash the strainer you used for shrimp, then transfer the mushrooms to that and rinse. Drain thoroughly, then transfer to a bowl. Repeat these steps with the tomatoes, then the spinach, if not pre-washed. Yours says pre-washed, so you can probably just leave it in the bag until you’re ready to use it.

Remember that you need to cut the tomatoes in half, because hot unburst cherry tomatoes can burn your mouth. Grab a cutting board and a small knife. Slice every tomato in half. Realize halfway through that there’s some trick to slicing a whole bunch of cherry tomatoes all at once, but that you can’t remember how to do it. You’re almost done, anyway. Finish up and transfer back to the bowl.

Look in the basket on the counter for your garlic bulbs. There were a few that are yours and a few that belonged to your roommates. You can’t tell which are which. You’re running low on time, so you pick one and resolve to sort it out with your roommates later if it becomes an issue. Quietly hope to yourself that this isn’t a pet peeve of theirs. You’ll be seized with a sudden burst of anxiety as you worry about making your new roommates mad and screwing up your living situation. Take a few deep breaths and let it pass. Then, peel a few cloves off the bulb and set them aside.

You’ll remember that you have a bottle of red wine in your room, a housewarming present from a friend. You’ve been waiting for an excuse to open it. Decide that there’s no time like the present. Do a quick web search to make sure red wine goes well with shrimp. It does, with a few caveats. You scuttle back to your room and grab the bottle. You’ll see that it’s a twist-cap, and you feel very grateful for that, because having to deal with corks right now feels like A Lot.

The water isn’t quite boiling yet, so take a few minutes to enjoy the quiet and center yourself. Feel a few more pangs of regret at not inviting anyone over. Realize you would’ve especially loved some company while cooking. Think back on the times you cooked with former roommates, or former partners. You’ll wonder if you’ll get to feel anything like that in this new home.

You’ll see that the water is boiling now. Add 1lb of whole wheat pasta. You’ll use linguine, because that’s what you have in the house. Reduce heat to medium-high. As the pasta sinks into the water, you’ll wonder if next time you should use a lower-carb pasta, like that stuff that’s made from chickpeas. Or maybe you should bite the bullet and buy a spiralizer, so you can make zucchini noodles. Stir the pasta for 5–6 minutes, until it’s al dente. You read a while back that al dente pasta is better for diabetics; something about glycemic index, or glycemic load, one of those two, you can never remember. This is all so hard to deal with, sometimes.

When the pasta is ready, pour into a colander and drain thoroughly. Set it aside for now.

Add the olive oil to a large skillet. Crush your garlic in the new garlic press you got for Christmas; scrape off the minced garlic into the skillet. Turn the heat on to medium high.

Add the shrimp. Stir it around for about a minute or so. Find yourself caught off-guard with how fragrant it is. You’ll think that maybe this dinner is going to turn out ok after all. When the shrimp just starts to turn pink, add the tomatoes and the mushrooms. Stir vigorously for 3–4 minutes. When the tomatoes start to wilt and weep, add a cup of the red wine.

Stir everything around so that the shrimp and the tomatoes and the mushrooms are well-coated in the wine. As the tomatoes start to break down and liquefy, add the spinach. Stir until the spinach wilts. Turn off the heat. Realize there’s a little too much moisture in the bottom of the skillet. Dash to the refrigerator, grab the Parmesan cheese, and add some to the skillet as a thickening agent. (Does Parmesan cheese work that way? You guess you’ll find out.)

Add the pasta to the skillet. Use a pair of tongs to mix everything together. The cheese and the pasta will soak up the moisture — it worked after all.

Grab a serving bowl for dinner tonight and a reusable plastic container. Transfer about half of the pasta mixture in the plastic container. Your doctor told you that portion control is an important part of managing your diabetes, and that one strategy is to put your leftovers away before you sit down to eat. Seal the container.

Spoon the rest of the pasta mixture into your serving bowl. Top with some Parmesan cheese. Fill a sink tub with warm soapy water and place all your dirty dishes and utensils in there — you don’t want to leave a stack of unattended dirty dishes for your roommates to deal with. Pull out your phone and look up alcohol consumption for diabetics. A glass of red wine is probably ok. Pour yourself a glass of wine.

Take your dinner into your bedroom. Snap a picture of your food to post on Instagram later. Worry that you’re becoming one of Those People. Load up Netflix on your Chromecast and put on an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space 9. Wish once again that you invited a friend over for dinner.

When you’ve finished, wash your dishes and set them to dry on the dish rack. Two hours after your meal, test your blood sugar. Feel a sense of relief when your glucose levels are only 109.

At length, climb into bed and put on some YouTube videos to relax before sleep. End up watching a few #VanLife vlogs and wonder why you’ve suddenly become very interested in this, after finally having the kind of home you’ve been aching for for years. You’ll have an inexplicable sense of worry that you may never feel happy or settled anywhere. Put on a video titled “Relaxing Thunderstorm ASMR 10 Hours” and go to sleep.

    Bridget Gordon

    Written by

    Writer. Activist. Queer. Anti-fascist. Purely speculative.

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