Garlic Shrimp with Spaghetti…An Easy Dish Yet a Privilege to Prepare

Garlic Shrimp and Spaghetti

As we slowly pulled into the lot the first thing I noticed was the police car. It could have been a coincidence. Just a routine drive through the neighborhood most likely but my heart sank a bit as I thought to myself, “Please keep them safe. Please let them be treated kindly.”

We climbed the open, outdoor staircase and knocked on the door. As the father pulled open the door we were led into a clean, sparsely furnished apartment. The lights were dim. The place was quiet. My friend, Stefani, shook hands with the father. I followed behind. The mother appeared from around the corner. A huge smile across her face. And then little ones slowly made their way into the living room. The boys in their best khaki outfits. The girls in lovely dresses. Stefani and I trying to blink back tears of emotion at their gesture of being so dressed up for their photographs.

At first, we had all eight of them bundle up. I thought the lighting would be better outside. But somehow as I clicked away, I realized that to cover up their outfits was a shame. No these pictures wouldn’t be the ones. We would make do with the light inside.

With coats set aside and everyone gathered in the kitchen, I snapped away at their family. Two parents. Six children. And I tried to make sense of what I had been told about them. Left their home in the middle of the night to escape civil war violence. Spent six years in a refugee camp waiting to come to America. Six years.

When I was done with the whole family. I took pictures of the parents. So beautifully regal in the way they looked into the camera.

After the parents, I snapped pictures of each child. They were reluctant at first but then the littlest one came forward in her long white dress with the little pink flowers. She encouraged her brother to get in on the photography shoot. They were precious. Holding hands. Posing unabashedly for the camera. I wanted to reach out and just bundle them up in my arms.

The older ones. The almost teenagers. Were shyer. More self-concious. And yet, despite their efforts to stay reserved, the camera captured their personalities. A shy one. An outgoing one. One of mature beauty. And a littler one, not quite sure about himself…yet.

The eldest children said they went to the nearby middle school. I thought, “Please, please let them be treated well.”

We shook their hands and said good-bye. Stefani promised to be back soon with framed copies of the photographs.

On the car ride home, my dear friend explained to me that within 30 days of moving to the United States, all of the children must be enrolled in school. The parents, usually the father, have about 8-9 months to find regular employment. The organization she works for, Lutheran Community Services, helps support refugee families like this one through their arduous transition of settling in the United States.

I tried to comprehend what it must be like to move to a foreign country, to learn a new language, a new school system, a new culture and find employment all in one year’s time. I thought of the things on my To Do list that had been languishing on there for not just a year…but years. Fix broken window in living room. Put photos of kids in photo albums. It’s almost embarrassing to type that. They are extremely trivial in comparison.

And so, while I can write and say the words – Violence, Civil-War Unrest, Refugee Camp – I can’t really know what it is to experience them. No. Not really.

But I can know what it feels like to look into their eyes. To be taken away by their beauty. To want desperately for them to be treated well. To want to gather up the little ones and hug them. To be overcome with emotion by a long white dress with little pink flowers.

And I can know on some level, that the dinner I’m cooking for my family….this simple little dinner of shrimp and pasta…is a privilege to be able to cook in my own kitchen. And it is a privilege to sit around our worn kitchen table. In safety. Eating our meal together.

And I can know what is is like to hope that this family of eight…that I had the privilege of photographing…can now sit around the safety of their own kitchen table and do the same thing.

Garlic Shrimp and Pasta x2


Garlic and Lemon Shrimp with Spaghetti
Course: Dinner
Serves: 4 servings
I love this dish. It's fast and can easily be doubled. Perfect for a weeknight. I use fresh shrimp for this in the summer and frozen shrimp in the winter. Often frozen seafood is fresher than the fresh seafood at your grocery store, especially if the seafood was flash frozen soon after being caught. I have made this with bow tie and penne pasta but my favorite is the long types -- spaghetti, spaghettini, fettucine and so forth. And please use fresh Italian parsley for a bit of brightness. It is easy to find in the grocery store (or perhaps your garden) and lasts a long time in your crisper especially if you wrap it in a paper towel.
  • ½ lb spaghetti
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined (thaw, if frozen)
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • ½ c reserved pasta water
  • Juice from ½ a large lemon
  • ¼ c chopped Italian parsley
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Sprinkle in some salt and then and drop in your spaghetti. Cook 8-10 minutes or according to directions on packaging.
  2. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add your olive oil and butter and heat until butter is melted. Drop in your garlic and cook for about 1 minute. Add in your shrimp and sauté over medium heat 4-5 minutes or until the shrimp has turned pink all over.
  3. By this time your pasta should be done. Before draining it, scoop out a ½ c of the pasta water and set aside. Then, go ahead and drain your pasta.
  4. Once the shrimp has finished cooking, add your ½ c of reserved pasta water, the lemon juice, parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Stir gently to combine.
  5. I like to put the pasta in a large pasta bowl and pour the shrimp over the top. Then I gently toss everything together making sure to coat the spaghetti with the delicious garlicky-lemon sauce. Scoop up into individual bowls and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Yum.

Spring is Springing
I just adore the work of clay artist, Rae Dunn. Her pottery always catches my eye. And today was no different. I happened to come across her post announcing her new spring plates. Adorable. You’ll have to check them out here.

Organizing Project Progress
The bags to be donated are still in our entryway. We are just stepping around them. They don’t seem to be bothering anyone.

All original text and photographs copyright: Carrie Minns 2009-2011


  1. Reading this blessed me today. It reminded me that I have to make contact again. Little over a year ago, I volunteered to work with a refugee family from Iraq. All the anxiety of working with a family whose culture and religious beliefs were so far from my own that it was scary. Those fears melted away the moment I got to know them. They were a family who were well off back in their former country but who had everything save for what few things they could cram into a suitcase. The love the showed each other and myself despite their struggles here in the states made me realize just how lucky we are. It also made me realize that I didn't need all this "stuff" so when things got bad after my husband lost his job, we were able to live simpler. I love that you have captured this family beautifully in your photos. YOU are a jewel!

  2. Kim @ Quit Eating Out {Recipes to Make Dining Out a Choice, Not a Chore} says:

    What an amazing blessing to have met this family. And what a beautiful post…. As a suburban mom, it's so very easy to get caught up in my daily grind & forget to appreciate all that I have…. and all that so many do not have. I can't imagine a life like theirs. What an honor it must have been to meet them and visit with them in their home. And what a great reminder to jump outside of my box.

    Your shrimp recipe sound so divine….. and the perfect combination of easy and delish! Another great recipe from you that I can't wait to try.

  3. Courtney Cook Hopp says:

    Thank you for the reminder, the gentle nudge that there is always something more important to focus on beyond ourselves. I love how beautifully you captured the essence of each family member.

  4. Oh, Kat, thank YOU for sharing your story as well. I can imagine how you felt anxious because I felt a little nervous just going to take photographs. Would they be okay with being photographed? Would the photographs turn out? Would the family be pleased with them? So I can't imagine how it must feel to take on the whole process of helping a family settle into their new life. Thank you for being the kind of person who does reach out to help in that way.

    Kim, I know…we tend to get caught up in our day-to-day life of raising children that it is a true gift when an opportunity comes along to take us out of that comfort zone and see the world through another family's perspective.

    Thank you, sister….xo

  5. dave.minns says:

    You're amazing. How did I get so lucky…

  6. What a beautiful post Carrie and gorgeous photos! I am so glad I met you at Foodportunity. I feel blessed to have such a compassionate individual in my world.
    I'm working on a similar project with Mexican farmworker and it is heartwrenching how they are treated.
    Thank you for sharing…I'll dry my tears now….

  7. Bethany ~ Sustainable Food For Thought says:

    I'm so blessed to have found your blog and your beautiful photos and sentiments. Thank you for sharing your stories. Our eyes and hearts must be opened.

    Looking forward to reading more of your writing.

  8. wenderly says:

    Ugh, you got me. Tears are drip, drip, dripping.


    I thank you sweet friend.

  9. DM – I'm the lucky one…xo

    Dina – I'm so thrilled to have met you as well. Would love to hear about your project sometime.

    Bethany – You are so welcome. Thank you for taking the time to stop by and read.

    Wendy – Perspective indeed. xo

  10. hello, my first time visiting your site. it's wonderful! i'm new to blogging, and love stumbling on sites like yours.

    thanks for sharing that beautiful story. i've lived abroad (doing it now), have faced culture/language/values clashes, and i know that even under the most normal and fortunate circumstances it can be hard. then you have people like this family that remind so many of us how EASY our lives are (even through our own struggles).

    i love this recipe, too. it's one of my standby's and one of the first things i made for my boyfriend (and it really won him over). glad to see those delicious tastes on someone else's table!

  11. You have your mothers heart. God bless you sweet daughter.

  12. Yasmeen, Thank you so much for stopping by La Pomme and letting me know you were here! Glad to know other cooks out there love this dish. So delicious…

    Thank you, Dad….