B. J. and I go back with Charleston, S.C. a long way. Since I have a lot of family and ancestral roots there, and a brother buried there, I probably go back farther than B. J. Across the years, Charleston has become sort of an “old stomping ground” with us. There are few nooks and crannies in Charleston that we haven’t plundered through at some time or other in daylight or dark. We traversed Charleston Harbor several times both in my brother’s private boat and on the ferry. While my brother Halbert was living, since he was a WW 2 U. S. Navy Veteran, we made Patriot’s Point a regular destination so my brother could guide us through the WW 2 Navy ships anchored there.
B. J. and I like to eat. We are world travelers and we have sampled the cuisine around the world where we have been. We have dined in ultra-ritzy eateries where the waiters serve in full blown formal wear replete with shiny shoes, in holes-in-the wall where the customers are welcome to come barefoot, and on white-sand Caribbean beaches where you wiggle your toes in the sand while eating.
However, out of all the places we have dined, Charleston is a favorite dining whereabouts. We have partaken of Charleston food in a variety of places from downtown to seafood diners that were built on poles over the river.
Among the items B. J. and I collect are cookbooks. We have cookbooks from every country we have traveled in. One of my favorite cookbooks I collected in Charleston several years ago is entitled GULLAH COOKING: Seafood Cookbook Featuring Shrimp and Crab; it has some interesting recipes.
Gullah is the language of the slaves and their descendants who have lived in and around Charleston since colonial times. They have passed along a unique way of preparing food for generations. I’ll share one of my favorites:
BLACK-EYED PEAS, SHRIMP, AND CRAB GUMBO
2 ham hocks, cut in halves
2 qt. water
1 lb. dry black-eyed peas
Place water and black-eyed peas in a soup kettle. Cover and soak overnight. The next day, pour off the water and add 2 quarts of water. Bring mixture to a boil after adding ham hocks. Reduce to simmer. Cover and simmer for 2 hours.
Add the following ingredients:
1 16 ounce can stewed tomatoes
1 c. basil
1 c. diced onions
1 tsp. thyme
1 c. diced celery
1 tsp. oregano
1 c. diced bell pepper
1 tsp. red pepper
1 c. diced spring onions
1 tsp. black pepper
1 c. diced parsley
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire
1 c. red wine
Juice of one lemon
1 tsp. garlic salt
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. black pepper
Simmer for one hour then add 8 ounces tomato paste, 1 pound of crabmeat, and 1 pound of diced, peeled shrimp. Simmer for 3o minutes. Serve in bowls over rice with more hot sauce and garlic bread on the side. This freezes well and it better the next day.
We People: A Gullah Confession
Shrimping with Cast Nets by Oscar Vick: “I used to sit in the middle of a bateau boat near a huge wash tub. My father would be in the stern of the boat throwing a cast net. My grandfather would be in the bow of the boat throwing a cast net. As they threw the nets, I would have to duck. When the nets were pulled in, they would “shuck” the nets in the wash tub to empty the shrimp. It was my job to help them clean the nets of shrimp and very angry blue crabs. Of course there would be all manner of other things such as jellyfish and flounders in the net.
In a matter of time, the wash tub would be overflowing with beautiful fresh shrimp. We would take the heads off as many as possible. This was a daunting task because the shrimp have a very formidable head which has a long sharp sticker. In addition to heading the shrimp, there were very angry blue crabs to contend with. We would put the crabs in a bucket and boil them at home. So we had fresh shrimp and succulent crab meat for supper that night. On a hot summer’s day it was a real treat to go shrimping with my father and grandfather.” Oscar Vick
B. J. and I can personally relate to shrimping and crabbing in Charleston. We have family living on the Intracoastal Waterway in Charleston. It is fun to go out on the pier in front of their house and fish, shrimp and crab. They have all the tools.