Shrimpin’ in the South

shrimp and gritsSure, shrimp shows up on restaurant menus all around the country, but is it fresh shrimp? We’re fortunate here in Charleston that shrimp is quite abundant in the waters off the South Carolina coast. That means the shrimp you’re ordering for lunch or dinner is local and fresh. In fact, many restaurants get their shrimp from boats just down the street.

Shrimp is probably the most popular seafood item to order in the Charleston area. As Bubba from the movie “Forrest Gump” says, “You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. Shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There’s pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich.”

But, Bubba failed to mention one of Charleston’s most favorite dishes, shrimp and grits. Combining two of the South’s favorites, shrimp and grits, was a no brainer for fishermen, who first tried this delectable dish for breakfast. It quickly caught on and is now served in some of Charleston’s fanciest dining rooms. Many restaurants in the city have a different spin on what seems so simple. Some combine it with barbecue sauce, some with tasso gravy and others with cheese.

Shrimp can be stuffed with crabmeat, layered in a shrimp napoleon and even used as garnish with a steak. Even though shrimp is quite common, it can be prepared as a delicacy. The shrimpers in South Carolina take great pride in their work. They start their day way before daybreak and end as the sun goes down. They risk their lives to bring shrimp to the Lowcountry of South Carolina, braving storms, boat malfunctions, extremely hot days and even extremely cold weather. It isn’t a job for the faint of heart. The men who work on shrimp boats are some of strongest and bravest around.

So the next time you order shrimp at one of Charleston’s fine eating establishments, think about all that goes into catching that “fruit of the sea” as Bubba calls it. Plus, you can appreciate the fact that the shrimp being served in most Charleston restaurants is fresh from the ocean.