Time to take a trip to the Deep South. The cookbook this recipe came from I found in a secondhand book shop in Orlando, and with a title like ‘Putting On The Grits’, how could I not snap it up? The thing I love about this book is it was put together by The Junior League of Columbia, South Carolina and was printed wayyy back in 1985 so you know this won’t be a book you’ll see everyday. If you like southern food, then I’d wager you’d love this book. It’s stuffed with authentic recipes and the nerdy cookbook fanatic in me adores the fact that housewives (I’m not just presuming that women made this book, the back pages have a list of contributors and it’s safe to say 99% of them were women) in the year I was born put together this recipe and now all these years later I’m cooking from it in a town thousands of miles away from Columbia. You read it and you know only Americans could have made this book – there’s a few menu suggestions, ranging from occasions such as ‘Carolina Cup Steeplechase Picnic’, ‘Football Tailgate’, ‘Debutante Brunch’ and ‘Get-to-know-your-neighbours party’. I kid you not. This is just not something that the English really do, and thats part of the reason I love America so much. Generally, in the UK you don’t talk to your neighbours and you don’t say ‘have a nice day’ to everyone you see. If Desperate Housewives has taught me anything, it’s that when someone new moves onto your street you bake them some cookies or a peach cobbler, even if the neighbour turns out to be a serial killer or psychopath. (But I probably shouldn’t judge all Americans by the actions of Bree Van de Kamp). And that’s what this cookbook embodies, Southern hospitality and some delicious cooking.
When I saw that this book included the recipe Shrimp Creole, I knew I’d have to cook it. Recently, the boyfriend and I went to Florida, and while there we took a trip with some friends to St Augustine, a beautiful coastal town which is also the oldest in the States. This town is crammed with great restaurants, but the one we fell in love with was Harrys Seafood restaurant. I cannot recommend this place enough, the food was amazing, cocktails boozy and atmosphere was one of a kind. We sat in the garden, fairy lights twinkling around the palm trees and a musician playing in the background. For starters the four of us shared fried green tomatoes (way better than I expected) and voodoo shrimp. This shrimp recipe I have been trying to replicate ever since getting back, but it has been impossible, which is a shame as they were the best thing I ate all holiday. The rest of the meal was still stunning (stuffed shrimp, scallops and crab encrusted fish with grit cakes), but nothing topped those shrimp. I was really hoping that this recipe would come close, but sadly no luck. It was a really nice meal though, which I would definitely make again. For a start, any recipe that says to cook the diced veg in bacon drippings is going to be good, surely? The sauce was sweet but spicy, with the occasional salty smoky crunch from the crumbled bacon. I could only get hold of little prawns this week, I think next time I make it I’ll use king prawns so it adds more substance to the meal as the little prawns disappeared amongst the sauce.
Food from the Deep South of America has only recently become a favourite of mine, but if you get a chance to taste real authentic southern food then do it. It’s ridiculously tasty, homely and unpretentioius and definitely up there with some of the great food cultures of the world.