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Seafood And The South

January 20, 2012

It seems odd to me that seafood is not more common in “southern” cuisine.  Now, if you look at a map and take the “deep south” to be the confederate states, everything below the Mason-Dixon line, you would encompass a lot of geography and a lot different types of food.  But you know what I mean by “southern” cuisine.  Cornbread, black-eyed peas, sawmill gravy, etc.  You rarely associate seafood with the south.  My dad’s family was from Mississippi, and, before that, Alabama.  Mom’s from North Carolina.  I was raised on such food and neither of my parents ate any seafood to speak of.

That is, of course, unless you want to call catfish seafood.  Now, living along the Mississippi you would expect catfish to be a staple, and indeed it was, and is.  But that hardly qualifies as seafood.  A catfish filet is more akin to a steak, only white.  Don’t get me wrong, I love it.  A catfish dinner with fries, hush puppies, onions, pickles and plenty of cocktail and tartar sauce is hard to beat.

My dad loved shrimp, though my mother didn’t really care for it, and we never had it at home.  The only time we would eat shrimp is if we went out, and it was rare we went to places that served it.  But once again, shrimp is really not very seafood-y.  It’s mild flavor and crunchy breading – the way it’s usually served down here – makes it, again, sort of a lighter fried chicken, if you will.

I’m talking about seafood.  Tuna, cod, lobster, clams, scallops, crab.  Now, I understand most of that is from cold, northern waters, far removed from the Gulf of Mexico.  But what about red snapper, oysters, mahi mahi.  My family is from a state with a (however small) shoreline, and they, and everybody else, ate very little seafood.  It’s easier to think of the states in the south that don’t have access to water than those that do, between the Atlantic and the Gulf.

In addition to the access, think about the influence that a single, small area in the south has had on cooking, not only in the U.S. but around the world – southern Louisiana.  Cajun food, cajun restaurants and cajun chefs have and do wield enormous influence in the world of cooking and eating.  And this food is heavily dominated by fish and shellfish.  And yet, even with all of that going on right in their backyard, the south never really picked up on seafood.

Now that I am starting to learn about cooking these items, I’m starting at zero.  I can cook a pretty nice salmon filet (thanks to The Wife’s tutelage), and I have delved a little into some other species, but my experience is quite limited.  So today, I bought a really nice Mahi Mahi filet.  Now I just need to figure out what to do with it.

I’ll post how it turns out and what I learned.  Wish me luck!


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One Comment
  1. linda k. stevens permalink

    if it’s anywhere as tasty as that lobster you made at Christmas, i might have to shed another tear! LOL

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