Category Archives: Childhood

Shrimp n’ Grits

Shrimp n' Grits

I don’t know who originally came up with the idea of shrimp and grits for breakfast, but I think it may be one of the most beautiful things you can look forward to in the morning.  There is something familiar about the texture of the grits, even to people who aren’t used to eating grits for breakfast.  For me, it brings me back to the days in my childhood where my mum would go through the extra effort of making cream of wheat for me before school.  Those mornings always seemed so warm and comforting, even if it was an ice storm outside.   The savory grits in this dish, studded with bacon crumbles, take comfort to another level.

As far as the shrimp component is concerned, I have to think that it was just a matter of what some southern American cook had on hand.  Sure, we eat pork and corned beef for breakfast all the time, but why not seafood?  It is kind of about honing your understanding of food origins, and thinking about cooking regionally.  If inland cooks are serving grits with fresh eggs from their chickens and cured bacon from their smokehouses, why wouldn’t low-country cooks serve them with some fresh-caught shrimp?  It is our luck now that these recipes have been distributed so widely, for we have the opportunity to gain the knowledge of cooks from everywhere, and from almost every time (I guess it would be culinary anthropology).  In other words, they did a lot of work in developing recipes, and now we can just enjoy making them.

That said, I am not a huge fan of writing recipes, but I do it when I feel it is warranted.  I am not sure, in this case.  What I bring to this dish is nothing more than a few extra flavorful touches, including bacon in the grits and a good, healthy dose of Old Bay seasoning on the shrimp, which are just sauteed quickly in some olive oil, butter, and garlic and tossed with some freshly chopped parsley at the end.  In the recipe shown in the picture, I left the shrimp shells on, but I highly suggest removing them, as they make for a mess when you eat them.  However, the shells do retain a lot of the seasoning, so if you are making this dish for only yourself or some people who’ll not mind sticky, gritsy fingers, go for it.

If readers are interested in more details about how to make this dish, I’ll be happy to post an official recipe.  Just let me know!

WOW!  What a great response!  Here’s the recipe, kids!  If you have questions, let me know.

Dishes from My Childhood: Salmon Cakes

Salmon Cakes

Salmon Cakes

People always ask the question, “where did you learn to cook?”  Sometimes, my snotty response is something like, “well, my mother was such a bad cook that I knew there had to be something better, so I learned how to cook the right way.”  This is not entirely true.  Hope was not one of the great chefs of the world, but she did the best she could.  She had a fussy husband (and my two finicky brothers) whose culinary spirit of adventure was non-existent.  The man refused to eat rice, for crying out loud!  As she said, he would have been happy eating bologna sandwiches on preservative-rich white bread for the rest of his life.  One thing I never appreciated until later was the fact that Hope is actually an adventurous eater, and one who truly relishes the taste of food.  Sadly, my dad never got it.  My mom said that the military ruined any chance for Carter to actually like food; eating was always just perfunctory to him.   

One of the greatest things I can thank mum for is exposing me to fruits and vegetables that were not part of a normal kid’s diet (at least for where and when I grew up).  We had pomegranates, kiwis, starfruits, papayas, and many other exotic treats after dinner, just me and mum.  My dad was completely uninterested and I think my brothers just never saw the point in eating such things.  When my aunt Louella brought a case of artichokes from California with her on a visit, you can bet that it was me, mum, and Lou who ate every single one.  I must’ve been about six or seven then, and I am grateful for the memory of eating those huge, crazy thistles for the first time.   

Beyond the exotic fruits and vegetables there are certain things that Hope prepared that I still love.  It has a lot to do with nostalgia, but I do think that certain dishes really were just plain good, at the root of them.  Her stew made of potatoes, bacon, and green beans, for example, is simple food designed to fill you up with very little cost; you change it up a bit and suddenly, it is a rich, smoky, warm potato salad laced with vinegar and grainy mustard.  Her roasted brisket with carrots and potatoes informs my holiday preparations every year.  She also taught me to make simple, delicious, and tasty salmon cakes.  There are no secrets here – just a few simple ingredients and some messy hands.  What’s great about them is how quickly they come together for an easy meal, and if you try them once, I think you’ll find yourself keeping the ingredients for them on hand at all times.  Don’t be scared of canned salmon, but if you are not into cleaning it up with your hands, you can get skinless, boneless versions in either smaller cans or in those foil pouches – just be prepared to spend a little extra money there and to miss some of the good fats that are in the salmon skin.  If you are like me, as soon as these hit the pan, you’ll be back in your childhood home on that first spring day when it was warm enough to have the windows wide open.  *sigh*  Love you, mumma.