Palmetto Dinner Table

JambalayaAnyone who knows me knows that if you take me to a restaurant, I am content with ordering a burger and fries. No mayo on the burger. Mustard only and with fixin’s sans tomatoes. I use ketchup on the fries only if they are steak fries or have skins. The salt goes in the ketchup and then I dip. If it’s shoestring or the waffle kind, salt only. If you really want to get on my good side, take me to a place that serves excellent New York Style Pizza. That’s the large slices with perfectly seasoned, rich tomato sauce and dripping cheese. Pepperoni. Always pepperoni. Only pepperoni (I’m getting hungry as I am writing this). I’ll eat the other toppings, but to me that’s not the perfect pizza slice.

Although I am from Hilton Head Island, I hate fish and that includes shrimp. If you open a can of tuna in front of me, I am likely to go postal. I actually don’t mind the taste of shellfish dipped in butter. My mother used to have to share with me when she ordered lobster. Then we went crabbing. I enjoyed it. There was deserted inlet on the island (secret’s out though now, as it’s been overrun by tourists) where we set up camp, tied some chicken neck to the casting basket, lowered it in the water, and waited for a nibble. I was so excited when I caught my crabs. Then I befriend the crabs. Finally, I became traumatized when my catch was thrown into the cooking pot filled with boiling hot water. Alive. Needless to say, no more shellfish for me. From then on, I would catch the crabs, but I wouldn’t eat them.

Once in a while, I do crave a Low Country home cooked meal. I really missed it while at Hampton and the alternative was over-sugared spaghetti from the “Big Cafe”. During the holidays on the island, family dinners would encompass the usual soul food accoutrements. Meats included fried chicken, turkey, and ham. The different sides were various salads, macaroni and cheese, and South Carolina’s official vegetable: collard greens (For real. It was actually a question on Jeopardy!). For the breads we most likely would have rolls and cornbread. Now of course our table distinguishes itself with a couple of low country highlights like white rice and red rice (yay!), okra and tomatoes, and shrimp dishes. I’m still waiting for someone to cook Low Country Boil, though.

When I got to New Orleans, I had to get used to food being a favorite pastime. It was an easy tradition to fall into and the food is excellent too. Based on what I stated earlier, I stay away from crawfish, ettoufee, and shrimp po boys. I head that they are good though, so if you are a seafood lover, I encourage you to chow down. For me though, I love jambalaya, red beans and rice (I had some that was excellent on that River Road Plantation trip that I took with my class), muffalettas, and I’ll do a meatball po boy. I love Beignets. My husband made some for us this weekend. I heard bananas foster is a good desert when made right. I’m thinking it’s like banana pudding, but with that special flava. I like my bananas in a shake or smoothie, so I have not had the pleasure of trying either of those dishes. I can do a King Cake for Mardi Gras. It took a couple of tries to get this desert right without destroying the baking pans (burnt sugar is nothin’ nice).

As I get older and cook more special family dinners, sure I make the traditional soul food, but it’s accented with accented with a couple of Low Country dishes. That’s not all though. I’m practicing my New Orleans cuisine for a more eclectic table. Come to my house for the holidays and there will be the usual meats, sides, and breads. Also you will find three types of rice to include my jambalaya. As soon as I perfect the red beans and rice, that will be added to the repertoire as well. And finally, I will learn how to do Low Country Boil with Seafood. Just because I don’t eat it, doesn’t mean that I can’t cook it. I wonder if it would be frowned upon if I added a New York Style pepperoni pizza to the spread.

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