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Countdown to Savannah: Low Country Cooking
Written by bugalu
In early 2007, we started our official Countdown to Savannah. Each Sunday, we posted a different topic about this special city where we met for our first Great Slow Travel Gathering in Spring 2008.
With 63 posts over 14+ months, we learned a lot about the many facets of this historic, hospitable and intriguing American city. Our weekly posts touched on Savannah's history, famous people, architecture, food, culture, surrounding area and much more. We hope this information acquaints you with Savannah, entices you to visit this historic city, and prepares you for a very memorable trip.
Southern Cooking the Low Country Way
I was asked to be a guest host for the Countdown to Savannah. Luckily, I get to talk about my favorite - Southern Cooking! Kaydee already spent a lot of time on Paula Dean, so I am going to take another approach.
The coastal area around Savannah is also known as the Low Country area; from Charleston, Beaufort, Hilton Head, Tybee Island, to Savannah. This area was populated generations ago by Southern plantations - major producers of rice in the tidal areas. The African slaves who were actually the lifeblood of the plantations, came by way of the islands, bringing spices, their own languages and traditions.
The original immigrants in the coastal regions have moved on, except for a small group in the low country known as the Gullah people. These descendents of the original Africans and Cajuns have continued many of the traditions, and kept their culture alive. The Gullah even have their own language, a mix of French Cajun and African words. For instance, a biddy is a baby chick, and the word "gumbo" actually means okra. Much of their language lives on in our southern phrases.
The foods and recipes of the low country reflect the cultures and traditions of the south, the spices and foods of the Gullahs. Seafood was plentiful: fish, clams, and shrimp. Of course, rice, okra, greens, and tomatoes are often seen in Low Country cooking. Slow cooking was a tradition of letting things simmer over the day while the work of the plantation went on. Because of this tradition, we are now known for our "slow southern cooking"!
One of the most traditional meals of Low Country cooking would be Gumbo (my all-time favorite). Gumbo is made from a roux base, and can be soupy or thick with flavor. Most gumbos are seafood, but there is also a biddy gumbo, made with chicken. Folks in the Low Country usually put okra and tomatoes in their pot, and add a little extra cayenne for a kick.
Hoppin John is another popular dish that is a carryover from the southern Low Country. It is a meal made of black-eyed peas with ham hock ... slow cooked and served over rice.
Shrimp and grits are a yummy saute of shrimp, garlic, and spices served over a bed of corn grits. That is about as southern as it gets! I am getting hungry just writing this!
Our family’s southern favorite is a Low Country Boil - a filling meal and a great way of entertaining. Starting with a big pot half full with water and old bay seasoning, add small red potatoes and links of sausage. After cooking this until the potatoes are almost tender, layer in pieces of corn on the cob. Cook another 10 minutes. Now to the top of the pot, add a mess of shrimp. Cover and cook until the shrimp are pink and curled. Serve with lots of napkins!
If you are interested at all in cooking classes while in Savannah, Chef Joe Randall would be happy to show you how to put a little south in your mouth. Paula Dean also has a cooking class, and if you are lucky, her sons, those fine good-lookin' young southern gentlemen will be there!
Even if you don't learn to cook your own, there will be plenty of good southern cooking to eat while you visit Savannah. The Lady and Sons is not the only restaurant in town.
All About Savannah: Links to many information pages about Savannah (where to eat, where to stay, places of interest, getting around town, and more)
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