Kate Heyhoe

Kate's Global Kitchen

Dixie Shrimp:
Just Call Me Bubba, Bubba

by Kate Heyhoe


Most Yankees believe that all Southerners are as country as cornflakes, but sly Southern Bubbas get a kick out of playin' up the slow drawlin', shrimp trawlin' image held by folks north of the Mason-Dixon line. A favorite Southern pastime when talking with Yankees is to repeatedly say, "I'm sorry. I didn't understand you. Can you speak a little slower? Gee, golly. You folks sure talk fast!" Then they restrain their laughter as New Yorkers and Californians (also considered to be Yankees) painfully strive to enunciate every syllable, thrusting their words out in loud, monotonic bursts.

This month, in honor of the upcoming Super Bowl match in Atlanta, the Global Gourmet takes a stroll through the Southern kitchen, complete with true Southern hospitality and humor. By the time Super Bowl Sunday comes around (on January 30, 2000), you'll be well equipped to feed the fans and entertain them with authentic Southern wit and wisdom.

Southern cooking is one of the great regional cuisines of the Americas. Until recently, many Yankees treated typical Southern dishes as if they were eccentric foreign food, balking at strange names like Hoppin' John, Goobers and Kentucky Burgoo. But today's chefs and cooks have opened up their kitchens to this unique cuisine, and hip Manhattan restaurants are now serving everything from Cheese Grits to Roasted Sweet Potatoes (albeit sans the marshmallows).

Southern cuisine bears its roots in a mix of English, Spanish, and French influences, with a hefty dose of African foods and cooking techniques thrown in. Isolated in mostly rural areas, the early Southern white settlers made due with whatever crops they could grow locally and the indigenous plants of the region. Corn grew easily and in abundance in the South, but wheat did not. Hogs could be fattened on corn, and cured pork kept folks well fed even in the leanest of times. When African-Americans arrived, many became the household cooks, allowing their own personal preferences and cooking styles to influence the tastes of the entire region. And, they brought with them from Africa such favorite foods as okra, watermelon, sesame seeds, and black-eyed peas.

Shrimper With such an abundance of shoreline, stretching from Texas to Florida and up along Southern coasts to Georgia and Maryland, it's no wonder that shellfish and fish became common items on the Southern table. Additionally, the mighty Mississippi and other rivers yielded a constant supply of freshwater fish. You may not have had a farm, but if you could fish, you could eat.

Shrimp, in particular, is plentiful in Southern coastal waters, and is eaten in every way imaginable: pickled, steamed, boiled in beer, battered and fried, baked, barbecued, simmered in soups and stews, tossed into sauces and salads, and even puréed into pates and spreads.

For years, I always avoided eating "pickled shrimp"—the name just sounds unappealing to me, like "jerky" or "aspic." But little did I know what a delightful, salad-like treat this tangy, marinated shrimp dish can be. Raw shrimp are cooked in their shells (which add even more flavor) in a spicy vinegar and garlic solution, then peeled and marinated in part of the cooking liquid, along with olive oil, lemon, mustard, onion and parsley. This dish is robust and irresistible!

You don't need to go through the bother of boiling and sanitizing a jar to make pickled shrimp (although many Southerners do pickle them in the traditional fashion). If you plan to eat the shrimp within 36 hours, just mix all the ingredients together in a nonreactive bowl, cover and refrigerate, stirring every now and then.

As much as I enjoy this authentic shrimp dish, I still find the name to be less than appealing. So, with no disrespect to the Southern tradition, I have given my rendition a name that I think that will be more palatable to Yankees (and Californians) like me: Chilled Southern Spiced Shrimp. Whatever you call it, serve it as an appetizer with crusty bread, or on a bed of lettuce as a salad, or as a simple main course, accompanied by rice, Tabasco-Fueled Field Goal Greens, and true Southern Hush Puppies (recipes coming later this month).

Now for the fun...

Rules for Northerners who move to the South:

1. Save all manner of bacon grease. You will be instructed later how to use it.

2. If you forget a Southerner's name, refer to him (or her) as "Bubba." You have a 75 percent chance of being right.

3. Just because you can drive on snow and ice does not mean we can. Stay home the two days of the year it snows.

4. Don't be surprised to find movie rentals and bait in the same store.

5. Remember: "Y'all" is singular. "All y'all" is plural. "All y'all's" is plural possessive.

6. Get used to hearing, "You ain't from around here, are you?"

7. The first Southern expression to creep into a transplanted Northerner's vocabulary is the adjective "Big ol'", as in "big ol' truck" or "big ol' boy". Eighty-five percent begin their new Southern influenced dialect with this expression. One hundred percent are in denial about it.

8. If you hear a Southerner exclaim, "Hey, ya'll, watch this!" stay out of his way. These are likely the last words he will ever say.

(Above jokes courtesy of Yall.com, which sadly went fishin' and ceased publication in February 1999)

Happy Eatin', Ya'll
Kate "Bubba" Heyhoe
The Global Bubba


Kate's Global Kitchen for January, 2000:

1/01/00 Kate's Global Kitchen's Top Recipes of 1999
1/08/00 Dixie Shrimp: Just Call Me Bubba, Bubba
1/15/00 Gooder Than Grits, and Other Southern Lip-Smackers
1/22/00 Kickin' Dat Chitlin: A Southern Super Bowl Party
1/29/00 Last-Minute Dips and Southern Tips: More Super Bowl Fun

Copyright © 2000, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.

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