Lowcountry shrimp boil on WBTV’s QC Life
the backstory is the story
Purists consider the Lowcountry of South Carolina to consist of “the four, southern-most counties in the state, Beaufort, Jasper, Hampton, and Colleton, which are bordered on the east by the Atlantic Ocean and on the west by the Savannah River and the state of Georgia. The Lowcountry begins on the northern end with the quiet, family, beach Town of Edisto Beach. Traveling south along the coast brings you to historic Beaufort, Port Royal, Parris Island [where U.S. Marines train in blistering Southern heat] and Bluffton, and then to internationally-famous, Hilton Head Island” (from The Lowcountry & Resort Islands Tourism Commission). Technically, it doesn’t really even include Charleston! How can that be?!
For those of us not so pedantic as to give homage to such persnicketiness, the Lowcountry certainly includes Charleston and really everything north along the coast, including (from south to north) Georgetown, DeBordieu, Pawley’s Island, Litchfield, Murrell’s Inlet, Garden City, Surfside, Myrtle Beach, Atlantic Beach, Ocean Drive, and Cherry Grove. It’s along this expanse of South Carolina coastal plains, from the Sandhills to the Atlantic, that Lowcountry cuisine flourishes today.
While gourmets, gastronomists, foodies, and snobs might differ in how they would describe Lowcountry cuisine, we’ll go out on a limb here and say it is derived from the cooking of the Gullah and Geechee people of the coastal estuaries of South Carolina and Georgia. The people who would become the Gullah and Geechee were brought here from West Africa as slaves to tend the vast rice plantations of the colonial era.
Their culture and food was derived through their West African heritage with Bahamian and Barbadian/Caribbean influences. Lowcountry cuisine is the genius of American slaves from West Africa who were bent on survival, and who made incredible food from the amazing things yielded by their rich environment. It often centers around creole-like one-pot stews – like the shrimp boil – with a stronger African influence than creole cuisine.
It’s savory but not too strong.
It facilitates a sense of being together around the pot – conviviality is part of the recipe.
It’s naturally seasonal and local.
You might think of Southern cuisine as a general category of culinary tradition, while Lowcountry cuisine has a distinctly more local “timbre” and would be a subset of Southern. Likewise, Soul Food would be another subset of Southern cuisine but on a broader scale than Lowcountry, which is arose from a small geographic area that has had disproportionatly significant influence on American cuisine in general.
Chef Sam has appeared on WBTV’s QC Life on a number of occassions for cooking demonstrations, and in this segment, he delves into the shrimp boil, which is the signature dish, the cornerstone of Lowcountry cuisine and YFYT’s Thursday night feature. You can enjoy the show, do it yourself, or order it from us on Thursdays! Lowcountry shrimp boil and our Lowcountry shrimp ‘n’ grits, both of which are chock full of local shrimp, andoullie, potatoes, and corn, to name a few. These are peak season ingredients that yield peak flavor.
And remember, a central theme of Sam’s love of food is the idea that it brings us together. Around the table, over a pot of stew, we come together to nourish ourselves and each other, to partake in the glorious ritual of breaking bread and being in company with one another. And in the tradition of Lowcountry cuisine, we owe all that it is, all its rich goodness, to the West Africans who came to this country as slaves and coerced these incredible foods from their environment under the most adverse conditions.