I am often reluctant to share my thoughts with others because, there is a very loud voice inside of me that says, "Someone's already said that. You're not saying anything new. Next..." But, I got confirmation on my writing by listening to one of my favorite podcasts called "Jesus & Jollof" by writer and social blogger Luvvie Ajayi and actress/comedian Yvonne Orji. In a nutshell, they referenced that when you're feeling like you are doing more of the same, to take a walk down the water aisle of your favorite grocery stores. You'll notice various brands of water, some with flavors, some sparkling, some still. The point is that a type of water exists for everyone. That leads me to my thoughts about food, and how I know I'm definitely not the first person (nor will I be the last) to say that food is one of the strongest, best ways to tie a people to a culture. I am convinced that if you want to truly get to know people, you should sit down and eat with them, or better yet, cook and eat with them. This brings me to my favorite thing – breakfast.
Ah, breakfast!!! It has and always will be my favorite meal of the day. Growing up in Beaufort, my grandfather Edward Pazant had to have seafood every morning. Every. Morning. But, no one suffered. You haven't lived until you've had seafood for breakfast! Granddaddy did his part by going to the local fish market and getting seafood a few days in advance. Then, he'd go home and finish cleaning, or if he didn't need to do that, he'd just season the seafood for my grandmother to cook the next morning.
Most mornings, I had breakfast at home. Grits was something we ate every morning. Pancakes or French Toast were often considered a treat that was eaten on a weekend. But most days, Mommie made bacon or sausage and eggs. Some mornings, if we had liver for dinner, then liver and grits was on the menu. I'm salivating... Next door, though, (and FYI, in most southern communities, families live on the same plot of land or grow up with your family living down the street, a few blocks over, or a few miles away) Grandma was making shrimp and grits, or salmon cakes and grits, or oysters and grits, or fish and grits. You get the idea - grits and seafood. We grew up on the water, so seafood was part of our daily intake.
Not only did I grow up eating fish, I grew up learning about different kinds of fish. That may sound like a "so what?" thing to some, but I have met people who thought that fish was "just fish". (Insert exasperated looking emoji here!) There's whiting, catfish, trout, spotted trout, drum, croaker, bass, etc. And, depending on how plentiful the gnats were (and how bad they were biting), I knew which type of fish was in season. I can't swear to have that same knowledge now, but I can cook and enjoy seafood for breakfast.
Of the items listed above, my absolute favorite dish is shrimp and grits. When I go to different restaurants (doesn't matter where in the world, if I see shrimp and grits on the menu, I have to try it. I want to know how my fave is made and what the chef is adding to or taking away from my dish. It's always a treat to find out if the chef who added the item to his/her menu has ties to the US southern east coast.
Considering variations of shrimp and grits, I've been surprised to learn that even in my hometown there are different ways that this dish is made. I typically sauté onions and garlic with my shrimp and serve it on grits, covered in brown gravy with a biscuit or two on the side. But, I know classmates who add bacon to the sautéed vegetables (also one of my favorite ways to prepare it), and others who add andouille sausage and peppers. The latter was a very pleasant surprise!
This is just one of the many fabulous dishes from the Gullah people, and I'll definitely talk about more, but what are some of yours? Feel free to chat among yourselves, remember we're educating one another about our cultures. Thanks!