When it comes to Southern foods, what could be more iconic than shrimp and grits, right? They’re routinely cited as a classic of the Southern table, and they can be found on the menus at white tablecloth bistros and cafes from Hilton Head Island clear down to Orlando. So iconic is this dish that people like Nathalie Dupree, the noted Southern food writer and cooking show host, published Nathalie Dupree’s Shrimp and Grits, an entire book devoted to that one dish. The book presents some 80 variations, and its opening line reads, “Shrimp and grits, one of the South’s beloved foods, leaves a lingering taste and a folkloric mystique that borders on the mystical.”
For so many years, unless you were visiting specific parts of the south like the low country of South Carolina and Georgia, shrimp and grits was not a thing. In fact, you’d probably be shocked at how many people had never heard of the dish. In more recent years however, as Southern cuisine has come into vogue nationwide, this mystical dish has become something of a culinary ambassador. One can now find them all over the country at pretty much any restaurant that offers a Southern-inspired menu.
I grew up in Orlando, and sadly, the first time I truly remember eating shrimp and grits is when I was in my 50’s when I had it at Tibby’s New Orleans Kitchen. Did it knock my socks off? No. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t bad, but it it wasn’t the OMG moment. It was just another dish to choose from.
But then it happened…
A trip to the St. Augustine Fish Camp restaurant…and their Shrimp & Grits. I’m talking about shrimp and gits that cleared up the mystery of why this dish is so revered. My heavens, it was a religious experience – really! I’m hooked. I’m obsessed. I want to learn how to make it. You don’t have to be from the Low Country to be in love with shrimp and grits. Once you taste something as delectable as shrimp and grits, made with the love of an amazing chef, you yearn to create it in your own kitchen. My server, Jamie, even recommended I throw a few seared scallops on top for good measure, so I did. There is no description. You just have to try it yourself.
I’ve always known there is something about Southern food. As cliché as it may sound, there’s an innate sense of character and soul to it. You get the feeling that there’s a real trail of history behind every dish, and that is so true for shrimp and grits. I love most southern dishes, but wow, there’s a special magic to shrimp and grits, an inherent feeling that whoever prepared it put all their love and effort into it so that you, too, could experience the way they felt when they first tried it themselves. I’m ready for a return trip as soon as possible.
78Madison is a full-service marketing communications firm – advertising agency – located in Orlando-Winter Springs Florida.