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Shrimp and Grits

a bowl filled with different types of food on a table

Topped with bacon, onions, tomato in a white wine reduction sauce.

The fact that the dish was easy to prepare—ground corn cooked down in water, shellfish heated and placed on top—made it a natural staple for a laborer’s diet. A few cups of ground corn might have been part of a weekly ration. Creek shrimp could be hand-caught, unbeknownst to the distributor of rations. Those who worked as fishermen in the Lowcountry would often go out for long hauls—twelve- or twenty-four-hour stretches—which required them to bring any necessary provisions out with them on the boat. They’d call it a one-pot, carrying a single pot that contained all their food for the trip. Grits or rice, both cheap and filling staples, would go into the pot, as would whatever they were catching that day. Shrimp, a major provision for South Carolina and Georgia fishermen, would get tossed in, along with a little seawater, and all of it would cook down to a simple, sustaining meal.

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