Above: Frogmore stew

6 Dishes That Define Lowcountry Cuisine

The Lowcountry, which is commonly defined as extending from Savannah to Pawleys Island in South Carolina, has produced one of the richest and most distinctive kitchens of American cookery. Long before the current locavore movement became a driving force among American chefs, Lowcountry cuisine was based strictly on foods grown and harvested in this coastal area, including crab, shrimp, fish, oyster, game, grits (ground cornmeal) and rice.

Rice was introduced in the late 17th century and thrived in this region of estuaries and marshes to become one of the most important crops of colonial America. Although its cultivation ended after the Civil War, when slaves who worked on the local plantations were freed, it has reemerged in recent decades in the form of Carolina Gold, an heirloom variety unique to the region. Whether served as a simple side dish or cooked with tomatoes and other vegetables, rice is integral to most Lowcountry meals.

Lowcountry cooking incorporates a patchwork of ethnicities. Vegetables like okra arrived with African slaves; French Huguenots and Portuguese Sephardic Jews added their produce, techniques and recipes to the culinary canon; and the inhabitants of Charleston and Savannah traded extensively with the British colonies of the Caribbean. Many of the most delicious recipes, including shrimp and grits, Frogmore stew, she-crab soup and Hoppin’ John have strong parallels with the Cajun cuisine of New Orleans.

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