Stir together the tastes of Beaufort, call it a blessing

dlauderdale@islandpacket.comMay 2, 2013 

File Original watercolor on paper by Nancy Ricker Rhett, "Frogmore Stew" is one Lowcountry dish with an unusual name that Pat Branning says residents should try to preserve. When Branning heard some now call the dish "Lowcountry Boil," she feels a sense of the area's culture is being lost. When she first heard of the dish, she said she wondered if the ingredients included frogs.

SPECIAL TO THE PACKET AND GAZETTE

We've come a long way since our tastes smacked of chitlins, moonshine and mullet.

That will be obvious this weekend with the big spread of A Taste of Beaufort at the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park.

Today's chefs can do anything, but it's not easy to capture the flavors of Beaufort.

We'd have to stir in some cheese and crackers from Mom Miller's store, sliced baloney and penny candy from Pruitt's Grocery, and a bowl of Damn Good Chowder from The Yankee.

The exotic Banana Meat Rolls from the Gold Eagle Tavern would be nice, if we could somehow pour in one of its famous sunsets melting over the Beaufort River.

Rice, rice and more rice would need to be prepared in a Lowcountry "steamah" like the one they sell at Fordham's Market. Rice is so popular in the Lowcountry it was once called "Charleston ice cream." Red rice, okra pilau, rice smothered in quail gravy, rice and peas, rice pudding, rice by the 40-pound bag.

Frogmore Stew makes newcomers think they need a soup spoon, and prompts old-timers to answer the riddle: "What's the difference between Frogmore Stew and Beaufort Stew?" About four miles.

Frogmore Stew, with its St. Helena shrimp, corn on the cob and smoked sausage boiled and drained, reminds us of our Southern graces. When it was served to presidential candidate Walter Mondale at a fine Beaufort home, the gentleman from Minnesota snapped into his shrimp without peeling it. And we were too polite to tell him, "Bo, you're doing it wrong."

To get a good taste of Beaufort, we'll need the essence of hamburger night at the Sand Dollar Tavern and steak night at The Fillin' Station. And fried shrimp day at LT's, fried chicken from Maryland, a shrimp burger from the Shrimp Shack, a sandwich as big as a hubcap from Alvin Ord's, a tomato sandwich on white bread dripping with Duke's mayonnaise, and a sweet chunk of chilled watermelon.

We'll need collards and macaroni and cheese, maybe from Sgt. White's, and some cinnamon rolls from the kitchen of the late Master Sgt. Frederick Drake, a Montford Point Marine.

We'll add a gigged flounder from a breakfast at a camp down the river, whiting from the Heritage Days fish fry at Penn Center, and a slurp or two from the Historic Beaufort Foundation oyster roast.

We'll need some gumbo from a Temple of Sport cookout, a plate of Debbi Covington's chicken salad, popcorn from The Breeze Theater, a T-bone steak from Koth's Grocery, soft-shell crabs from Emily's, conch stew, cooter soup, crab cakes, barbecue cooked by Walter Rodgers and Butch Polk, and shrimp and grits from the S.C. Shrimpers Association cookbook from the days this Lowcountry delicacy was still known as "shrimp 'n brown gravy."

We'll wash it all down while studying pictures on the crooked walls of the John Cross Tavern.

And we'll call it a blessing.

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