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Shrimp Country

Recipes and Tales from the Southern Coasts

 

   

 

With colorful pictures on almost every page and short stories about commercial shrimp fishing sprinkled throughout, Anna Marlis Burgard’s new cookbook—Shrimp Country—honors the shrimp fishermen on the South Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States.  From the Carolinas to Texas, they are weather-beaten men who fight hard to make a living from a punishing sea.  Diesel fuel costs, oil spills, skyrocketing real estate values and other obstacles have forced many generations-old shrimping families out of business.  Competition from inexpensive farmed shrimp from Asia and Latin America has accelerated their demise, so they don’t have much good to say about farmed shrimp, generally characterizing it as tasteless and coming from chemical-laden ponds.  They support the Southern Shrimp Alliance, the organization behind the USA’s dumping tariffs on farmed shrimp.

 

Shrimpers give their boats names like  Miss, Capt, Lady, Master, Lucky, Sea and Thanh (a popular, unisex first name in Vietnam and an indication of the large number of Vietnamese shrimpers in the United States).  One shrimper named his trawler N-Seine, a play on nets and the craziness of shrimp fishing.

 

 

Writing about her travels along the USA’s southern coasts, Burgard displays her writing talent on every page with vivid sentences like: “I took it all in like a desiccated sponge reanimated by the salt water it was born to.”  She writes: “I spoke with captains in each of the coastal states—a feat in itself, according to some, given their generally cautious and sometimes cantankerous ranks.  I met a few who, based on first impressions, honestly might have given me a scare on a lonely street, but I found them universally friendly and engaging.  The nature of their physical work, and the tender ages at which they began in the business—generally forcing them to forgo most conventional education—can present a pretty rough exterior, but they’re epic storytellers and incredibly hardworking men.”

 

Reminiscent of Forrest Gump, Burgard says: “...Shrimp is an ideal ingredient: It’s delicious, low-calorie, and high-protein, and it provides vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids.  It’s mild enough that hundreds of recipes can be built around it, but flavorful enough to be eaten on its own, right out of the shell.  It pairs well with both spicy and sweet ingredients and can be fried, sautéed, steamed, broiled, or grilled.  It can be served on pasta, polenta, grits, biscuits, rice, or cornbread (even waffles, in a stretch).”

 

 

What's in This Book for Shrimp Farmers in Latin America and Asia

 

 A lot!  It contains over 100 authentic, down-home shrimp recipes that could be used to develop products for consumers in the United States and the European Union, plus eleven engaging stories (excerpts below) about the shrimp fishing community that will help you understand why shrimpers are opposed to imported shrimp.  Independence-minded shrimpers are fighting for the survival of their culture, their families and the only way they know to make a living.  Cowboys of the sea, their products, unlike farmed shrimp products, have great reputations in the United States.  Cooperating with them on a generic marketing campaign for all shrimp could lead to a better image of shrimp in the United States—and possibly higher prices. Woods Fisheries in Florida, for example, already boldly advertises its farmed and wild shrimp on its webpage.

 

 

The Recipes

 

 

Shrimp Country is divided into seven chapters—Introduction, Shrimp Preparation Basics, Shrimp Cocktail Dips, Starters, Light Fare (soups, salads and sandwiches), Saucy Shrimp and Side Dishes.

 

Here’s one of the recipes from the chapter on Starters.  It’s a good example of the simple, straight-forward approached that appears throughout the book.

 

   

 

 

“The flavors in this elegant, original dish are nothing short of addictive; the sauce is like a divine shallot jam.”

 

Ingredients

4 tablespoons canola oil

1 pound shrimp (16/20-count), peeled and deveined

1 cup Marcona almonds

1/4 cup chopped shallots

3/4 cup good-quality honey

1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

1/2 cup fresh herbs (a mixture of chopped parsley, tarragon, chives and fennel fronds)

4 teaspoons white truffle oil

 

 

Directions:

 

1. Coat a sauté pan with the canola oil and heat until smoking; sear the shrimp

quickly on both sides, then remove from pan.

 

2. Add the almonds and shallots and sauté until the shallots are soft, about

five minutes.

 

3. Add the honey and seared shrimp.  Simmer until the shrimp are cooked through,

just after they turn orange-pink all the way through, about three minutes.

 

4. Season with salt and pepper to taste and add the herbs.

 

5. Divide among four serving bowls; drizzle with truffle oil, sprinkle with sea salt

and serve.

 

 

Here’s a “taste” of some of the other recipe names in Burgard’s book:

 

Mustard-Lime Dipping Sauce

Pickled Shrimp

Shrimp Empanadas with Pineapple Salsa

Acapulco Bar-B-Que Shrimp

Shrimp Pâté

Shrimp and Cucumber Tea Sandwiches

Shrimp Rangoon Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Cajun Gumbo

Spicy Peanut Butter Shrimp

Shrimp in Jalapeño Pepper Sauce

Green Curry Shrimp

Jamaican Jerk Shrimp

 

 

 

The Stories

 

The eleven, two-page stories about the shrimp fishing community are worth the price of the book.  Here are excerpts from a few of my favorites:

 

Sometimes the Shrimp Come to You, The Maritime Mystery of Mobile Bay’s Jubilee Events: “On steamy summer nights along Mobile Bay’s coast, when fresh water swirls with the salty Gulf of Mexico and winds press down just so, sea creatures come ashore in droves of their own volition: slithering eels, flapping flounder, crawling shrimp and scrambling crabs.  So many beach themselves that folks spread the word to their sleeping neighbors, ringing bells along the waterfront back in the day, and through phone calls in this more recent era.  They come armed with buckets, nets, bushel baskets, and gigs to haul in the free catch that’s known as a “jubilee”.  It happens every summer, sometimes more than once, usually in August just before dawn—but all of the timing and the right conditions can be present without the same effect.  This fable-worthy exodus has been scarcely recorded elsewhere in the world, but it’s only here along a short stretch of Alabama’s eastern coast between Daphne and Point Clear that it’s a reliable annual ritual.  Part of the magic is that even in this advanced technological age, the occurrence remains unpredictable.”  You’ll have to buy the book to discover the probable cause this magical event!

 

Another story that caught my attention—True Blue—is about Captain Charlie Livingston.  The shrimp tattoos across Charlie’s shoulders are a testament to his pride, dedication and deep roots in the coastal life.  Charlie is one of the most successful shrimp trawler captains on the Gulf of Mexico.

 

 

 

Immortalizing  Shrimp  reports on Tony Reisinger, a marine biologist with Texas A&M’s Sea Grant Extension Program who helped establish the shrimp farming industry in South Texas.  Tony runs a little “shrimp printing business” on the side.  A shrimp printing business?  It’s a form of the Oriental art of fish printing called “Gyotaku”.  Begun in the early 1800s in Japan, anglers used fish prints to document the size of their catches.  A shrimp print is created by covering the body of a shrimp with ink, then placing hand made rice paper over the shrimp while rubbing gently to produce a mirror image on the paper.  Several prints can be made from each shrimp and each print is an original.  Shrimp News purchased three of Reisinger’s prints in 1994.  The one pictured here depicts the beginning of Penaeus vannamei’s mating ritual.  It does not do justice to the beauty of Reisinger’s work, but it does help you understand it a little better.

 

Author Anna Marlis Burgard is the creative force behind hundreds of books, and her work has been featured on Atlas Obscura, BBC Radio 1 and National Public Radio, and in the New Yorker, USA Today, and The Wall Street Journal.  She honed her shrimp-cooking skills on Tybee Island, Georgia, where trawlers moored along Lazaretto Creek brought wild shrimp to the docks.

 

Information: University Press of Florida, 15 Northwest 15th Street, Gainesville, Florida 32603, USA (phone 1-352-392-1351, orders 1-800-226-3822, fax 1-352-680-0590, faxed orders, 1-800-680-1955, emails orders orders@upress.ufl.edu, general inquiries press@uprress.ufl.edu, webpage http://www.upf.com).  Hardcover ISBN 13:978-0-8130-6294-5, Publication Date: 9/27/2016, Details: 248 Pages, 7.25 x 9.25, Indexed, Price: $26.95.

 

Sources: 1. Shrimp Country (http://www.upf.com/book.asp?id=BURGA001): Recipes and Tales from the Southern Coasts.  Anna Marlis Burgard.  University Press of Florida.  2016. 2. Bob Rosenberry, Shrimp News International, October 20, 2016.

 

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