Vive La Femme, Today and Every Day
ICYMI on The Bittman Project
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Kayla Stewart, regarding Monday’s three dishes she chose from Gullah Geechee Home Cooking: Recipes from the Matriarch of Edisto Island:
When I met Gullah Geechee cook and matriarch Emily Meggett in winter 2021, I knew my life was changing for the better.
After being welcomed to her home with platters of fried shrimp, fried chicken, and various casseroles, I immediately realized that food–good food, that is–is integral to the Edisto Island community that the culinary icon calls home.
Since meeting Miss Meggett and co-authoring her debut cooking, “Gullah Geechee Home Cooking: Recipes from the Matriarch of Edisto Island,” my relationship to food has evolved. I’m more willing to step out of the culinary comfort zone filled by my Texas and Louisiana heritage; I’m more adamant about avoiding waste; I’m thinking about ingredients differently. I also have an untraditional career that requires near-constant travel. I’ve been away from my home base of NYC more than I’ve been there within the past 12 months. When I return home after a long work trip (usually one that involves several lengthy flights) I’m eager for the flavors and comforts of home cooking, and the efficiency of takeout. Cue some of Miss Emily’s most prized recipes, where care is needed, sure, but a good meal doesn’t mean standing over a stove for hours on end.
I love a good, slow-cooked meal, but when I need something quick, relatively easy to make, and inexpensive, I turn to Miss Emily’s book (which, suffice it to say, also includes its fair share of deeply complex, multi-day recipes, too). Her book includes recipes that speak to the wide-ranging cuisine of the Lowcountry’s Gullah Geechee community, and the greater south. These phenomenal recipes also speak to the importance of efficiency. Here are some of my favorite go-tos for when I’m in a pinch, but don’t want to sacrifice delicious eating.
The urge to eat fried fish for dinner everyday likely comes from my upbringing. I love lightly battered fish, breaded just enough to get that slight crunch, but not so batter-heavy that you can’t enjoy the fish itself. Miss Emily understands that this is the best way, or so I realized when I first took a bite of her fried fish. One of the few fried fish meals that doesn’t need hot sauce or condiments (though, no one’s judging if you indulge), fried fish captures so much about the values Meggett’s hometown of Edisto: You don’t need a lot of money to enjoy a good meal, but you do need a lot of heart and soul.
Rich, creamy, and beautifully indulgent, crab casserole is a celebratory dish that doesn’t totally annihilate the budget. Crab is the most expensive ingredient here. It’s tossed with a creamy sauce touched by a hint of sherry, and eventually topped with breadcrumbs, making for a bite with layers of texture and flavor. Your loved ones are in for a treat.
Shrimp rice was the first of Miss Emily’s recipes that I tested on my own. The appeal, for me, was immediate; a fairly simple mix of white rice, shrimp, and bacon, all heightened by a touch of Gold Medal seasoning salt and aromatics. I make this dish when I don’t feel like making anything else, yet crave the same quality of flavor that I get from other, more complex seafood dishes.
From Mark, on this humble dish.
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