Monday, October 6, 2008

Eating the Low Country Part IV: White Yams, Red Okra

Like the Trustees' Market in Savannah, the Bluffton Far-Mar was hoppin'. In my years as a traveling performer I've seen small, vibrant, local farmers markets like these all over the country, and like New England's mushrooms, even more are popping up as I write this.

Everyone at the Bluffton market walked around with a sample cup of the We Island gumbo. When I asked if I could take a picture of it, the cook offered to stir the pot to bring up some of those pretty, pink, South Carolina shrimp. After doing so, he had to shake off a long strip of bacon that clung to the ladle like a water moccasin to a canoe paddle (scarily, this can happen). There we also saw, and bought, the white yams and red okra featured above.

Like a human South Carolina cornucopia, I was now bursting with the offerings of the low country. As a concession to my well being, I allowed myself to not eat the sausage chunks in the gumbo, which had a consistency too close to hot dog for my liking. Otherwise the gumbo was fantastic and crammed with more of those succulent crustaceans. Still veined, they provided a satisfying bit of grit to a meal made in part from the water I could see from where I stood.

Now really bursting, we drank a Sweetwater (good but a little too malty for my taste and not as good as the Terrapin) and then headed into town for a quick dinner before the flight. Thankfully, the restaurant was closed, and I could finally stop eating. With one last hour in the L.C., we stopped in at the Moon River brewpub, where we had the worst beer of our lives. After sampling Seth's, I ordered a cup of coffee, which was a better beer than the beer was, and terrible coffee.

But as bad as the beer was, it was the only thing I ate that day that wasn't superb. And in case you've lost track over the multiple posts, here's the schedule:

9:00 - an apple and two rice cakes in the hotel
10:30 - cold, leftover fajitas in the car
11:30 - shrimp, grits, and Yuengling at the Squat n' Gobble
1:00 - oysters and deep fried strawberries at the Pepper Porch
2:00 - half rack of ribs and a Terrapin (the beer) at Choo-Choo
3:00 - bowl of gumbo and a Sweetwater at the Bluffton Far-Mar
4:00 - the worst beer of my life
6:00 - a cucumber

All I could manage for dinner was a "Middle East Prolific" cuke from the Bluffton Market, and even it was outstanding. For a day that started with rice cakes and ended with a cucumber, I ended up eating pretty well.


PS - I left out one snack: some wild grapes we foraged, probably illegally, at the Pinckney Island Wildlife Refuge. I think this photo sums up my enthusiasm for the local cuisine, and thanks to Seth for it and his other contributions.

PPS- For all you shutterbugs, notice the difference in light quality for all these Southern pics.

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