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Peter Stipe – Shrimp and Grits, She-Crab Soup and Love

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My wife Debbie and I went to Charleston, South Carolina a week ago along with my best friend Archie, and his wife Karen.  Archie has been my friend since high school; I met Karen when they started dating in college.  The four of us have traveled together once every year or so.

Charleston is one of my favorite cities.  Debbie and I go there often but Archie and Karen hadn’t been there for years.  And they’re Yankees, living in New England their whole lives.  I still think of myself as a New Englander too though I moved to Virginia three years ago.  I have begun to acclimate to a southern way of life and southern cooking.  Archie and Karen had a bit to learn.

In New England, seafood means clam chowder and lobster.  Traditional food and traditional recipes abound.  The Carolina low-country cuisine is different but also wrapped in tradition.  Charleston is a beautiful city with ancient mansions, formal gardens behind wrought-iron gates, and old, cobble-stone streets near the battery.  The city features legends, folklore and maybe even ghosts.  And the seafood is different.  Low-country food features shrimp and grits and she-crab soup.  I love them.

I convinced Archie to try both.  Karen was put off by the concept of grits, particularly as a basis for an item on the dinner menu.  By the end of the week, Archie was lapping up shrimp and grits and she-crab soup at every meal.  He even moved on to Jambalaya.  Karen tried the soup and liked it.

I’m an author and my blog should relate to my writing.  How do I connect low-country seafood to my books?  Take a look at my novel, The Art of Love.  Food and cooking are themes throughout the book.  They represent relationships and love.  Early in the book, Mary is a bad cook, settling for toast and canned soup for dinner.  She is also clueless about how to build a relationship and show her love for Patrick.  Their friend Melanie is a worldly woman who has been in and out of love many times.  And Melanie knows how to cook.  She prepares a fancy shrimp recipe for their first dinner together.  She gives guidance to Mary on both her cooking and her relationship with Patrick.  Meals become more elaborate as the story progresses.  Mary learns to cook and begins to understand her relationship with Patrick.  Unfortunately she continues to struggle with loving him.

Food is important but eating well can’t save a relationship.  Melanie’s boyfriend Aaron stumbles in spite of her amazing cooking.  Mary becomes a good cook, but she and Patrick may not be able to work things out.  I do love my low-country seafood.

Peter Stipe is the author of Finding Our Way; a collection of short stories, and The Art of Love, a novel.  Peter   Facebook: PeterGStipe

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