Embark on a fresh and delicious culinary tour of coastal America! Shrimp Country invites readers to discover the southern shorelines from Texas to the Carolinas, savoring the region’s sea air, salty characters, and succulent shrimp.
“Shrimp lovers, both cooks and eaters, absolutely need this book, but so does any traveler or armchair epicure who values the culinary traditions of Coastal America.”–Michael Stern, coauthor of Roadfood: The Coast-to-Coast Guide to 900 of the Best Barbecue Joints, Lobster Shacks, Ice Cream Parlors, Highway Diners, and Much, Much More
“Not only is Shrimp Country a complete compendium of southern shrimp, it is a tasty treat for both reading and cooking.”–Elizabeth Williams, author of New Orleans: A Food Biography
“Takes us on a journey through the creeks, bogs, sounds, and seas that yield one of America’s most precious resources–sweet, tender shrimp.”–Nancy White, author of Jacksonville Food Trucks: Stories & Recipes from the Road
“A wonderful culinary journey. From the recipes peppered with chefs’ anecdotes and information for home cooks and travelers, Burgard has compiled a mouthwatering celebration of the sweet crustacean.”–Heather McPherson, coauthor of Good Catch: Recipes and Stories Celebrating the Best of Florida’s Waters
Shrimp is a perfect ingredient. Mild enough to be a part of delicately-flavored dishes and tasty enough to be eaten on its own, it pairs well with both spicy and sweet ingredients and can be fried, sautéed, steamed, broiled, or grilled. In Shrimp Country: Recipes and Tales from the Southern Coasts, Anna Marlis Burgard swaps stories and recipes with the people who know it best–island dwellers whose ancestors have worked in the shrimping business for generations, mariners who seem to straddle ancient and modern worlds, marine biologists, and James Beard Award-winning chefs.
Burgard gathers more than 100 tempting recipes from regional classics like pilau, creole, and bog to global fare such as shrimp empanadas, shrimp saganaki, and tom kha gai. Coastal families share their favorite dishes, seaside chefs reveal their customer-luring secrets, and Burgard offers up cooking tips that make prep time a breeze. Transported to strange and beautiful places including South Padre Island, Texas, Santa Rosa Island, Florida, and Swanquarter, North Carolina, readers will enjoy sampling some of the best food America has to offer.
Brimming with the larger-than-life personalities of trawler captains, food truck masters, diner cooks, and award-winning chefs, Shrimp Country is a love letter to coastal communities and their joy-filled, soul-fueling kitchens. Kick off your shoes, roll up your sleeves, and dig in!
Anna Marlis Burgard is the creative force behind hundreds of books including the bestselling A Guide for Grown-ups: Essential Wisdom from the Collected Works of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and Hallelujah: The Poetry of Classic Hymns. Her work has been featured on Atlas Obscura, BBC Radio 1 and NPR, and in the New Yorker, USA Today, and the Wall Street Journal. She honed her shrimp-cooking skills on Tybee Island, Georgia, where the trawlers moored along Lazaretto Creek bring wild shrimp to the docks, and has explored more than 100 coastal and inland islands for her Islands of America: A River, Lake and Sea Odyssey project.
Read our exclusive interview with author Anna Marlis Burgard as she discusses her adventures collecting recipes for Shrimp Country
You’ve been creating books since you were seven years old. How did that start?
Our farmhouse was filled with books—overflowing from bookcases, stacked on tables and steps. My mother was a poet; if you ever dared to say you were bored, her response was always, “Read a book!” I began making little books from loose leaf paper and magic markers, but an aunt who was a professor of literature later gave me a bookbinding kit, and I’ve been writing, editing and art directing them ever since.
How did you approach collecting the recipes in the book?
I first drove 2,500 miles from Spokane, Washington down to the southern start of America’s Gulf Coast—South Padre Island, Texas—then traveled 3,300 more miles through every coastal state to Swanquarter, North Carolina—the “Inner Banks.” To collect not just the recipes themselves (many of which I’d sampled during my Islands of America travels to 100+ islands) but the authentic voices of chefs, captains, and so many other walks of life, I knew I had to make the full pilgrimage along our shrimp coasts. I was on the road for more than a month straight.
What was the most fun you had during your trip?
There were scores of great moments—so many beautiful places, generous, interesting people, and delicious dishes—but hanging out with Tony Reisinger on South Padre Island, Texas, and watching him make a Gyotaku print from a colossal shrimp was a perfect start to the adventure.
After interviewing a number of trawler captains along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, what would you say are the common traits of successful captains?
Fierce determination, trust of instincts, ability to rise up over fears, respect for the sea, ability to read weather and people, and common sense.
How did you come to know the captains you met?
Tybee Island, Georgia, is home to a long-standing shrimping community; living there for seven years, it wasn’t hard to meet them, given they all dock at Lazaretto Creek. In Florida, North Carolina, and South Carolina, I just walked up to the docked boats and introduced myself. In Corpus Christi, Texas, the Chamber of Commerce did some advance work for me. The captains were universally candid, friendly, and full of stories. Generous with their tales and their time.
You write briefly about the importance of names to shrimp boats. If you had a shrimp boat, what would you name it?
The Wrangler—gathering all of the recipes from so many sources wasn’t unlike the captains searching for and hauling in their shrimp!
What’s it like to catch seafood during a jubilee?
I’ve never experienced a jubilee—you really have to live at Point Clear to have that pleasure. Ralph Reynolds’s description in the book is the next best thing! But it’s not so much catching seafood as gathering it or scooping it up. It’s on shore for the taking.
What was the most surprising thing you learned about shrimp?
How quickly they can move. I always thought of shrimp as aquatic insects that hung out in specific areas—pretty low on the sentient being chain. I didn’t know they migrated—shrimp troupes can migrate from South Carolina to Florida in three days, according to Captain Jack Kemp of Tybee Island. And, according to other captains, they can be wily in the way they “hide up.”
What is the first dish you ever cooked?
I made desserts and helped with party appetizers when I was little, but the first real dinner I recall making was chicken and mushroom crepes when I was about 13.
Out of all the species of shrimp you’ve worked with, which do you like to cook with best?
I like Florida’s pink shrimp for my Hot Buttered Rum Shrimp, Georgia’s white shrimp for my Scampi, and Texas’s brownies for heavily-spiced dishes.
What recipe are you most proud of?
My scampi was the longest recipe in the making, and is my most-requested dish from friends, but my Hot Buttered Rum Shrimp is one of my most original recipes—not just my take on a standard, but a real creation. I’ve never heard of or tasted anything exactly like it.
Are there any recipes you wish you could have included in the book but didn’t?
Many! There’s a Voodoo Shrimp recipe in New Orleans, for instance, and a Cuban shrimp dish from Key West that I just couldn’t get in time, even though the chefs were willing.
At what point do you usually consider a recipe perfect?
When I’m no longer tempted to tinker with it!