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Monday, November 2, 2009

Prime time for eating locally!

I grew up in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and loved going to the local farmers markets. I even worked at one for four years, selling chips, pretzels and hot roasted peanuts! Not very svelte, huh?! Now I live in Charleston, South Carolina, and I am again surrounded by people living and eating locally. And let me tell you, I am in my glory. I have tried so many new things and I wish I could make a career out of living off the land (and blogging about it?...)

I love adventures. I spent 11 years in Washington, DC, but I was always trying to get out to the country. It was there that I met my husband, who brought me to this glorious place. He's shown me some amazing adventures. And it's true, "if you teach a man to fish..." and all that. Keith says if the economy gets any worse, we can just live off the land and the water. And he's right! Though I might have to start weeding my herb garden, because it's out of control.

Right now in Charleston, it's prime time for eating locally. Shrimping season is in full force, and it's so much fun to catch them yourself! If we're lucky, we'll fill our freezer this year. And let me tell you, there is NOTHING like wild, local shrimp. The taste is so unlike those farmed shrimp you can get at the grocery store. If you have the opportunity to try them, don't let it pass you by!

It's also oyster season -- here, you can harvest and eat them in any month that has an "R" -- in other words, when the water is cold enough! Before moving here, I'd only had oysters once, in California. I hated them. I don't know why, and maybe I didn't give them a chance, but the oysters here are just different. Singles or clusters, it doesn't matter. They are amazing. In Charleston, oyster roasts are the social event of the winter. Weekend parties where people gather, have a few beers, and plow through bushels and bushels of freshly steamed oysters. There's usually a bonfire, even though it's 50 degrees at night in December. It's funny, though, how even though I'm from the north, I'm always cold. Maybe that's because I'm still wearing flip-flops in November... But anyway, I feel lucky to live in a place where I can walk down to the creek and break loose a few clusters of oysters with a brick. What?!

The pecans are also dropping. My in-laws' yard will shortly become a blanket of nuts, ready to be picked up and stored for winter! They even make special tools for picking them up and cracking them. My in-laws just bought some lawn mower-like contraption that picks them up, and I can't wait to try it. It's called Bag-O-Nut and now I can't stop giggling. Anyway, they'll last for years in their shell, or shelled in the freezer. If you buy and eat nuts, you know how expensive they are. So it's like gold dropping from the trees! Just be sure to pronounce them "PEE-cans." Otherwise, these Southerners will make fun of you. Trust me. I'm a Damn Yankee (the term for a Yankee that moves here and stays...)

And that's not all...we can pull crab traps from the dock and have crab feasts whenever we want. All-you-can-eat blue crabs and stone crabs -- I'm so spoiled now. We also fish a lot and catch dolphin fish (mahi mahi) and many other varieties. Keith has the most AMAZING recipes. We gig flounder. YUM. We have wild turkeys running around in our backyard, but I'm not a hunter, so they're still safe. We now have a freezer full of venison, thanks to my father-in-law. PLEASE share your recipes for venison if you have some, because I've only cooked it a couple times -- tenderloin and chili, so far. But it is quite lean (1/3 the fat of beef!) and I look forward to experimenting. I'll keep you posted...

I feel like I might have the advantage this time, with easy access to all of Charleston's bounty. But I know I'm wrong -- places like this exist all over the world. Please post comments and let us know where you live and what you eat. It may inspire us all to steer clear of Costco and stock our freezers for winter locally!

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