The marshes of creeks of Savannah are home to sweet shrimp and blue clams. Laura Binder Hughes talks to Savannah Bock and Audrey Bromstad about their first cook book and the cuisine of their beloved Low Country…
The romanticisation of The Old South plantation culture may be gone with the wind, but what lives on, and has risen in popularity all over the United States, are the delicious dishes of Georgia’s Low Country — dishes such red rice, okra gumbo, and shrimp and grits. Originally brought to the region by African slaves, it’s the childhood food of native Savannahians, Savannah Bock and Audrey Bromstad, two talented young cooks who’ve explored this cuisine in their fabulous new cook book our kitchen: at home.
Filled with fresh and healthy takes on local dishes, and illustrated by gorgeous visuals, this inspiring book is the result of a productive lockdown. At the start of the pandemic the two friends took a break from their bi-coastal lives — Savannah from her post-graduate studies in New York, and Audrey from her job in LA — to spend time on Tybee Island, a quaint and picturesque island 20 minutes East of Savannah. Always keen cooks, the two friends first bonded during a Study Abroad program in Spain where they shared a love of seafood and fresh, local, seasonal ingredients. Once back in Georgia they decided to immerse themselves in the rich culinary heritage on their doorstep.
Like many other Gullah Geechee communities sprinkled along the coast between North Carolina and North Florida, Tybee Island is home to the descendants of African slaves. There are many similarities between Gullah Geechee and the Creole cuisine of Louisiana and the Gulf Coast, but Gullah Geechee cooking often includes rice and seasonal local seafood, and other grains like millet and benne seed. On Tybee Island sweet shrimp and blue crabs, nourished by the marsh, are plucked fresh out of the creeks everyday, and it was around these delicious catches of the Low Country that Audrey and Savannah have based their recipes.
“As Southerners”, says Savannah “we grew up eating rice every day and to a Savannahian, no celebration is complete without Red Rice, one of the most familiar dishes from The Low Country.” As she goes on to point out, Savannah Red Rice is not to be confused with the Jambalaya-style red rice of New Orleans: “Our rice is drier and the long grains remain separated, but glistening and richly permeated with unctuous homemade shrimp stock.”
Savannhians tend to eat red Rice with Okra Gumbo, with tiny sweet creek shrimp cooked in it, with crab cakes, and with grilled or roasted oysters or clams. It is commonly served with crispy bacon sprinkled on top, but many people eat Red Rice vegetarian style as well. And no visitor to The Low Country ever forgets the sweetness and texture of the Tybee Creek shrimp in Gumbo.
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Laura Binder Hughes is former test cook and food editor of Gourmet Magazine
For more delicious content follow Audrey and Savannah’s instagram account @its.ourkitchen
To buy the book: audreybromstad.com/shop/
digital copy $25, hard copy $35
llustration by Margo Bock
Photography by: Savannah Bock and Audrey Bromstad