My earliest memories of fish are personal. No market or restaurant come to mind. But patiently trying to hook what lurked under the surface of a nearby creek or pond recalls moments of unrestrained joy. Those baby days were special: before cars and girlfriends there were bicycles and J. C. Higgins Ted Williams rods and reels.
Precious memories linger.
Some traditions stick around and seem to resist being suffocated by smartphones, online streaming and social networks. Fishing and cooking, for me, are often solitary efforts. The rewards are deep and invigorating. If you enjoy cooking what you have caught, then you know the spiritual rewards of self-sufficiency. I can almost hear the voices of elders long ago: “Hey! This trout is delicious. Where did it come from?”
I “graduated” from local waters to lakes and oceans early on and my horizons broadened as my palate gradually expanded. I grew up inland. Oysters-fresh in shells-and unfrozen wild shrimp were at first taste, transformational. Almost addictive.
Great shrimp fleets dot some of my favorite places along the coastal waters. Favorites include Georgia’s Golden Isles with coastal cities like Brunswick and Darien. The fleets feature shrimp boats in radiant sunset light, crews unloading fruits from the sea all surrounded by indescribably beautiful natural ornamentation.
The shrimp boats at Darien and other coastal venues stand ready to meet the demand for highly-prized wild-caught Georgia shrimp. Clams are not exclusively New England products. Atlanta’s Lyla Lila, selected by The New York Times as one of America’s top new restaurants, serves treasured Sapelo Island clams. The clam hatchery and clam farms on Florida’s Cedar Key supply diners throughout the Southeast.
Dr. Patrick J. Holladay lives on St. Simons Island. His wife Elizabeth grew up on St. Catherines Island. Their interests focus on sustainability, tourism, food security and natural resources. “We are big advocates for local seafood,” he says. “Mullet tastes best when caught close to home, fried up fresh and served with grits for breakfast.”
Holladay is a man on a mission “If you really want to bring someone around to your point of view, feed them local shrimp, wild blackberries or amazing vegetables from the local farmers market.
Every meal is a ceremony. The aromas and taste experience even find a way into literature:
“As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.” A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway