By Carl Hanson
March 10, 2015

Book-ended by ocean and sea, the Southeast region of the United States is a never-ending source of inspiration for local cooks. For centuries, cooks of many cultures have made enthusiastic use of the abundant aquatic life all around them. Let's look at the best of Lowcountry cooking, including tons of top-rated recipes.

The Lowdown on Lowcountry Cuisine

Along the coast of South Carolina and Georgia lies a stretch of coastal plains, marshlands, swamps, and Sea Islands known as the Lowcountry. Here, French and West African culinary traditions came together to build a cuisine based on rice and the area's abundant seafood. Frogmore stew, for example, is a culinary creation credited to African-Americans of West African heritage known as the Gullah. If you use words like "goober" (for peanut) and "gumbo," you're speaking a bit of Gullah.

Old Charleston Style Shrimp and Grits | Photo by naples34102
| Credit: naples34102

Floribbean Cuisine

"Floribbean" cuisine reflects the long history of a land that has been fought over by French, Spanish, English, and Native Americans. Before European arrivals, Native Americans cooked with Florida's abundant local ingredients (like yucca, plantains, and hearts of palm). The Spanish arrived in the 1500s, bringing pigs and cattle. They also introduced slaves, who contributed foods like okra, callaloo (a kale-like vegetable), yams, and eggplant. Even today, there's room for continued culinary evolution as the Sunshine State proves to be a magnet for internal American migration.

Cuban arroz con pollo | Photo by Meredith

Cuban, Little Havana Style

Miami has the second largest Cuban population of any city in the world, behind only Havana. It's not surprising, then, that meals in Miami should have a Cuban accent. In fact, South Florida and Cuba share a common history: both lands were at one time claimed by Spain. Their close geographic proximity, the rush of Cuban immigrants into South Florida, and the wealth of foods indigenous to both places have eased the adaptation and evolution of Cuban cuisine in and around Miami.

Classic Cuban Midnight Sandwich | Photo by DIZ

Sensational Southeastern Seafood

For seafood lovers, the Southeast is the place to be. The Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean Sea provide fresh fish in abundance. Shrimp in these waters come in a variety of colors, though they all turn pink once cooked. Rock lobsters and stone crabs are also popular shellfish--almost too popular. In an attempt to preserve a dwindling stone crab population, fisherman now clip off the highly prized claws and return the crab unharmed to the water, where the claws grow back in a few short weeks.

SC Frogmore Stew | Photo by Kim's Cooking Now

Carolina Barbeque

In the South, barbeque fosters fierce loyalties. If you're eating barbeque in the Carolinas, chances are pretty good that you're enjoying pulled pork shoulder, cooked long and low over flavor-forging wood smoke. In North Carolina, expect a powerful tang of vinegar in your barbeque sauce. In South Carolina, mustard is a common base for tangy sauces.

Slow Cooker Carolina BBQ | Photo by Ryan Henderson

The Fruits of Their Labor

The southeast corner of the United States is a fruit basket for the nation. Georgia, the Peach State, produces more than 40 varieties of this stone fruit--and puts the peach front and center on their license plates. However, South Carolina actually produces more! The situation for citrus in the Southeast is also quite juicy. Florida provides 80 percent of our orange juice, and is no slouch at growing lemons, limes, grapefruit, and tangerines. Florida also produces avocados, mangos, and many other fruits.

Key Lime Pie VII | Photo by mmmelindy

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