23 February 2015

Catering to Charleston

On this cold and gloomy day the mind wanders to the warn, ocean blown streets of Charleston and the gentility that comes to mind.  Frances Hamby was the premiere caterer in Charleston, South Carolina.  Hamby Catering is still the cater to call for everything from bridge luncheons to elegant weddings.

Since Hamby catered most Charleston events, it has been said that more than one dowager existed almost exclusively on Hamby's food.  The menus are so ubiquitous that walking into an event, most women can tell which catering plan the hostess had opted to order.

Fran Hamby began in the "business" when she catered her daughter's wedding reception.  It was so successful that the elite of Charleston began to call Mrs. Hamby wherever they needed a party.  The rest, as they say, is history.

After years of being "The" caterer to Charleston, Mrs. Hamby collected her recipes in Catering to Charleston.   The book is filled with recipes and tips for successful events.  It is interspersed with poems and recollections from Elizabeth Bullock Godfrey, a close friend and lifelong Charlestonian.  Both food and history fall off the pages and while it is true that most every kitchen in Charleston has a copy of Catering to Charleston most people in Charleston simply call up Hamby.

Sadly, we are not in Charleston.  If there is a quintessential Hamby recipe, it might just be the shrimp paste.  We admit that the term "shrimp paste" seems a tad unappealing, but it is quite magical.  While the recipe suggests serving with crackers, it is the essential ingredient in shrimp sandwiches.  A thin layer on very white bread that has been denuded of any speck of crust and cut into a three bite serving.   Dowagers aside, this is a diet we would be happy to live on.

Mrs. Patrick's Shrimp Paste

1 pound medium sized shrimp, cooked, peeled, and deveined
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
1/4 teaspoon celery seeds
1/4 teaspoon minced onions
Juice of half a lemon
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1/2 cup mayonnaise or more to bind mixture
Assorted mild crackers

In a food processor, coarsely chop shrimp.  Combine together shrimp, salt, celery seeds, onions, juice and Tabasco.  Add mayonnaise and store until mixture holds together.  Cover and refrigerate.  Serve with mild crackers.

Ah to be in Charleston.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting post and I wish I were in Charleston! I'll have to check out the cookbook, it sounds great!


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