Last Light over Carolina ***.* by Mary Alice Monroe
I’m joining Jain with my Edible Book Review at Food for Thought, where pages from your book magically mix with the kitchen and your camera.
This book revolves around a life, a livelihood and a family legacy of shrimping. Set in the coastal setting of McClellanville, SC~ Shrimper Bud Morrison and his wife Carolina are struggling to make ends meet with rising fuel costs in a shrinking industry~ due to an increasing influx of foreign shrimp. Straining finances and long separations have taken their toll on Bud and Carolina’s 30-year marriage.
The story begins when Bud, in his haste and the promise of ‘one good haul’ to pay his diesel fuel bill, leaves without his crew member, and does not return from his normal morning excursion. Events transpire that threaten to change their lives forever~ with both characters reflecting on their life together and flashbacks from both perspectives. I found some of the back story of their relationship a little tiresome, but I understand the purpose of it in establishing a history for these characters. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the setting of this story.
“For three generations, the pull of the tides drew Morrison men to the sea. Attuned to the moon, they rose before first light to board wooden shrimp boats and head slowly across the black water, the heavy green nets posed like folded wings. Tales of the sea were whispered to them in their mothers’ laps, they earned their sea legs as they learned to walk, and they labored on the boats soon after. Shrimping was all they knew or ever wanted to know. It was in their blood.”
“A good captain knew the uncharted bottom of the sea like the back of his hand. Where the rocks hid that could snag and tear his nets, where the sunken vessels lay like dangerous skeletons, and where the tall grass could swamp his engine. The captain knew, better than any fancy high-tech equipment, where the shrimp were. His tools were experience and instinct.”
“Fishermen were a suspicious lot. They needed—and took—all the good luck they could get and were careful to ward off the bad. Oz had passed on secrets to Bud that his father had shared with him, and likewise Bud has passed them on to Josh and Will: That shrimping was best under the light of a full moon. That a fisherman never, not ever, whistled on deck because it scared the fish away.”
“She paused, lost in a vision of the winding creeks that spread out like arteries through the thick green marsh. They were never afraid of the funny, darting fiddler crabs that scurried across the pluff mud, each with its oversize claw raised in a threatening stance. She’d point out the serene white ibis resting among tall green fronds and the proud blue heron with a fish in it beak. They’d lie on their backs and search the sky for the soaring ospreys that, from time to time, tucked in their winds and dove into the water, shattering its stillness to emerge victorious with dripping fish in their talons.”
“The winch wailed again as it pulled up the main net. She tensed as the wood plank doors emerged, the cable clanging loudly amid a cacophony of screaming gulls. They formed a white cloud above the net as it slowly emerged, dripping, from the sea. The frenzied birds dove for any spare bits of shrimp or fish that might tumble from the bag, white below bottlenose dolphins arced and slipped alongside the boat, eager the feast sure to come.”
“It was nearing eleven in the morning, and the blazing sun had bleached the ocean to a pastel blue. She loved to hear the sounds of the seabirds around her and to watch the pelicans fly in formation like bombardiers on patrol. Below, she spotted three dolphins racing alongside the boat, keeping pace. From time to time, one leaped above the water as if in play. She laughed aloud, delighting at the glistening silver body and the sheer joy of a spectacle that never grew old.”
Of course, Food for Thought revolves around Shrimp and is reminiscent of a scene from Forrest Gump ~ with boiled shrimp, fried shrimp, shrimp salad, shrimp kebabs. . . a laundry list of ways to prepare it.
A little Forrest Gump humor for Food for Thought~
Prepare yourselves for a Shrimp Extravaganza. . . first up, Shrimp & Grits~
Shrimp & Grits, recipe courtesy Southern Living
“The seasons flowed one into the next like the creek outside their home. White roe shrimp in the spring, brown shrimp in the summer, then the white shrimp that hatched in the spring came back again in the fall. Life was good.”
Shrimp Bruschetta~ grilled shrimp, tomato, basil, olive oil & garlic
Prep: 20 min., Cook: 3 min., Chill: 24 hrs
Yield: Makes 12 to 15 appetizer servings
7 1/2 cups water
1 box Crab & Shrimp Boil seasoning
3 pounds unpeeled, large fresh shrimp
2 small red onions, sliced
2 lemons, thinly sliced
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup red wine vinegar
1 -4 oz. jar of capers, drained
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon white wine Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon hot sauce
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
1. Bring 7 1/2 cups water and contents of seasoning box to a boil; add shrimp, and cook 2 to 3 minutes or until shrimp turn pink. Drain and rinse with cold water. Peel shrimp, and, if desired, devein.
2. Layer shrimp, red onion slices, and lemon slices in an airtight container.
3. Whisk together vegetable oil and next 8 ingredients; pour over shrimp. Cover and chill 24 hours, stirring occasionally.
“The sun manifested her power, piercing the gray to burnish the sky in burned orange…”
Last but not least, a recent repeat from Food for Thought, Frogmore Stew, or Lowcountry Boil~
A recipe if needed, for this one-pot wonder, here.
“The great flaming orb took center stage, glorying in her resplendent beauty as she descended slowly, delicately, soundlessly into the ocean. The sea welcomed her, absorbing her colors, reflecting her brilliance in its shimmering water. The sky and sea danced a duet of unsurpassed beauty and incomparable grace. It was a gift to behold. The coup de grace before darkness fell.”
“The Blessing of the Fleet is an ancient ritual dating back to the Council of Nicea in AD 325, based on the belief that all people were called upon by God to be good to one another and responsible steward of the earth. In return, God blessed them with their survival and a bountiful catch.”
“Fishing was an ancient tradition, thousands of years old. What was true for the fishermen in AD 325 was still true for them today. People were more alike than they were different. They were all drops in the same great sea. Bud knew others would lead better lives if they shared his vantage point. But everyone was the captain of his own ship. That was something that each person had to discover on his own time. Bud bowed his head as the Miss Carolina received her blessing.”
“The shrimp boats moved in a graceful line through the muddy water, their flags and streamers flapping in the wind. One by one, they rounded the curve and disappeared, heading out to the sea.”
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