Category Archives: Seafood Traditions

Nutrition Leaders: Betty Motes

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Betty Motes Photo by Scott Taylor

Betty Motes
Photo by Scott Taylor

A love of food and family run so deep in Betty Motes’ life that no line can divide them. Like many coastal North Carolina families, Motes’ mother and father farmed and fished, grew vegetables, and raised hogs and chickens to make a living.

“I grew up an only child in a home where good food was a way of showing love,” Motes says. “I didn’t learn to cook while growing up because the kitchen was my mother’s sanctuary.” But she watched, carefully, and learned the ways of the farm and food.

“My mother cooked fish at least once or twice a week, but they were always fried except for a baked flounder with bacon, potatoes and onions once in awhile,” she recalls. “We went clamming in the summer and bought oysters in the winter. We caught our own hard crabs in the summer. … My daddy loved soft crabs.

“We also canned fish roe, which we ate with eggs from our own chickens, for breakfast. My daddy went down to the menhaden fish boats in Beaufort and broke the fish to get the roe. Many in Carteret County did this.”

Find out more about Betty Motes and her fellow Nutrition Leaders in Mariner’s Menu: 30 Years of Fresh Seafood Ideas. It is available from North Carolina Sea Grant by calling 919/515-9101 or 252/222-6307, from your local bookstore, or from UNC Press.

Nutrition Leaders: Lissie McNamee

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Living on the coast has its advantages.

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Lissie McNamee
Photo by Scott Taylor

“I have my own gill net – 50 feet long – three crab pots and a rowboat,” says Lissie McNamee of Merrimon. “It’s just enough for me to go out there and catch a few mullet when I can on Cedar Creek off the Intercoastal Waterway. I do it right from my yard.”

She can dip her crab pots off the pier jutting from her house, too, for a few fresh blue crabs for dinner. “If you’ve got it right there in your front yard, you might as well learn how to harvest it,” she says.

McNamee has learned more than how to catch a crab in her 20-year tenure with the Nutrition Leaders. Before joining the group, McNamee had never cleaned a crab or filleted a fish. “I really only knew frying,” she recalls.

She grew up on a farm near Wilson’s Mills, the sixth of seven children, and learned basic cooking skills helping out in the kitchen.

“We had lots of vegetables. We grew our own,” she says. “And we raised our own beef and pork. Plus we had sheep, chickens and goats.”

Then in 1963 she had the good fortune to marry a man who caught, cleaned and cooked his own catch. For 16 years, her husband, Wayne, a commercial fisherman, brought home fresh snapper, shark, grouper and the likes straight from the sea.

Joining the Nutrition Leaders in the late 1980s taught McNamee even more ways to prepare their fresh-caught fare. Plus she learned how seafood helps fight fat.

Find out more about Lissie McNamee and her fellow Nutrition Leaders in Mariner’s Menu: 30 Years of Fresh Seafood Ideas. It is available from North Carolina Sea Grant by calling 919/515-9101 or 252/222-6307, from your local bookstore, or from UNC Press.

Nutrition Leaders: Anne Lawton

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Anne Lawton
Photo by Scott Taylor

When it comes to creating things, Anne Lawton’s hands could work magic. Whether working behind a kitchen counter or a craft table, Lawton could turn a few scraps of cloth into a pretty quilt or a handful of ingredients into a mouth-watering dish.

“She was an excellent cook, no matter what she made,” says her daughter, Anne Lawton of Morehead City. “She made a rice pilaf that you just made a pig out of yourself eating.” It wasn’t unusual to go back four or five times for “seconds” of her mom’s sumptuous shrimp, rice and bacon dish. Then there were the crab cakes and fruitcake, too.

“She had this big metal tin that she mixed the fruitcake in,” her daughter recalls. “I can just see her elbow-deep in the batter, stirring it with her hands.” Those fruitcakes tasted unlike any you could buy.

One of five children to grow up on a farm outside Summerville, S.C., Anne Smith married Elmore Lawton, an Army man, in 1939. The couple moved from station to station in Louisiana, California, Virginia, Austria, Japan and Pennsylvania, and raised five children before retiring to Carteret County in 1968.

Find out more about Anne Lawton and her fellow Nutrition Leaders  in Mariner’s Menu: 30 Years of Fresh Seafood Ideas. It is available from North Carolina Sea Grant by calling 919/515-9101 or 252/222-6307, from your local bookstore, or from UNC Press.

From: Mariner’s Menu: 30 Years of Fresh Seafood Ideas

Contributed by Joyce Taylor

Nutrition Leaders: Kay Holm

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Kay Holm Photo by Scott Taylor

Kay Holm
Photo by Scott Taylor

Squid. That was the first seafood ingredient Kay Holm was introduced to as the newest Nutrition Leader one day at the Seafood Lab in the early 1980s. “I looked at it and thought, ooooooh. But it was darned good!” says the long-time Merrimon resident. “We cleaned them. We fried them. Those things were buggers. But they were very, very good.” The group even served the recipe at Carteret County’s Strange Seafood Festival the following year, and she remembers people coming back for seconds.

In almost 20 years with Taylor and the Nutrition Leaders, Holm has learned a lot more, too, about other species, ways to cook seafood, herb and spice use, and entertaining with seafood.

“I learned a great deal about cooking fish,” she says. “I can look at a fish that comes out of the sea and say, ‘I think I know what I can do with it.’ ”

Find out more about Kay Holm and her fellow Nutrition Leaders in Mariner’s Menu: 30 Years of  Fresh Seafood Ideas. It is available from North Carolina Sea Grant by calling 919/515-9101 or 252/222-6307, from your local bookstore, or from UNC Press.

From: Mariner’s Menu: 30 Years of Fresh Seafood Ideas

Contributed by Joyce Taylor

Nutrition Leaders: Martha Giles

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Martha Giles Photo by Scott Taylor

Martha Giles
Photo by Scott Taylor

“I don’t really remember ‘learning’ to cook,” Martha Giles says. “We just did it, I guess from helping Mother,” back in her Chadbourne kitchen in Columbus County. “I do remember as a teenager baking on Saturday afternoons  homemade yeast rolls for hamburger buns for small family gatherings, lemon pies and cream puffs.”

Growing up close to the ocean, “We cooked a goodly amount of seafood, especially fish and oysters,” Giles recalls. “Our fish was usually fried or baked. But oysters  they were the best. I remember my mother bringing home quarts of shucked oysters that she bought from fishermen for about a dollar a quart. They were fried, stewed or my favorite, scalloped. Many were eaten raw.”

Marrying a fisherman  and a good cook himself  kept Giles close to the bounty of the sea. Often her husband, Thad, slipped down from Raleigh to Core Banks to fish for flounder, pompanos, bluefish and spots. Then they bought a little house near the water so he could stay a couple days at a time. In 1982 the Giles retired to Davis for good. Now they could fish whenever they wanted. Surf fishing mostly, for flounder, blues and spots. She remembers one trip, especially, when the fish were coming in so fast she recalls telling them to wait!

The Giles ate or froze their catch most of the time, or shared it with friends back in Raleigh. They baked or fried fish at first. Thad could make a mean tempura. And “I still can’t cook clam chowder (Manhattan-style) like he does. He likes to use the calico clams for this.”

Joining the Nutrition Leaders from the Gloucester Extension Club around 1985 opened Giles’ eyes to the possibilities and potential of seafood.

Find out more about Martha Giles and her fellow Nutrition Leaders in Mariner’s Menu: 30 Years of  Fresh Seafood Ideas. It is available from North Carolina Sea Grant by calling 919/515-9101 or 252/222-6307, from your local bookstore, or from UNC Press.

From: Mariner’s Menu: 30 Years of Fresh Seafood Ideas

Contributed by Joyce Taylor

Nutrition Leaders: Vera Gaskins

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Marrying a weekend angler in 1961 brought Vera Gaskins abruptly, but willingly, into the world of cooking seafood. A New Bern native, her husband, Walter, grew up by the water and fished every chance he got. He once even made the local paper Down East for reeling in two tarpon one year, as well as king mackerels and trout, his favorite.

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Vera Gaskins
Photo by Scott Taylor

“He loves the sport and I have always tried to use his catches to feed our family,” says Gaskins, a native of Alabama. Her sister-in-law passed along a few tips on frying oysters and fish, but for years Gaskins relied solely on the book The Art of Fish Cookery by Milo Miloradorvich for help and ideas. When she and her family moved to Carteret County in 1978, she came across a copy of Seafood Cookery, published by the Carteret County Home Extension office. “These two books were my only sources until I agreed to represent our local homemaker club as a Nutrition Leader” in 1982.

Before then, Gaskins fried 90 percent of the seafood she cooked. Now she bakes, grills, microwaves, stews, steams and fries. “I’m not afraid to experiment and alter recipes, and I no longer shy away from cooking seafood for a crowd — or opening freshly caught bay scallops and clams.”

Being a Nutrition Leader taught the former Emerald Isle mayor other valuable cooking lessons, too. Like keeping fish refrigerated before time to cook; pulling small bones out of fillets with pliers before cooking; baking fish only until it flakes; and using glass or non-metallic cookware for seafood. She notes she uses a lot less oil these days, too.

Find out more about Vera Gaskins and her fellow Nutrition Leaders in Mariner’s Menu: 30 Years of  Fresh Seafood Ideas. It is available from North Carolina Sea Grant by calling 919/515-9101 or 252/222-6307, from your local bookstore, or from UNC Press.

From: Mariner’s Menu: 30 Years of Fresh Seafood Ideas

Contributed by Joyce Taylor

Seafood Nutrition Leaders: Judy Blessing

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Judy Blessing Photo by Scott Taylor

Judy Blessing
Photo by Scott Taylor

Cod and canned tuna were about the only fish dishes on Judy Blessing’s menus before moving South. “Being from a Catholic family, I can remember eating fish every Friday,” recalls the Athol, Mass., native. “We only had cod with tartar sauce or tuna casserole. Nothing fancy.” Plus, she wasn’t allowed in the kitchen, either, except to do the dishes.

All that changed when she married her husband, Frank, in 1977, and moved on board a 32-foot sailboat dubbed “Moon Mist.” For six years, the newlyweds toured the world, sailing to the Caribbean, Ireland, England, the Mediterranean and finally the South. In 1983, they docked their boat in Beaufort, becoming the first to tie up at the new downtown dock. They started a farm and settled into the county where they knew they could farm and fish.

Find out more about Judy Blessing and her fellow Nutrition Leaders in Mariner’s Menu: 30 Years of  Fresh Seafood Ideas. It is available from North Carolina Sea Grant by calling 919/515-9101 or 252/222-6307, from your local bookstore, or from UNC Press.

From: Mariner’s Menu: 30 Years of Fresh Seafood Ideas

Contributed by Joyce Taylor