The mulberries and loquats we harvested as kids in Charleston, South Carolina, were more for throwing than for eating. But even as we beaned our friends (and more than a few horse-carriage tours), that simple act of picking around the peninsula at a young age played a part in what inspires us about food today, especially here in Charleston where raw materials are abundant and memorable. These days, a beach walk on Sullivan’s Island typically ends with a thirty-minute smilax-gathering session. Walking past our neighbor Nathalie Dupree’s garden, we can’t resist picking one of its exotic enticements—kaffir lime leaf, lemon grass, banana flowers—to bring back to our kitchen.
“How y’all doin’ on bugs?” the customer asks. He wants five pounds of Louisiana’s matchless mud-dwellers, boggy bottom-feeders, the pride of Vermilion Parish. Crawfish. Tanner Choate—sixteen years old and the most dapper dude in the local seafood restaurant industry—like a velvet-rope bouncer, checks his sketchpad with its columns of Cajun surnames and numbers, crunches the data, and affirms, “Yeah, we can fit you in.”