South Carolina’s Gumbo Lobby Awakens

Plus: Eat of the Sea

By Eva Moore
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Shrimp and grits might be a more obvious choice, but Ed Mueller is lobbying for gumbo to be named S.C.'s state dish.

If you thought people got worked up over the idea of making barbecue the state’s official picnic food, wait till you get a load of this: A Lowcountry businessman who moved here last year from Michigan is lobbying state leaders for gumbo to become the state of South Carolina’s official dish. (Perhaps it’s no surprise that he’s also started a business selling prepackaged gumbo.)

It’s not New Orleans gumbo that Ed Mueller is pitching, but Lowcountry gumbo, an okra-heavy concoction featuring shrimp and crab.

However, as Hanna Raskin writes in the Post and Courier this week, although there is a distinct gumbo with South Carolina coastal roots, it’s not exactly the state’s most notable or historic dish.

Food historian David Shields at the University of South Carolina told Raskin there are plenty of better candidates.

“There were other dishes far more characteristic: perloo, chicken bog, pine bark stew, shrimp pie,” Shields said. “The 20th century saw shrimp and grits, she-crab soup, mustard-style barbecue.”

Mueller is prepared for those arguments: He told Raskin he’s pushing gumbo “because he suspects someone eventually might want to make a state dish case on behalf of shrimp and grits,” Raskin writes.

Of the candidates Shields names, perloo (also purloo, pilau, perlow, etc.) actually seems like the best idea to us here at Chew On This. The one-pot dish is usually made with poultry or seafood and veggies plus rice, perhaps the state’s most important historic crop: During colonial times, South Carolina produced more rice than anywhere in the country, for export all over the world; and rice worked its way firmly into the state’s food traditions, especially along the coast. Plus, perloo is fun to write and say. (It’s usually pronounced “PER-loh”.)

Would state legislators ever get behind such a humble dish as perloo, with its roots in Africa and the slave trade? Maybe it’s time.

At any rate, Free Times hasn’t yet seen a formal state dish proposal we can get behind.

Eat of the Sea
Want some seafood without venturing to the Lowcountry? Check out the Sea to Table dinner Thursday, June 26, at City Roots, the final Farm to Table dinner before things shut down for the hot summer. The four-course meal costs $75 and features she-crab panna cotta, a shrimp remoulade with a hoecake crumble, seared and smoked mahi-mahi and more. Visit the Farm to Table Event Company’s Facebook page for a link to online ticket sales and more information.

Eau Claire Hosts Fish Fry
Feeling less fancy than all that? Just want some plain old fried fish? This Friday, the Eau Claire Community Council hosts a fish fry from 4 to 8 p.m. Dinner is $10, which includes fried fish and bread, naturally, along with sweet potato fries and cole slaw or pasta salad, plus iced tea or lemonade. Prefer a sandwich? That’s $4.50. The fish fry is at 830 Wildwood Ave. All proceeds will go toward neighborhood outreach by the council, which is an umbrella organization for some 40 neighborhood groups in north Columbia. Visit to buy tickets online, or call 754-2407 or 420-2106. 

Let us know what you think: Email

More Food + Drink

Enter to win tickets to see the Harlem Globetrotters
Enter to win tickets to SCSM's Museum of Oz
Enter to win tickets to Columbia City Ballet's Gala with a Bite and Dracula
Free Times Now Hiring
Download the Free Times app
Subscribe to Free Times newsletters