But give me just one second to explain how this all got started—and it was over a bowl of turtle soup privately served to me by the boys over at Shady Grove Foods. Amid a fan for the heat and a pleasant nighttime vibe, father-and-son team David and Dennis Robicheau offered me and other friends a bowl of the formerly-worldwide and, in the case of the U.S., Creole classic.
Rich, beef-like, savory… It was like tasting something simultaneously familiar and new. And it felt worth sharing.
Yes, this was turtle soup—specifically snapper soup.
Before becoming completely offended—and I get that, genuinely; turtles (though not necessarily the particular one used for this soup, the vicious and never-featured-in-“Finding Nemo” snapper turtle—the rich, complicated history of turtle soup is something that has long been lost in the American food lexicon.
Graphic by James Tir.
While the boys have long wanted to share this soup, they’re obviously hesitant: Even the mention of the word “turtle” easily evokes a hard pass from many.
And what this lost history-slash-hard pass sentiment opens up are questions we need to be asking: How was a soup so popular that it was once canned by Campbell’s is now, well, blacklisted to some extent? What were the origins of eating turtle and how did colonization, class, and media affect its consumption? As meat eaters, why do we choose to easily consume some animals over others?
That’s what we’re going to explore, among other things, at this dinner.
Surely, snapper soup will be a highlight but there will be explorations of other Creole and Cajun creations, including the history behind the fried ball of goodness that is calas, along with why Shady Grove Food calls its smoked meats “Long Beach barbecue.”
This is an exploration of food on all levels—and it is one I hope you will join with myself and friends.