Monday, August 18, 2008

Shark Steak Don't Need No Gravy

Back in the days before the shark became an icon of film horror, it was food. Certainly no one ever underestimated the predator, but plenty of other creatures in the water would sting, cut, gnaw or eat one. The ideas was to eat them before they ate you. He who caught then sold or ate them was ahead of the game in the far leaner periods of Charleston's history.

Long before fishing became a sport in our local and off shore waters, it was a means of making a living even one of survival. Throughout our history continuing into the 1950s, the streets of Charleston would ring out with the cries of vendors hawking their fish, shrimp and crabs. They called out, " shrimp man " or " shrimp raw " or otherwise broadcast their catches of that day. They pushed weathered wooden carts through which melting ice dripped to the street. At one corner of the cart would be a davit which suspended a scale and beneath that was the weighing pan. This was their only Point of Sale device. The fish you bought from these fellows was a bit this side of Sashimi grade. Charleston had not yet mounted that high epicurean horse which it rides today.

One of the well known promotional jingles held that:
"Shark steak don't need no gravy,
Put 'em in the pot,
They make they own.."

Fashion often shifts the trends in our preferred foods, but in some neighborhoods old tastes endure. In the photo C&J Pantry on Spruill Avenue still keeps the faith. Consider CJ's as one of the last outposts.


Blogger chucker said...

Growing up on Society Street in Ansonborough, we heard the sing-song of vendors.

My brothers and I chased the ice wagon to get cold slivers to slurp on during the dog days of August.

Remember the printed card you put in the window to tell the ice man your needs for the day?

One edge had a large 25, the next 50 and the third 75.

You would indicate the amount of ice you needed by placing the card with the large figure shown at the top.

Thanks for the memory-flogger.

8:33 AM  
Blogger Windviel said...

"Sing-song", yes, that's the expression for the vendor's pitch which has been stuck in the back seat of our memory.

Lou Rawls is the only "iceman" which some ever knew, but how well we remember the guy with the block of ice clasped in those formidable tongs. When we vexed the iceman he would gesture toward us with the tongs suggesting that our head might end up where the ice had been. Of course, hauling 75 pounds of ice up flights of stairs would make a fellow cross at the end of a long summer day.

10:25 AM  

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