Shrimp Wars: Calling Bullshit

Gulf brown shrimp have a bold iodine tang.
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I like the iodine flavor of Gulf brown shrimp, especially in gumbos and other highly seasoned dishes. Alison Cook, the restaurant critic at the


, hates the taste of iodine in seafood. And she is trashing the local shrimp.

In an October 7 post on her Cook’s Tour blog titled “Dateline Charleston S.C.: hardly a bad shrimp to be had” Cook wrote:

“I have to think that this is shrimp heaven. I wonder what makes the Carolina shrimp different from our Gulf varieties, which can disappoint as often as they please…”

Cook is a good friend and has felt free to “call bullshit” on me in the past. So I sent her a private e-mail that read in its entirety:

My Dearest Alison-
My turn to call bullshit.
I adore that bold iodine flavor in seafood.
In Gulf shrimp, in European (O. edulis) oysters, and in fresh raw sea urchins.
It is natural and it belongs there.
If you don't like it, fine--but how dare you say that Gulf shrimp are bad because you don't like that flavor!
Some chefs seek out high iodine seafood because their customers love it!

for example “In Chicago, however, a more pronounced flavor is regarded as a virtue, at least when it comes to shrimp cocktail. "From our tastings, we found that the Gulf brown [shrimp] were the most well received in the Midwest" because it has "more iodine flavor than the Gulf white," explains Yves Roubaud, chef of Shaw's Crab House in Chicago. Five 1-ounce Gulf browns go into the $7.95 shrimp cocktail at Shaw's.

Cook reprinted my e-mail under a blog post titled “Shrimp Wars!” and asked for reader opinions. She’s gotten quite a few.

But the debate has been a little one-sided so far. So now it’s time for Eating…Our Words, the Houston Press food blog, to respond with a few observations of our own. – Robb Walsh

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