This time of year is my favorite reason to be a Lowcountry resident.
And it’s not because it’s warm enough to go to the beach without feeling like I’m there just to rub it in the face of the landlocked Midwest, or because my neighborhood pool is open, or because it stays brighter longer every day so I can pretend I’m not a hermit when I finally make it outside at the end of the day and it’s still light out.
Nope. It’s because of the food.
Spring in the Lowcountry means a festival every weekend — and usually one centered on some sort of edible delight. The Hilton Head Seafood Festival. Wingfest. The Bluffton Village Festival.
But none of these, in my humble opinion as a festival connoisseur, can hold a candle to A Taste of Beaufort, which will be held this weekend at Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park in downtown Beaufort.
Seriously. I wait all year for this one weekend, when I can essentially eat my way across the city of Beaufort all in one afternoon.
And, you guys, the food is just so good. And there’s just so much of it. The shrimp from Plums. The pizza from Upper Crust. The barbecue. The shrimp burgers from Barbara Jean’s. The sliders from Luther’s Rare and Well-Done. Last year, I was even brave enough to try some fried alligator. A little salty, but otherwise it did, in fact, taste like chicken. Although, to be honest, if you put ketchup on it, I’ll eat it, no questions asked.
There are at least 15 local restaurants lined up along the waterfront, ripe for the snacking, plus music, an arts and crafts market and a Friday night shagging party, which I always think sounds dirtier than it actually is and would probably be a good time if I had any sense of rhythm or grace at all.
Last year, I came prepared to eat. I brought my own napkins (look, sometimes a girl spills, OK? You try balancing a shrimp burger, a cup of oysters and a plate of sliders in one hand and see how graceful you are when it comes time to shovel it in your mouth); I wore a looser-fitting sundress that could accommodate a second helping of ice cream from Berry Island Cafe; and I hadn’t eaten anything for about 36 hours, the better to cram a bite of every morsel available from every restaurant in town down my gullet.
But I made a crucial mistake: I didn’t hydrate properly, and I left the house without my SPF 30.
End result: A mild case of heat stroke exacerbated by what some might call overindulgence, but I consider equal-opportunity eating — and the worst sunburn ever seen in the history of time.
I wish I were exaggerating, but thanks to some unfortunate sleeve/neckline action, I was cherry red across half my chest and one arm, but Casper the Friendly Ghost white everywhere else. And I’ve never rocked such severe flip-flop tan. I didn’t take my shoes off in front of people for weeks.
But did I mention the shrimp burgers? So, so worth it.
So this weekend, be there or be hungry. But, for the love of everything deep-fried: Don’t forget the sunblock and wear pants with a little bit of give in the waistband. Now is not the time to be vain; there’s some seriously good eating at stake.
Ellis Harman is copy desk chief at The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette. Follow her at twitter.com/LifeIsLikeBlog.