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From June, 2008.

Sort of.

I recently entered the “Share Your Discovery Contest: Presented by Tava.” A food writing contest that highlights my single favorite food discovery in my city. I chose Mobile’s most cherished contribution to the culinary world, West Indies Salad. I was the runner-up to Choked Up With Happy Eating Tears and Adventures in Bento Making.  When you’re done you’re going to want a recipe so HERE it is.  Below is my article:

West Indies Salad – Mobile, Alabama

Mobile, Alabama is one of the oldest cities in the new world but these days seems to languish in the shadow of nearby New Orleans. The irony of the situation is that the thing N’awlins is best known for, Mardi Gras, actually started in Alabama’s port city half a century before there was a City that Care Forgot. Members of Mobile’s oldest parading krewe, Cowbellion de Rankin, ventured west in the mid 1700’s to teach the folks in the newly established settlement on the Mississippi River how to celebrate Fat Tuesday. That’s not all the two cities share either. Gumbo? Mobile has it. Fried catfish? Mm hmm, that, too. Antebellum homes, spooky grave yards, and ancient oak tress draped in Spanish Moss? Check, check, and double check.

But Mobile can lay claim to something no one else on the Gulf Coast can . . . it is the birthplace of West Indies Salad. Never heard of it? That is a shame for it is one of the true delicacies of the new world easily on par with Beluga caviar or Kobe beef.

Bill Bayley was a big man usually seen chewing a cigar. As as chef, he traveled the world but in 1947 he and his wife, Ethyl, opened a little shanty south of Mobile in an area that now bears his name, Bayley’s Corner. Mr. Bayley often romanticized that he was inspired to create his signature offering after a lobster dish he encountered while traveling the West Indian island as a mariner. Presumably that dish was civiche, a recipe where seafood like lobster, fish, or shrimp is chemically cooked in the acid of fresh citrus juice.

Mr. Bayley’s recipe substitutes citrus juice with vinegar and employees only one protein, lump white crabmeat from Gulf blue crabs. The recipe’s brilliance lies in its simplicity – over night marinate the crabmeat with finely minced red onion in a solution of apple cider vinegar and ice water seasoned with only salt and pepper. The resulting decadence is equally at home as a luxurious garnish for a perfectly cooked fillet and a glass of fine Bordeaux or alone with a sleeve of saltines and a pitcher of sweet tea.

Mr. Bayley wasn’t done creating legendary recipes. In the 1960’s he was the first to dust crab claws with cornmeal then fry them up crisp and brown. Bayley’s restaurant is still open today and it still serves fresh caught Gulf seafood – Wednesday nights enjoy all-you-can-eat fish and grits, Thursdays all-you-can-eat fried shrimp. Bayley’s Restuant is located at 10805 Dauphin Island Pkwy. Theodore, AL. Call 251-973-1572 for directions.

Although fried crab claws are the better know culinary contribution, West Indies Salad remains the quintessential food of Mobile.

Stuart Reb Donald

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Stuart in 80 Words or Less
Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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Stuart’s Honors & Awards
2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up
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