So my mother was regaling me tonight with stories of the various gin joints that HER mum (my now-dead grandmother) had owned in eastern Ohio back in the '30s -40s era. Amongst many other things, I asked whether any of these establishments served food, and if so what, and she mentioned one was known for its spaghetti, and another for its breaded, fried shrimp. That last one brought me up short; just when did places a great distance from the seashore start serving things like fried shrimp, that clearly needed continuous freezing till they were ready to be used? Obviously, this was sometime after the advent of cold storage and probably relied upon refrigerated rail transport, but that doesn’t pin it down more precisely than, I suppose, sometime after 1900. So does anyone know when frozen seafood started to become popular in inland restaurants?
The earliest newspaper cites for “breaded shrimp” that I can find date from 1926…
and that was a restaurant serving “breaded shrimp on toast”
and that was in Bismark, North Dakota. How’s that for “inland” ??
1926 is probably about as far back as it’ll go. Clarence Birdseye was just developing modern food freezing methods in the mid-1920’s.
I’m not sure if it helps in the search, but breaded shrimp is AKA ‘scampi’ around these parts, although I think that term (as applied specifically to the breaded presentation) arose fairly recently, perhaps in the 1960s or something - the product itself will have been around for a fair bit longer, I’d imagine.
The first refrigerated railway cars (boxcars filled with ice) were introduced in 1857 (source ), and the first refrigerated cargo ship, the Frigorifique, sailed in 1876. (The first practical refrigerated ship, the Paraguay, sailed a year later.) I’m not sure when refrigerated railway cars were first used to ship seafood, but the technology would have existed at least from around 1860. (Perhaps shrimp was available inland after the Civil War or during Reconstruction.) Of course, people who lived in coastal regions where shrimp was available would have had access to it before then, but I have no idea when they started breading shrimp. Anyway, refrigerated railway cars were around before mechanical refrigeration; they were essentially iceboxes on wheels, but they did exist.
Why does it have to be frozen? Shrimp and other seafood keep very well when iced properly, and can be shipped long distances quickly by truck or rail. Actually, I rather doubt that a tavern was serving frozen shrimp, simply because it would be cheaper to make it yourself from fresh shrimp shipped in on ice. Fresh seafood has been available in most major inland cities for over a hundred years.
According to The Blessed Delia:
Which suggests that breaded shrimp (or at least calling it “breaded shrimp”) is fairly new. Along the seacoast, shrimp has been eaten for centuries.
Good question. I assumed it was, but maybe the tavern had fresh shrimp brought in and breaded it on the premises. In further conversation with my mother, however, it seems the tavern stored the shrimp in a refrigerated room (previously used for ice cream) and this is where I got the notion that it was frozen.
Thanks to everyone who has replied so far.
This may be a hijack but I know “breaded” shrimp as shrimp that have been treated with some compound like bicarbonate of soda so that they would absorb water from the ice they were packed in and weigh more. Less shrimp per pound=higher grade=more money. I think that they cut your dick off for doing that these days.
Well, since the ancient romans had both bread, flour, eggs, and shrimp, and since they loved to fry things in olive oil, I’d be very surprised if breaded shrimp wasn’t being cooked up over 2000 years ago.
This recipe has ancient roman recipes and cooking techniques. While it doesn’t have breaded shrimp, I can’t imagine that item got neglected after perusing how they did cook things.