Shrimp boils are something in which many on the Coast take great pride. Some may even elevate that pride to the level of being boastful or bragging — everyone thinks their method for a shrimp boil is the best.
Pat Taranto is an expert on the art of the shrimp boil. He was at a familiar spot Saturday as he was boiling thousands of pounds of shrimp, potatoes and corn for the Fais Do-Do at Point Cadet. The Biloxi Shrimp Festival is part of the 88th Annual Blessing of The Fleet.
“I’ve been doing this since 1985,” Taranato said. “I’ve been doing it for the Shrimp Festival since they brought it back because there were a few years when they didn’t have it.”
Taranto said he started cooking around 9:30 a.m. using a custom-made cooker.
“I can boil about 300 pounds of shrimp, corn and potatoes at once,” he said. “This shrimp was caught in the Gulf last night.”
But don’t bother asking Taranto the secret to his shrimp boil because he will not tell you.
“It’s a very simple recipe,” he said. “I just know how to use the right amount of the ingredients.”
And yes, sweet potato pies
There was plenty of shrimp for sale at the festival, of course, but some Gulfport vendors were also trying their luck at selling slices of sweet potato pie.
Zarnika Fikes and Yolanda Keys of Jessie Mae’s Backyard Cooking in Gulfport were offering up fresh-fried catfish fillets and jalapeno hushpuppies at their booth. Keys said the sweet potato pie was a secret family recipe.
“They are delicious and the recipe has been in my family for generations,” she said.