North Myrtle Beach man cooks up plan to make seafood gumbo SC's official historic dish

South Carolina has an official state bird, state flower and even state fossil. So why not an official state historic dish?

A North Myrtle Beach man is pushing for one, though many may think the dish he has in mind already belongs to another state.

When you hear the word gumbo you might think of Louisiana, but Ed Mueller said seafood gumbo really started in South Carolina.

Mueller sells frozen and packaged versions of his Carolina Gumbaya in retail stores along the South Carolina coast, including Harrelson's Seafood Market in Murrells Inlet.

Mueller's product has only been on the market for about a year, but he said seafood gumbo goes all the way back to the 1600s in South Carolina.

It was first made by slaves from West Africa.

"It started off as an okra stew, and then as it evolved. Rice was added to it and shrimp and sausage and chicken and whatever you wanted to put in it," said Mueller.

Mueller said that history would make seafood gumbo the perfect choice to be South Carolina's official historical dish.

He said Governor Nikki Haley seems interested in the idea.

"We did talk with the governor at the specialty foods meeting back in April. She was very receptive to it," he said.

Sure, Louisiana claims gumbo as its official dish, but Mueller said that state didn't latch onto it until 1804.

He said South Carolina has that beat by 200 years.

"We don't want to take it away (from Louisiana). We can share, OK? And this is our 'historical' state dish, it's their 'cuisine' state dish," Mueller said.

Whether it helps his business or not, Mueller said the push for an official designation is really all about tourism, giving the state's restaurants something new to promote and visitors a new dish to seek out.

The state already has a barbeque trail, he said, so why not a gumbo trail?

"And every stand and every berg that's from here on down the coast can promote gumbo as a state historical dish, and I think it would help everybody," Mueller said.

Mueller said he'll talk with the governor's legal counsel about the issue soon. The legislature would have to approve any official designation, but he said he's pursuing every angle.

South Carolina already has an official state fruit, vegetable, and snack food. Those are peaches, collard greens and boiled peanuts, respectively.