Here on the coast of South Carolina, it’s the time of year when the shrimp boats are blessed by local ministers. Blessings and prayers are made for a safe season and a bountiful catch. There are also many seafood festivals along the coastline for shrimp and blue crab. [Oyster season is traditionally over until next fall.]
Since it is seafood festival season, I was curious about the story behind Old Bay seasoning.
Old Bay hails from the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. It was created by Gustav Brunn, a German immigrant, in the early 1940s. It contains allspice, bay leaf, black pepper, cardamom, celery seed, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, mace, nutmeg, paprika, red pepper, and salt. (In recent years, a lower salt variety has been introduced to the product line.)
Old Bay was named for the Old Bay Line, a steamship that made regular trips between Baltimore and Norfolk in the early 20th century.
It’s trademark packaging is a mustard yellow canister or label, with 2 perpendicular royal blue bands on the left side. In the horizontal blue bar, OLD BAY is written in bold white capital letters. Seventy years later, the packaging has a unmistakable look and a vintage quality. Old Bay had consistent branding, long before everyone was talking about the importance of “branding”. And it continues today.
In the Chesapeake area, Old Bay is offered as a condiment in movie theaters, at delis, sandwich franchises, and many restaurants. In other areas, Old Bay is available at any establishment serving fish and shellfish.
While it was designed for seafood, other uses include seasoning popcorn, cooked eggs, potato chips, tater tots, french fries, corn on the cob, and salads.