May 27 2009

Lowcountry Love

Published by at 12:30 pm under Travel

“I need a vacation, please.” I demanded for the hundredth time that week.

“Mmm, yeah, that’d be fun.” Ben replied, distractedly.

“NO, you don’t understand.” I grabbed his shoulders and pivoted him away from the TV until he faced me squarely, our noses nearly touching. “Take. Me. On. Vacation.”

Maybe it’s because we haven’t gone much of anywhere all winter. Maybe it was the hint of crazy in my eyes. But somehow, a few weekends ago, I found myself whisked away to Charleston, S.C., for a long weekend.

Ben and I are born-and-bred Richmond, Virginians. As the former capital of the Confederate States, you’d think that Richmond would fiercely identify with its Southern heritage and everything that goes along with that title. And we do. Woo boy, do we ever. But truth be told, Richmond is a land divided. Flanked on one side by the small southern-traditional towns of Southeastern Virginia, and on the other by the D.C.-sprawl of bustling Northern Virginia, we’re torn between our Confederate heritage and our proximity to those damn Yankees that have been creeping their way down to warmer climates ever since the unfortunate conclusion to the War between the States.

But there’s no getting around it in South Carolina: you are in The American South. The rootin’-tootin’, chicken-fryin’, Bible-thumpin’ South. To wit: South Carolinians still spark debates over whether or not to fly a Confederate flag over the capitol building. South Carolina: the answer is no.

Any place where you can revel in balmy temperatures, thick, slow accents and loads of butter is a fine vacation to me.

Charleston has preserved its historic glory more than any place I’ve ever been, despite becoming a tourist hub. Once you step into the famous “below Broad” neighborhood, you are whisked away to the antebellum South: sitting on your porch swing, wearing a corset and sipping your mint juleps. We were walking through the historic district (the second-largest historic district in the world behind Rome!), when I stopped suddenly.

“It’s so..it’s so…quiet.” I said, incredulously. Not even the faint hum of traffic pierced the humid, honeysuckle-scented air.

Of course Ben didn’t respond. He was too distracted. By what, you ask? By this:
Charleston, South Carolina, historic district

Yep. Someone actually lives there. And in the house beside it that’s just as huge and gorgeous. And in the one beside THAT that’s even more huge and gorgeous. And on and on it goes.
Charleston

Of course, we did a little more than wander around the historic district and take carriage rides while in the heart of the Lowcountry. Okay, we did a lot more. And, let me tell you, it was DELICIOUS.

Oh, sweet, sweet, heavenly Charleston, how I long for thy tasty morsels.

Please, let me take you on a culinary tour of Charleston as I revel in the delicious memories. I’ll be brief.

Cornbread with honey and butter.
Shrimp po’boy.
Basket of pecan fried chicken.
Mac’n'cheese.
Fried okra.
Sweet potato pancakes (best pancakes OF MY LIFE. Get thee to Joseph’s, friend.)
Shrimp and grits.
Grits grits grits.
Fried green tomatoes.
Bacon bacon bacon.
Stuffed french toast.

STOP. I must end lest I drool on my keyboard.

"Charleston Receipts" Junior League cookbook

In the midst of this shameless weekend-long gluttonfest, while shopping in the open-air market near the waterfront, we ran across a copy of the famed Charleston Receipts for sale at one of the stands.

This ain’t no ordinary cookbook, y’all. This is the original Charleston Junior League cookbook, and the oldest of its kind in print.

It wasn’t until the six-hour car ride home that I got a chance to take a peak inside, and, wow, was I ever in for a treat.

I opened the book up to find an entire chapter devoted to grits (also known as hominy, and apparently, grist):

An entire chapter for grits

Please note the line of Gullah that precedes each chapter. Gullah is creole language still spoken by many descendants of slaves in the region. From what I understand, it’s the language that evolved from the combination of English and African dialects. In case you can’t read it:

“Man w’en ‘e hongry, ‘e teck sum egg or cheese an’ ting an’ eat till e’ full. But ‘ooman boun’ fuh meck wuck an’ trouble. ‘E duh cook!”

Translation? “When a man is hungry, he takes some eggs or cheese and things and eats until he is full, but a woman is bound to make work and trouble. She cooks!”

Duh.

WHY is there a whole chapter on grits? How many ways could you possible cook grits, you ask?
So many ways to enjoy Hominy
Boiled, baked, pressure cooked, fried… and when I turned the page, I discovered, amongst even more grits recipes, a recipe for “Hominy Surprise!”

Please note how all of the women identify themselves by their husband’s name. She’s Mrs. Louis T. Parker! And a proper married girl.

I then flipped to the “game” section. This is the only cookbook I own with a chapter called “Game” that includes yummy recipes like this:
squirrel
You can tell this book is from a different era. Excuse me? Brush with fat? What fat? Do they sell that at Kroger? How should I preheat my oven? Gravy? Where’s the recipe for the gravy?

It is also the only cookbook I own that gives me instruction on how to properly cook various wild meats. Squirrels, for instance, don’t need to soak, and skinning can wait until cooking.
possum

Possum on the other hand needs to be cleaned as soon as possible after shooting, and hung for 48 hours. Who knew?

Cooter Soup?
I was at first extremely confused by the first ingredient necessary for cooter soup: cooters? preferably female?

What. The. Hell.

I was even more disturbed by the first instruction: “Kill cooter by chopping off its head.”

It wasn’t until I turned to this page:
Cooter Pie!
That I understand that cooter=terrapin=turtle. Ha!

And, finally, who can leave South Carolina without a large dose of…
Everyone needs a little Scripture Cake

Alas, we returned to Richmond with heavy hearts and heavier bellies. Here, I don’t keep vats of bacon fat in my cupboard or skin freshly-caught game. Yet.

NEXT: This is not a New Year’s Resolution »

 

 

29 responses so far

29 Responses to “Lowcountry Love”

  1. Laurieon 17 Jun 2009 at 1:45 pm

    This was a priceless entry! Loved it! You need to visit Jackson, MS. There be some funky recipes down he’ya too!

  2. Darcieon 23 Jun 2009 at 8:21 pm

    Hey – watch what you say about Yankees! We’re pretty darn cool. :)

  3. Manchester Airport Parkingon 23 Oct 2009 at 9:59 am

    This is brill. “Kill cooter by chopping off head” You Yanks are priceless.
    England is now covered in Grey Squirrels imported from the US which have slowly taken over from our own beautiful smaller red squirrels, so if a few of you want to nip over for some “Broiled Squirrel” there is plenty to go round.
    When I was reading this I could hear the music to the deliverance in the background.

    Made my afternoon, any way back to work

  4. Melissaon 11 Nov 2009 at 1:06 am

    I sure miss reading about your adventures. Anything going on with you guys? Wedding plans?? Already married?? New blog in the works? Any new long trips planned?

    Please write more :-)

  5. henryon 20 Nov 2009 at 8:01 am

    Fantastic post, lovely picture. Really informative. Have you tried things like photography holidays, painting holidays and cooking holidays? Do you know these guys? http://www.frui.co.uk

  6. viagemaforaon 25 Jan 2010 at 6:32 pm

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  7. Jesseon 10 Feb 2010 at 5:28 am

    I remember one recipe like that. My religious father usually serve it whenever he visits.

  8. Joyon 28 Feb 2010 at 9:25 pm

    Just in case anyone want to know more about the Scripture Cake, I found this on hushpuppynation.com:

    Scripture cake was also known as “Bible Cake,” “Scriptural Cake” and “Old Testament Cake,” and was extremely popular in the latter part of the nineteenth century, especially in the southern Appalachians. The cake was meant as a way to teach young girls baking and Bible verses; the original recipes didn’t include the ingredients out to the side as provided on this one. The earliest recipe for this cake I have been able to find was published in the Atlanta Constitution on June 27, 1897. Some researchers believe the cake dates to the late 1700s in England or Ireland, while others claim the cake a favorite of Dolly Madison, wife of U.S. president James Madison.An old engraving of Eve in the Garden of Eden.

    I had never heard of a Scripture Cake before your post. As a Southerner, I think is just cool.

  9. Byteful Travelleron 11 Mar 2010 at 3:21 pm

    What. A. Place.

    Wow, thanks for sharing all of those photos with us. A truly amazing cookbook. And truly amazing architecture. I can’t believe they actually debated putting the Confederate flag back up. So classy…

    But I must say that cookbook is somewhat disturbing, and hilarious.

    Finally, instructions on how to cook that frozen squirrel I bought all those years ago!

  10. Daylesfordon 11 Apr 2010 at 3:00 am

    Wow! I really like the place it looks quiet and relax….. Creswick

  11. adventureron 26 Apr 2010 at 5:07 am

    i love ur style,attitude,travelling is such a wonderful experience .

  12. tanny guptaon 28 May 2010 at 5:23 am

    i like ur article.

  13. deepa guptaon 15 Jul 2010 at 3:15 am

    good work keep it up.

  14. New Delhi Hotelson 10 Aug 2010 at 5:14 am

    Wonderful article. Good work

  15. flexicover insuranceon 08 Oct 2010 at 9:49 am

    looks like a great journey – nice place to visit. just how i imagine it to look too.

  16. Holiday Abroadon 01 Feb 2011 at 6:19 pm

    Great photos man! I’d love to go backpacking like you :)

  17. Bluegreen Kirkon 18 Mar 2011 at 8:51 am

    Love Charleston havent been there in awhile. Need to go back home so I can visit.

  18. Richardon 30 Mar 2011 at 12:40 am

    I must say that i just happened to stumble across your blog. Charleston sounds like a great place but the thing that really got me laughing were the recipes being from South Africa we eat some pretty strange things but those take the prize HAHAHA !!!

  19. Euro Travelleron 04 Apr 2011 at 9:12 am

    I don’t even know what ‘hominy’ is, and I am relatively well travelled. Guess that is one for Google to answer.

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