Rice Rice n Gravy

I can’t tell you how much I love gravy

Especially over rice

Rice rice n gravy

Last year during a trial an expert witness compared the critical path for a construction case to making Thanksgiving dinner

“You know, you have to think about when to start the mashed potatoes in conjunction with the turkey being ready”

It being a Charleston courtroom with a lot of locals, there were many sotto voce “mashed potatoes” “we eat rice” “what is he talking about”

Even the Judge said, “Sir, you might want to change that to rice and gravy”. The Courtroom erupted with laughter

The expert witness was from off

I would eat rice and gravy every night. Like every.

It is so not mid

And for Thanksgiving, I make the gravy weeks ahead

Here’s the way I do it

About a month before Thanksgiving, I roast a chicken. Roasted yard bird is the true mark of a cook. Salt and pepper and a little thyme in the cavity with half a lemon.

Then, I take that bird’s carcass and throw it in a pot with some onion, celery, pepper, and cover with water and boil it for a couple of hours. I strain and place the stock in deli containers in the freezer

Two weeks before the big day I cut a couple of onions, with their skin on them, and place them on a baking sheet. I throw four turkey necks on the sheet and salt and pepper them and spray them with Pam®. Then into a 400 degree oven for an hour.

After an hour, I remove the baking sheet and add a cup of water. I scrape up all that browned goodness and strain into a pot with one of those frozen quarts of chicken broth and some other things I’ll explain below

I then freeze the turkey stock and make the gravy on the day before Thanksgiving. On Thanksgiving Day, I add giblets and drippings and go from there. I also add boiled eggs, because I’m stuck in 1901.

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Rice and Gravy

Make Ahead Gravy

1 quart chicken broth – homemade or store bought. See, broth, supra

4 turkey necks

Salt and pepper

Pam® cooking spray – trust me

2 onions

1 stalk celery

1 carrot

1 green onion or half small yellow onion

1 tbsp thyme (dried or fresh)

5 pepper corns

1 cup water

1 stick butter

3/4 cup flour

Any turkey drippings from the bird on the day of Thanksgiving

Giblets – liver, heart, gizzard, boiled in a little water on the same day

3 boiled eggs, sliced thinly

Two weeks before the big day, it’s time to start

Preheat (or as we say “cut on”) the oven to 400

Cut the onions with their skin on and place on a baking sheet. The onion skins help with the drippings being a great dark color. Place turkey necks on the same sheet and salt and pepper the necks and the onions. Spray with Pam. Roast at 400 for an hour

While the necks and onions are roasting, place the celery, carrot, onion, thyme, pepper corns, and broth into at least a 6 quart pot or Dutch oven

After the necks have roasted with the onions, remove from the oven and put the necks in the pot with the broth. Leave the onions and add a cup of water and scrape up all the onions and browned bits. I use a whisk. Strain through a mesh strainer into the pot with the necks and broth. Bring to a boil and boil for an hour until the broth has reduced some and turns that golden brown.

Let the broth cool on the stove for an hour or two and then put overnight in the fridge and skim off any fat

Place the broth into quart containers or plastic bags and freeze

On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, thaw the turkey broth by leaving it on the counter overnight.

On the day before, melt the butter in a 4 -6 quart pot. When it foams, add the flour and whisk until it smells like toasted nuts after about 2- 3 minutes. Then add a cup of the turkey broth. Whisk all the time. Add the rest of the broth. Whisk until the desired gravy consistency. Flour and fat and liquid only thicken when boiling. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. I usually don’t add salt since Thanksgiving is basically a salt lick

On the big day, after the bird is roasted, put any drippings into a fat separator and add the drippings that aren’t fat. (You’ll add a little fat because those fat separators always have a bit of fat in the neck. And fat is our friend it turns out) Also add the giblets which you have boiled in a little water and chopped into tiny mince. Also add the eggs

This is SO many steps, but it’s SO worth it instead of sweating

and whisking and doing all those steps as the bird rests

as Aunt So and So asks “what can I do to help?” while you secretly think to yourself, “Oh, dear heart, too late”

as your nephew announces he’s now a vegan

as your father-in-law says he needs a refill on his Bloody Mary, which of course he does not

as your dog is sniffing round that resting bird

as your divorced cousin says he’s sorry he’s late and “Do you remember [name of current girlfriend]?”

as your mother asks if these are her table linens because she doesn’t remember giving hers to you and, no, ma’am, they aren’t because Gen X expects nothing

as your brother-in-law wants to bring up politics and says to you in the kitchen as you put out dishes, “Did you read [fill in the blank slanted news source]?”

as your neighbor asks if they can put their casseroles in your oven because theirs just went on the fritz five minutes before you gather your people to give thanks in prayer while the biscuits/rolls/bread heat in that turned off oven

as your being silently judged by your children for not having the meal ready yet

as you’re rifling through the serving pieces realizing you didn’t polish the cold meat fork

Or perhaps that’s just what happens round here

I really love gravy

And, this does sound like insanity in terms of steps and critical paths, but it does make Thanksgiving so easy.

And thanks be to God for all of our families’ crazy

Because that is for what we are truly thankful

And all that gravy

That One Day

No humidity

Light fading around 6ish

No gnats

No mosquitoes

Porch sitting

Those few orange turned and red turned leaves falling from the crepe myrtle

Skittling behind cars on the road

Summer blooms fading

Caladiums wilting

Hydrangeas rusting

Bluer than blue skies

Lightest breeze

Tea olive about to bloom perfuming with the most evasive of scents

Longer shadows

More leaves rattling across the pavement

AC still running

Tempted to open a door or window

75 ish

Fall sports athletes not sweating to death

May be time to switch to some brown water

May be time to look up how to make a favorite soup

There’s always one day like this in October

Winds shifting out of the east and north

That first whiff of the paper mill meaning cooler temperatures

About the time of the fair

Herbsttag by Rilke

“Wer jetzt allein is, wird es lange blieben”

“Who is alone, will remain alone”

One day in October

Every year.

I Need to See You

We need to see each other

Lay eyes on each other

Hug

Kiss

Laugh

Be in the same room

Now

Immediately

A funeral reception is lovely

But it’s too little and too late. Especially for the honoree

I used to look askance at older folks who would say, “We have stop seeing each other only at funerals”

Now I get that

And, it’s now when I need to see everyone

I love you fools

Really

A lot

Let’s please get together

Because I love you all

Funerals are supposed to be celebrations in the Christian faith

A recent funeral was so sad for a contemporary, but the reception after was lovely because there were so many of the deceased’s friends there. Sad because 52 is too young to die.

We all know what we want to say to cancer

The reception after was quite a gathering. Like an old home week

And at least three of the folks there love me

Really

Because we said it to each other

Memento mori. Vanitas vanitatum. St. Jerome writing with a skull on the table

Guess it might be the solid middle of middle age

May be we need a party

A large party

We could do a dry run of my funeral if need be

Or just a cocktail party

Or an oyster roast

Or something

A glass of water and soda crackers

At that reception, we all kissed in recognition of our loss and our love of the deceased and each other

I kissed grown men and women in love and grief

I would rather kiss in celebration

All of you

Or at least the three I know who love me

Saint Jerome Writing. Caravaggio. 1605-1606. Galleria Borghese. Rome.

3rd Annual Joiner Bank Hootenanny

In 1989, I was 17

In the summer, we Beaufort kids would stick close to home. Why not? Beaufort in the summer was heaven for teenagers back then

Did some kids go to Europe? Did some take jobs at camps out of town? Did some go to the beach? Did some go to the mountains? Of course

But, most of us came home, got jobs, worked hard, played harder

We were kind of wild

Numerous trips to hospitals were made in the summer. Stomach pumpings and stitchings of wounds were common. Our parents would shrug and say, “Well, you know young people.”

It is amazing none of us died

Really

Amazing

With that background, know that most of our fun was had on the water messing about in boats, as the quote goes from Wind in The Willows. But, we weren’t on the Thames waiting to see what the larder held for tea

No, we were all over northern Beaufort County waiting to see who had been able to procure Miller Lite, Bud Lite, Busch Lite, Schaefer Lite, Bud Heavy, and any and all forms of suds purchased at permissive stores out on St. Helena Island (If you knew The Sycamore, you knew The Sycamore. If you knew the Ann Fripp Mini Mart, you knew the Ann Fripp Mini Mart)

Obligatory buckets of fried chicken and tri-taters from Maryland Fried Chicken in tow, we would load coolers and bags for full days on the water, down the river, at the sandbar

Girls in bikinis, boys in Patagucci baggies and Birdwells

Marlboro Lights, Vantage Ultra Lights, Camel Lights also in tow. It takes a special set of legs to tread water while keeping the cigarette lit and the koozied beer in the other hand above water fighting a ripping current

With that background, know that one year our pal Christian Trask came up with a great idea for a throw down, a party, an event, a real live hootenanny

Christian went to Budget Print and made fliers which he then went around town and put in his friends’, pals’, acquaintances’ parents’ mailboxes

The flyer advertised that one and all should get in whatever boat one could find and head on down to Joiner Bank for a full day of fun in the sun

SC Dep’t of Natural Resources website
needs a little updating

Back then, Joiner Bank was a sand spit off the north east coast of Hilton Head Island where Port Royal Sound meets the Atlantic Ocean. Back then, it almost always had part of its sandy beach exposed at high tide. That has since changed

For us Beaufort kids, it was a straight shot down the Beaufort River, past town, past Port Royal, past Parris Island, across Port Royal Sound to the sandy spit in the ocean.

Phone calls were made. Buckets of chicken were ordered. Coolers were iced. And, then, the flotilla made its way. For at least 3 or 4 summers

Crossing Port Royal sound in 13 foot, 17 foot, 20 foot boats seems kind of stupid now, but, back then, it seemed NBD. Like really. NBD.

Hayes Williams made sure I was in his boat along with some of our friends. He always said I made a great mate. Plus, his family’s boat was 4 feet longer than ours, which makes a difference crossing rough inlets on incoming tides

The first year we went to Joiner Bank was great

The second was awesome

The third was a complete and utter drunken debacle. In 1989. The 3rd Annual Hootenanny

The fourth involved a broken dock, someone jumping into the water with a knife in his mouth, tons of rain, and kegs under a pals’ house, but, it was way tamer compared to Number 3

But, back to our Hootenanny

Now, in 1989, Beaufort was still reeling from a trauma that I wont discuss fully here. Suffice it say, the entire group of young people with whom we grew up had suffered that trauma in the form of the untimely death of a beloved 13 year old. We miss him still

May be it was that event that made us all so wild that summer

May be it was just the age

May be it was that some of us were already in college and some of us were about to be

May be we were just wild as bucks and didn’t give a tinker’s damn

May be it’s just a lot of fun

So, Christian Trask went down to Budget Print once more and made his flyers to put into mailboxes from The Point to Spanish Point to Land’s End to Distant Island to Brickyard to Lost Island to Hundred Pines to Mossy Oaks to Bay Street to all points in between

On the appointed Saturday in July, we all jumped in boats and made our way to Joiner Bank

Not a single shred of tenting, umbrellas, sun shades, Bimini tops, or other sun protection device

I am sure we all had the thinnest of t-shirts to protect us from the broiling sun of July. May be a little Ban de Soleil Orange Gelee covered a nose. Perhaps a tube of zinc oxide. I do know that the following Monday at the place I worked, I rubbed my right shoulder against something and four layers of skin degloved right there on the spot. Blood through my work shirt. It was a small price to pay

I also know that the main objective of the day was to have fun. And, have fun we did

Floating in the slew behind Joiner Bank

Chugging cold beer all day

Eating Buck King’s fried yard bird. (Mr. King being the proprietor of Maryland Fried Chicken)

Watching our friends play smacky mouth with each other in and out of the water

Trying to play beach volleyball

Falling down, knee walking later in the day

Laughing with wild abandon about everything

Quoting “Pardon me, but do you have any Grey Poupon” and “It don’t get no better than this”

Enjoying being young, dumb, tan, drunk, nicotined

By three or four o’clock, most of us on that sand bar were engaging in glossolalia. By five o’clock, we were beyond cute. We were drunk and ugly drunk

By six o’clock, it was time to head back to Beaufort

We had hours of sunlight left

But not much beer, cigs, food, water

May be a soggy bags of Cheetos

May be one or two tri-taters, which were a triangle of hash browns fried crisp. So damned good. Especially dipped in salt water and then with a little ketchup on the side

One of our pals had brought a book to read on the beach. We asked her how far she got and her reply was “Thish is the besssh book aye ever resshh. This Russshhun lady cheats on a her hussbhand. It’s shoo romanntisch”

“Dude, are you reading Tolstoy?”

“Heez a jeeen-yus”

We threw her in a boat and hoped she would loosen up one day. She never did. But, she probably had to re-read Anna’s tale of woe.

On the crossing back to town, one of the girls in our boat complained of hunger and thirst

“Don’t worry, I’ll quench your thirst,” replied one of the guys as he came at her with mouth open for a full on kiss. Said girl burst out laughing and poured the rest of her beer on his head

At one point heading back across the sound, several boats behind us stopped. We all circled back thinking there was an issue. Nope – just time for a potty break and another round of beer and cooling dip into the water

When we finally made it back to various marinas, docks, landings, most of us were unable to drive. Most of us did so anyway. Terrible. Absolutely terrible.

Before we left Joiner Bank, our pal Brandon Calhoun announced to everyone that he had his house to himself, and there would be an amazing after party. Never a good idea. Like never

“Party at my house!!!”

Oh law

After dropping various people at various places around town, Hayes Williams and I were the last two left in his boat. We ran it quickly down the river to get the water out of the stern and then headed back to his dock.

His parents were on the dock enjoying the later afternoon breeze. They received us with the full contempt we deserved. Hedy and Ray Williams. “Hedster! Rayble!” I called out.

“I see we had good time, boys” said Hedy

“Boys, go inside,” said Ray. “I think y’all have had enough fun for one day”

“But, Rayble,” I said, “I got to go home. I’ve got my keys”.

“You’re not going anywhere, Bones,” he said. That was his nickname for me. “I’ll call your parents”

The Williams marched us into the house. Hayes and I kept laughing and giggling at anything his parents said and about events of the day

“I think she ate the Cheetos he pissed in”

“I think they hooked up in the water”

“Who y’all talking about?”

“No one”

“Just some fools”

“I need to drive home,” I repeated

“Hambone, you’re spending the night” said Hedy

“No, ma’am. I don’t have any clothes”

“You can borrow some of Hayes’s”

“I don’t have a toothbrush”

“We have extra”

“I have to go to church tomorrow”

“We will wake you up”

There was no way I was leaving. There was no way.

So we decided we weren’t going to be going anywhere and resigned ourselves to 8 p.m. hangovers in front of the tv in the Williams’ library slash den

We ordered Pizza Hut

We each showered and I was given clothes

We ate the pizzas

We called Brandon Calhoun’s house to tell him we wouldn’t be there

“Awww…come on! Y’all gotta be here,” he said

“Nope, can’t. Mom and Dad won’t let us” said Hayes

That night, the Williams were going to someone else’s house for supper. They left. I was still hungry. They left us before the pizzas arrived but after they took all the car keys in the house. All. The. Keys. And I was still hungry. Like starving.

So, I wandered into the Williams’ kitchen, opened the fridge, and there in a large serving bowl was an entire making of potato salad covered with Saran Wrap. I could see all of its goodness right there. Really kind of Hedy to have made that just for us

I took the bowl back to the Williams’ library

“Hayes, you want any of this? Look what your mom made for us”

“No, but you have some”

I had forgotten bowls and forks. But, I had my hands. So, I shoveled handful of handful of potato salad into my mouth as we watched whatever offering was on HBO that night.

About half way through the bowl, the Williams returned from their night out

“Hamlin! That’s for the church picnic tomorrow!” Hedy exclaimed

“Not any more,” I slurred. “I think I can drive home now”

“No, no you can’t! And you ate all my potato salad!”

“S[l]ure is good”

Thanks be to God that we didn’t go anywhere that night

Apparently, Brandon’s party was a real rager. He even punched a whole in a wall and tried to cover it up with a little dry wall mud and the rearrangement of some furniture

Hayes and I could honestly say we knew nothing about that remodel due to our being too drunk to go anywhere

We were interrogated by his mother when she called both of our houses the next day

“Hamlin, son, I love you. Tell me what happened”

“I can’t,” I replied “We were too drunk to go to your house.”

“Well, that’s just what Hayes said”

At least our stories were the same

At least we weren’t there to witness Brandon punching a wall

At least we weren’t there watching a drunken teenager spackle a wall the next morning

We’d been at a Hootenanny

With love to all of you who went down cross the sound for those fated fetes

In Memoriam: Christian Trask (1970 -2018)

The Rainbow Connection

From a Saturday at 3:30 p.m. until a Friday at 10:00 p.m., I wore one pair of shoes, if I wore any shoes at all

In The Bahamas

Rainbow®️ Sandals

Rainbows as they are commonly called

©️™️®️

#summerisaverb™️

Like probably millions since 1972, I have worn Mr. Longley’s Laguna Beach garage’s product of leather and nylon with supported arches and a touch of rubber on the sole.

For a week, as I tanned my toes in the Abacos, these shoes were all I wore.

In the water.

On the land

In every restaurant.

At every store.

From Pelican Cay to Great Guana and all points in between

I refrained from Rainbows in the airports, because, well, closed toed shoes are better

What shoe is more versatile

more recognizable

more collegiate

more beach

more dock

more pool

more boat

more sands

more suds

more surf

more dude

more DUDE

more outdoors

more indoors

more inshore

more offshore

more wearable 10 months of of the year in these parts

more wearable 12 months out of the year in these parts

more tan lined

more calloused prior to breaking in the nylon

more perfect

Last summer, over the 4th of July, someone took my pair and I took someone else’s at Pawley’s Island. Almost immediately, I knew they weren’t my Rainbows.

Still showing a little Bahamian white sand dust and place where tanned toes have left an imprint.
I need to sharpen that mower blade, too.

I knew they weren’t mine, as Rainbows conform to the individual owner’s feet almost as well as Birkinstocks

So, on July 6, 2021, I hightailed it to the local Rainbow retailer and bought a new pair

They are shown above after almost a year’s worth of wear

They still have the writing on the bottom of the soles. The leather is just starting to get to that perfect place of give. I will wear these until they fall to shreds, or, rather, until the tread on the soles becomes so slick that I will skid on any wet surface. That’s the true sign that it’s time to make another Rainbow connection

And, to say that these shoes are markers of a certain culture, well, they are. Totally, dude.

I judge people by shoes. Really. I can tell a lot from what a person has on her or his feet. It’s a thing.

If I see another pair of Rainbows, then I know that’s probably my people. And my peoples’ peoples

Your Rainbows shall be my Rainbows

Whatever thou wearest, I, too, shall wear

I still wonder who has my pair from Pawleys

Because they are my people

(Apologies to Ruth)

Cobbled Together

I can’t really express the degree of loveliness I knew as a child

I’m talking about the people

They were lovely

Just lovely

Some more lovely than others, but, all in all, a pretty damned fine group

Beaufort, SC, was a magical Eden populated with people who were educated, bright, kind, caring, hard-working, sophisticated, worldly for such a small town

Were there problems? Myriad.

Were there issues? Thousands

Were there legacies of the South abounding? You know it

Were there a whole cast and crew that would go to prison for drug smuggling? You bet there were. Including many of Beaufort’s loveliest sons. As one of their mothers said at the time, “Well, the boys do have to eat”

Why am I rambling about this? To set the scene to introduce Jean Varn Scheper to you all. She was the younger Mrs. Scheper to us as it was her mother-in-law, Margaret Rainey “Wa-Wa” Scheper who was the real Mrs. Scheper and it was her sister-in-law Margaret Scheper Trask who was “Margaret Schep” Got all that straight?

Well, Jean Scheper, as my family called her, was married to Willie Scheper, who was just Willie Scheper to us. Willie’s father, husband of Wa-Wa and father of Margaret Schep was “Mr. Scheper”, even though he died in the early 1980s.

Jean Scheper was one of the loveliest people we knew. She adored my parents. She adored us

Soon after moving to Beaufort, Jean and Willie Scheper became some of my parents’ favorites and they theirs. Both were kind, generous, quick witted, funny, and engaging.

Both Jean and Willie thought we boys were wonderful, even though we weren’t. We were wild and bad and full on boys. Having reared a bad boy herself, Jean Scheper knew the territory.

Jean Scheper would wink and hug and smile at us no matter where we were. She would pull you aside and giggle about someone or something, but never in a mean way.

My parents still discuss the magical wedding reception hosted by Jean and Willie Scheper for their daughter’s wedding

“No gnats; no Yankees”

That was/is as good as it gets at a party

Jean Scheper died in 1995. Aged 67. Way too young. Her death was a result of heart issues following years of chemotherapy. Damn cancer

Waaaaay too young

My family miss her still

We had Willie until 2017, and we miss him, too. His was one of the last of the great Beaufort accents. We have a couple left

Jean and Willie’s grave in the Scheper Family plot at St. Helena’s. Just some of the many folks with whom I check in every time I’m home in the churchyard and in the New Cemetery across the street

Even though Jean and Willie are gone, there is always goodness to be remembered every summer thinking of Jean

Every summer

Without fail

Why?

Because we know how to make her cobbler

Easier than pie by a wide margin

Her recipe is included in the Beaufort cookbook, Sea Island Seasons

It is the easiest thing in the world to make

Either with some ripe peaches, peeled and sliced, after July 4 when the peaches are good

Or with a pint of blackberries, my favorite

I made it recently and called my parents to discuss Jean Scheper herself

“We were blessed to know and love her and she us,” said my mama

“Her cobbler is the best”

“And so easy”

She was right

Enjoy this and think of a Beaufort lady who would have loved to have met you. Really. She would have. As would her husband. Two of the loveliest people I’ve ever known

From Edgefield, SC

Jean Scheper’s Cobbler

1 stick of butter, divided into 8 tbps.

1 cup of flour

1 cup of sugar

3/4 cup of milk

2 tsp. baking powder

6-7 ripe peaches, peeled and sliced into perfect slices OR 1 pint blackberries. The blackberries are way easier

4 tbsp sugar

1/2 cup water

In a baking dish (I use a 9 x 12), place the divided stick of butter. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Place the dish into the oven and melt the butter. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder. Add milk and whisk until smooth. Once the butter has melted, but not browned, remove dish from the oven and pour over the flour and milk mixture. Lay the peaches or the blackberries on top of that flour mixture in an even layer. The mixture will start to set/bake while you spread out the fruit. The butter will be pooling round the edges. A thing of beauty. Over that sprinkle the four tablespoons of sugar. Finally, pour the 1/2 cup of water over everything and return to the oven. Bake 45 mins to an hour. I usually bake for 45 minutes then cover with foil. Serve warm or room temperature. With a little ice cream, too. Jean Scheper would have wanted you to do it that way.

Pod Cast

Okurrrr

I love okra

In all of its mucilaginous glory

Okra. Gumbo. Whatever you want to call it

That seed pod fruit of the plant related to the hibiscus and mallow family of plants

Abelmoschus esculenus

Father of mallows, edible for men

Literal translation of the Latin name

Don’t know who came up with that, but it does make sense

Where is it from?

I don’t know. I don’t care

Does it even matter if it’s from Ethiopia? West Africa? Asia?

Nope

Not to me

I buy mine at the downtown or Mount Pleasant farmers’ markets. I’ve been known to throw an elbow at a matron or two fighting for the smaller pods. (See below)

For supper on a recent Sunday after a day of eating, I fried up a mess of gumbo. In deep fat. Stunk up the kitchen, but, oh, Lawd, it was worth it

Served it with some ketchup, some hot sauce, some ranch dressing

We gobbled it down

No other dish on our little bread plates

Here’s the receipt. Have no fear of frying, but do wear an apron as the grease splatters. And, do use a deep pot/Dutch oven. And, do use a candy/frying thermometer

Don’t forget to soak in the buttermilk

Fried Okra

A mess of small okra (1-2 lbs). I don’t buy pods bigger than a little finger as they are too fibrous otherwise

Buttermilk – 2 cups worth

Hot sauce

Cornmeal – 1 cup

Seafood breader – I use House Autry – and trust me on this – use the seafood breader – 1 cup

Salt

Pepper

Red pepper

Crisco – either the oil or the solid. About 3 cups worth

Candy thermometer

Newspapers and brown paper bags

About 45 minutes before serving, cut okra into one inch pieces, removing the cap and the tip

Place sliced okra into a bowl and cover with buttermilk and give a few dashes of hot sauce, some salt, some pepper

Meanwhile, heat oven to 250 degrees and line a cookie sheet with newspaper and top with a brown paper bag or two

In a bowl, combine the cornmeal and seafood breader

After the okra has soaked for 15 minutes, begin to heat oil/crisco/fat slowly over medium heat

Using the candy thermometer, measure the temperature of the oil/crisco/fat. It needs to be at 350 degrees.

After the okra has soaked in the buttermilk for 30 minutes, coat in the bowl with the meal and breading. Dredge it well

Once the oil reaches 350, fry the okra in batches. I add the okra by hand, and I do a good handful at a time – about a cup – and fry for five minutes or until golden brown. You may get a few grease pops, but you’re a strong, fighter type. I know it. Stir it once or twice while it’s frying.

Watch the heat in the pot as you don’t want it too cold. The temperature drops with each batch of okra. Also, don’t want the heat to get over 375 or the okra will scorch

Once the first batch is done, transfer those golden nuggets to the brown paper bag lined cookie tray and place in the oven. I use a long handled slotted spoon. One of those mesh fry rigs used on the cooking channels would be great for removing the hot okra from the pot

The okra will hold while each batch fries

You can’t mess it up if your oil is hot and you have no fear

No fear of frying. No fear of making a mess. No fear of stinking up the kitchen

Before serving, sprinkle the hot okra with a little sea salt or Kosher salt

Don’t worry about leftovers. There won’t be any

Corn meal flaked fantasy right there

Bread and Circuses

nam qui dabat olim imperium, fasces, legiones, omnia, nunc se continet atque duas tantum res anxius optat, panem et circenses” Juvenal. Satire 10.

“…for that sovereign people that once gave away military command, consulships, legions, and every thing, now bridles its desires, and limits its anxious longings to two things only: bread and games of the circus” Juvenal. Satire 10.

Arno you love the view of the Ponte Vecchio in the rain

So, we went to Italy

A wonderful trip

The 50th Birthday present from me and my wife to me and my wife

To paraphrase Ferris Bueller, it is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend it

We weren’t looking for grand entertainment at any point in our trip, but, we got it

One evening in Florence

Bread and circuses

Apertivos and acts

Upon our arrival in Florence, we were whisked away to our hotel on the Arno River overlooking the Ponte Vecchio

I took the above-picture immediately upon arrival in our riverside room

The view stunned, even in the rain. The pouring rain. The monsoonal rain. The driving rain. The cats and dogs rain. Rain so hard that the concierge apologized like he could do anything about it kind of rain

We had a walking tour of Florence scheduled

Which we took

In said downpour

With umbrellas and rain coats

Stops by the Palazzo Strozzi, where Donatello, the Renaissance will be exhibited until July, the Palazzo Medici Riccardi with the capella portraying Cosimo, Lorenzo, and crew as the Magi, the Duomo, the Baptistry with the Gates of Paradise, the Giotto designed Campanile, the Piazza Republica, the Porcellino, the Old Bridge

And, of course, the Galleria dell’Accademia to see David, the Slaves, and St. Matthew by you-know-who

The hand that held the stone by Sr. di Lodovico Buonaratti Simoni, aged 26-29

Two plus hours with our guide Angela, former marketing executive for Gucci under this American dude named Tom Ford

May be you’ve heard of him? IDK

She’s now a licensed guide, which is, come si dice, “BIG DEAL”

She was not a name dropper, but I did ask her about her schedule in the last two years. Her last guided tour before Rona was for the Board of Trustees for the Getty

Wait, the Getty in Los Angeles?

Si si si

So, there we two Sandlappers were walking around Florence with the lady who probably gives the Queen of Norway tours when she’s in town

After two plus hours we parted ways with Angela, telling her we would see her again on the following Tuesday for more Florentine fun

We parted ways right across the Ponte Vecchio

Ciao!

Ciao!

And, it was back to our hotel to get out of the soggy clothes

By then, it was almost 5 p.m. and the sun was just starting to peek out under the clouds heading towards a beautiful sunset west over the Arno

Golden Hour

Ora d’Oro

Took that walking back across the Ponte Vecchio with MP and bestie Angela

More importantly, by then, it was almost time for an apertivo, the most delightful of Italian inventions

A drink

A few nibbles

To open the appetite before the evening meal…since apertivo means to open

Leisurely

One or two drinks before supper

We call it cocktail hour, but apertivo sounds so much more, well, civil

After changing into drier clothes, I began to see what was close to us

“There’s always downstairs”

Yes, always

We’re big fans of hotel bars

But, we’re in Florence

Itt-lee

“Hey, how about Harry’s Bar across the river?” I asked

“Oh, hell yes” came the reply

A quick walk across the Ponte Sta. Trinita and west passing the baroque ain’t no joke Palazzo Corsini and onto Lungarno Amerigo Vespucci. The Vespucci were Florentines

We had to go

It’s on America’s namesake’s embankment on the river in the style of an American bar

Andiamo!

We’re just wild about Harry

With the rain having cleared up, we sauntered north across the Holy Trinity Bridge, then west along the Arno until we reached the bar

Into the pink walled and pink tableclothed main room. Highly polished parquet floors. Dark wooden bar lined with every bottle imaginable. Well uniformed staff smiling as we entered

Buona Sera

Due, por favore

Ushered to a table to the right off the bar. Inside were the maitre d’, the bartender, one waiter, ourselves, and four patrons seated at the bar

Four patrons seated at the bar

Four patrons kind of all over the bar

Two men

Two women

Sort of draped all over the bar

Sort of draped all over each other

The men in bear hugs with adamant expressions in Italian of whatever it was they were saying with the certainty of the drunken

The women giggling their conspiracies

Then looking at the men and giggling some more

Then one of the men leaning back and almost falling of his barstool with sweeping gestures across the room and belting out “Ragazzi….” with no follow up

Then, “Andiamo!”

No one moved

The bartender came to hand us drink menus and said, “Buona sera. Come sta?”

We replied with our full Italian vocabulary, “Bene”

He then said, “I must apologize; they have been here since 12 hundred”

It was now 17:30

We knew we were in for a good show

Apertivo and acts

Bread and circuses

And what a show

Our “Ragazzi” exclaimer hugged the other man, hugged both women, went outside for a cigarette, came back in with a cigarette, ordered Gin and Tonics for his whole crew, ordered Tequila shots for his whole crew, patted one of the waiters on his face, patted one of the women on her bottom

At one point, he violated all decency by grabbing one woman’s chest and exclaiming “I miei meloni!”

Oh boy

She probably wanted to say, “Me tooi”

Even we knew what he meant

She slapped his hands away

Moments later, he shouted, “Andiamo!” again and made for the door

He laughed at his victim

She did not laugh at him

He kept shouting, “Andiamo!”

No one was leaving, especially him

Like the stage directions at the end of a famous absurdist play

The absurd and the sublime

Speaking of the sublime, being at Harrys – cousin of the famous Harry’s in Venice – my bride ordered a Bellini

I ordered a Manhattan

It being Italy, chips, peanuts, pistachios, olives, and two perfect bites of shrimp covered in a pink aioli accompanied the drinks

They were wonderful. Looked something like this:

We brought home the coaster

Would that we would serve such nibbles with drinks in our watering holes

So civil

So easy

So worth the price of the libations knowing food will always be involved

Other patrons began to trickle into the bar

Another couple who ordered “cocktail martinis” in Italian. Guess that would be versus the “breakfast martinis” or “coffee break martinis”

Two young ladies who ordered Bellinis themselves

The waiter came by and apologized again

“They are local. He comes here once a month. Tomorrow is Liberation Day, so no one is working”

Anniversario della Liberazione d’Italia, Anniversario della Resistenza, or 25 Aprile. Call it what you will, Ragazzi. Just a good day to get tore up from the floor up

As only the truly smashed say to one another:

“Te amo”

“Te amo”

“Te amo”

“No…no…no.. TE AMO!”

Drunk people in every language often tell their drinking buddies how much they love them

I LOVE YOU

NO! I LOVE YOU

In vino veritas

No difference on the Vespucci Embankment than on Bourbon Street

Our drunkest pal, the most entertaining pal, who was indeed a happy drunk, who was indeed an assaulter, who was indeed obnoxious, who was indeed drunk, ordered another round of drinks

The bartender, maitre d’, and waiter all shook their heads

“No” said the bartender

“Si si si” said our drunken neighbor

“Mi dispiace” said the bartender. We knew enough to know that meant

I’m sorry

But he wasn’t

Our old sot then stumbled from his barstool and back outside

His friend, the man, followed

The women, looking horrified, also followed

We have all seen this part of the opera

Immediately, all four came back in with recrimination and finger pointing

I don’t know what was said, but I imagine, “Do you know who I am?” or “I’m in here all the time” or “You can’t do that to my friends” or “Y’all…I mean..come on”

He sat back down on a bar stool and it was clear he was not going to be upright for long

Seriously

Because his pants had started to fall below acceptable limits

Even in Europe

Allora: looka here

Ragazzi…..crack is whack…even in Stan Smiths

That was the view over the potato chips

At least for a minute until our entertainer was asked to leave once and for all

“Scusi…” he said and then left

Only to burst back into the room seconds later

We’ve seen that scene in the opera, too. That last grasp. That quick run of the strings and double time timpani. With cymbals clanging

Mimi in the snow

Radames and Aida in the tomb

Violetta alone in her room

Calaf kissing Turandot

Porgy leaving for New York

This opera ended differently: three grown men blocking another grown man then showing him the door

Uscita ——>

The waiter came to our table to apologize, again

“No need,” I said, “This show is great”

We ordered another round of drinks. The Italian couple near us winked and smiled as the Florentine fool finally left the room

The bartender came to apologize, again, “We don’t usually have this type of behavior”

All the ragazzi were so apologetic

But, it’s not often tourists get a show for free

Drinks and drunks

Bread and circuses

With only one clown

Pro Se it Ain’t So

Abraham Lincoln had it right. “He who represents himself has a fool for a client”

I just tried a case in a smaller county near Charleston. More rural. Less people, but deep Lowcountry

Before a jury

Duly qualified, sworn in, accepting of their juror’s oath

On the other side, a couple representing themselves. They had a lawyer at one point, but they fired that fellow member of the bar claiming inability to pay. I suspect the lawyer called them out, instead, on their mendacity

In what should have been a simple, half day case, the Defendants lack of knowledge of the rules, the law, the procedures made things take longer and the jury was not amused. Like Not Amused. Like We Are Not Amused

Neither was our Judge, who really did her absolute best to accommodate parties who have every right to represent themselves. Which these people did. Not to their own benefit

Hearsay? What’s that?

Best Evidence Rule? Never heard of it

The Judge and I had full on legal discussions regarding voir dire, Batson challenges, objections, directed verdict motions, jury charges, elections of remedies, prejudicial statements in closing arguments, and potential bifurcation of damages, actual and punitive. The Defendants sat in confused silence

“Sir, you absolutely cannot ask the jury to put themselves in your situation during a closing argument. That may work in the movies, but not in a South Carolina courtroom. That is highly prejudicial. Jurors, you will disregard everything the Defendant just said”

Ouch

I went to three more years of college (law school) and have been doing this for a minute (almost a quarter century) and was a total procedure geek in law school (SCRCivP; SCREvid)

The Defendants flat out lied about something in a real estate transaction and refused to acknowledge it

The Defendants flat out lied in court, too

After the Judge charged the jury as to negligent misrepresentation, violation of the South Carolina Residential Property Condition Disclosure Act, and fraud, the three causes of action brought by my clients against Defendant, the jury retired to deliberate

They deliberated for an hour and sent out a question asking for clarification as to the jury charge for fraud. A good sign for my clients

Another hour went by and the jury advised one of the bailiffs they had reached a verdict

A fabulous older bailiff, retired county sheriff’s deputy, with a strong regional accent, said, “I’ll get Huh Honuh”

Huh Honuh returned to the bench

My clients and I stood as the jury entered into the courtroom. That’s an old sign of respect taught me by older lawyers

“Mr. Foreman, has the jury reached a verdict?”

“Yes, Your Honor, we have”

“Please pass the verdict form to the Bailiff”

The Bailiff then passed the verdict to Huh Honuh who read the form and passed it to the assistant Clerk of Court

“Madame Clerk, please publish the verdict”

Well, Madame Clerk did. The jury found for our clients on all three causes of action and awarded six figures worth of damages

“Anything from the Plaintiff or the Defendant?”

“Your Honor, please poll the jurors,” I requested

“Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, if this is your true and unanimous, please raise your right hand”

All the jurors raised their right hands

“I find that every juror has raised his or her right hand and has indicated this is their true and unanimous verdict”

So, these Defendants will now have a verdict over $200,000 following them around for the next ten years, provided we don’t collect first

I would imagine on their ride home, they quoted Dick the Butcher in good old Billy Shakespeare’s Henry VI

“The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers”

If only they had one

Better Than Grits on the Table

Those of us of a certain age will remember James Oldsmobile, late of Charleston. Hell, those of us of a certain age remember Oldsmobiles. James Olds had a very specific and memorable television ad where their Olds were advertised for $8,888. In a good old Charleston accent that was pronounced ate-e-ate-ate-e-ate.

At the end of the ad, old Mr. James said, “That’s bettah than grits on the tay-bull”

He was wrong then and now

There’s nothing better than grits on the table

Or is it hominy when it’s on the table?

In this part of the world hominy means cooked grits, not the hominy that has to be soaked in lye or whatever they do out west or south of the border

Venerable Charleston Receipts tells us that grits are the raw product, hominy on the table

Either way, there is nothing better than grits on the table

For a recent gathering, I made the following baked grits

Charleston Receipts has a version called an “Awendaw” or a “Hominy Surprise”

My mother added a contribution for a grits casserole to Sea Island Seasons published by the Beaufort County Open Land Trust

There are many versions for Cheese Grits Souffle’, too

All are good

But I think this Cheesy Grits Casserole is damned fine

Especially if you use our pals’ stone ground grits. Milled from the same family mill for generations. Thanks Anne Marie and Jimmy Hagood!

Charleston Favorites Stone Ground Grits. White Grits. Gluten Free for anyone with a gluten issue

This works well when there’s a crowd to feed and can be made a day ahead then baked the next morning. If making the day ahead, pour into casserole dish and let cool on counter before covering with plastic wrap and putting in the fridge overnight

I adapted this from a receipt Billy Reid, he of the fashion world fame, submitted to a food magazine

The last time I made it, I made it a day ahead

Those who were partakers asked for the receipt

Here it is

And, there is nothing better than grits on the table

Cheesy Grits Casserole

8 cups water

2 cups stone ground grits

Salt and white pepper

1 stick butter, cut into 8 tsps

1/2 lb. (8 oz) extra sharp white cheddar cheese (yellow is fine, too), grated by hand. Do NOT use pre-grated cheese. It’s covered in starches to keep it from caking and it doesn’t melt well

3 eggs, beaten

Preheat oven to 350.

Butter well a 13×9 baking dish. Bring water to full boil and stir in grits. Turn down heat to low to medium low and cook grits over for 30 minutes stirring to prevent lumping and sticking. After 30 mins add salt and white pepper to taste. Stir and cook 10 more minutes. You may need to add a cup of water or so if the grits are too lumpy.

Take off the heat and add butter and mix well, then cheese and mix well then, finally, eggs and mix well. The residual heat from the grits will cause the eggs to set up but not cook

Pour into baking dish and bake at 350 for 1 hour until top is starting to brown a little

Let stand 15 minutes before serving

You can serve another Bloody Mary, fill water glasses, gather the plates, pour another cup of coffee, and say the blessing while it cools

Really a guest friendly dish

All for less than $8,888

But it’ll be one of the best things you ate-e-ate.