Palm Sunday

If you ever ate there, then you know how blessed you were.

If you ever ate there, then you know that Lowcountry cooking tops all others.

If you ever ate there, then you know that there were no other biscuits in the world that good.

I’m talking about The Palms in Ridgeland, South Carolina.

The restaurant affixed to The Palms Motel on the main drag, Jacob Smart Boulevard.

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Lucky you get that Micro Fridge with the Wkly Rate

Thirty minutes from Beaufort, South Carolina.

We went there after church on Sundays.

All manner of Lowcountry folks from Beaufort, Bluffton, Hilton Head, Savannah, Hampton, Ridgeland, Estill, Yemassee, would converge on The Palms on Sundays for the most amazing buffet meals ever.

Situated in the restaurant area of the motel.

Outside there was a goldfish pond complete with lily pads and a small fountain.

To get to the restaurant, patrons walked through the office where Mrs. Patel held court nodding at diners as she chewed her fennel seeds and listened to soft Bollywood music.

The entrance to the dining room was by the end of the buffet.

The dining room glowed with incandescent bulbs dangling from faux bronze chandeliers in the shape of palm fronds.

“How many?” came the question upon walking into the room, followed by a quick, “Well, hey, how y’all been doin’?” from the waitress taking us to our table.

I adored those palm frond chandeliers.  I repeatedly told my parents that I would be stealing one if the restaurant ever closed.

We would go for Mothers’ Day, Fathers’ Day, or other big events.

My grandparents met us there a couple of times.

Our Savannah kinfolk met us there, too.

We loved the place, nicotine stained walls and all.

What was not to love about the white table clothed establishment in the middle of the county seat of Jasper County that served amazing Lowcountry cooking?

Was it fancy? No

Were we there for the ambiance? No

Would it have been #ThePalms? No

Would it have been highly Instragrammable? No

Was it perfectly cooked food in a homey, and somewhat so, homely atmosphere.  May be.

To this day, when I think of a perfect Sunday dinner, I think of the meals at The Palms after church.

The menu never changed.

The same waitresses for years and years.

“May I get you anything?” they would ask as they refilled tea glasses.

“More biscuits, please,” always came the reply from our table and every other table.

My youngest brother would smuggle in his own bottle of A-1 Sauce to douse his meats and, yes, his green beans.

Don’t judge.

What was so great about The Palms?

Everything.

In one corner of dining room was the cooled salad server that provided

Iceberg lettuce with small pieces of radish and cukes, and may be a couple of grated carrots and tomatoes and the rare sliver of purple cabbage;

Waldorf salad;

May be a few pickled beets from time to time;

Fruit salad;

French dressing, blue cheese, ranch.

Balsamic vinegar?

Never heard of it

Up at the front of the room, the main buffet consisted of

Fried chicken;

Roast Beef;

Turkey;

Ham;

Rice;

Shrimp and okra gumbo;

Cornbread dressing;

Giblet gravy with sliced eggs;

Cranberry sauce;

Macaroni pie;

Green beans;

Butter beans;

Stewed yellow squash with onions or squash casserole;

Broccoli casserole or asparagus casserole;

Sweet potato souffle in orange cups with toasted coconut.

In the center of the room on a round table underneath the largest of the palm frond chandeliers were the desserts of

Coconut cream pie with tons of meringue piled high;

Lemon meringue pie with tons of meringue piled high;

Cookies and cream pie from out of the freezer;

Pecan pie with a bop of whipped cream;

Sweet potato pie with a bop of whipped cream.

Each waitress brought her tables basket after basket of the world’s most amazing angel biscuits along with individual gold foil wrapped pats of butter.  The warm biscuit softened the butter pats to perfect spreading consistency.

Some of the older patrons were known to put the butter pats in their pockets to take home.

Channeling Strom Thurmond, all diners wrapped up extra biscuits in paper napkins to take home.

Those biscuits.

The perfect combination of flour, fat, buttermilk, leavening and just a touch of sugar.

Angel biscuits with yeast.

To paraphrase from “Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones,” these were More-glorious-than-the-Seraphim and O-higher-than-the-Cherubim biscuits.

Dominions, Princedoms, Powers, Virtues, Archangels, Angels’ choirs, would have all cried out for them.

Ye Patriarchs and Prophets blessed never knew such joy on a bread plate.

They were so amazing that my mother would order pie plates of the uncooked biscuits and deliver them to friends for Christmas.

We would make runs to Ridgeland to fill up a cooler or two close to the big day and deliver to our friends in Beaufort.

“These are NOT biscuits from The Palms?” recipients would facetiously ask.

They knew exactly what they were.

“Oh my Lawd! Y’all should not have,” was another popular retort upon receipt of the pie plate with uncooked biscuit dough.

In addition to the perfection of those flaky morsels, the main meal astounded.

Each Sunday, the fried chicken skin shattered on the first bite.

The beef melted around its cooked carrots and onions.

The gumbo teemed with fresh local shrimp and the perfect amount of okra, spicy but not too hot.

Cornbread dressing that I try to replicate every Thanksgiving served as another gravy delivery system.

Dadgum that gravy!

Perfect gravy with giblets and eggs and just enough salt.

Biscuits providing just that little sumpin to sop up the remnants on the edge of the plate.

Steamed rice with each grain separated awaiting to be covered in either gravy or gumbo.

The dark corners of the macaroni pie with a couple of noodles just a wee bit singed on top to become the tiniest bit crunchy.

Vegetables with pot likker and the piece of side meat to push out of the way with the slotted serving spoon.

The squash, broccoli, asparagus en casserole.  Straight out of the 1950s.  But, so damned good.

The sweet potato souffle in orange cups with the fresh orange juice, a first dessert during the main part of meal, remains my favorite thing about that menu.

No marshmallows here just old school toasted coconut.

All of the hot food heated with the soft glow and addictive smell of Sterno cups.

And to drink:

Water

Iced tea, either sweet or unsweet

Coffee

Soft drinks

The cooks had been there under several owners.

No surprise who the cooks were.

I wish I knew their names.

I wish I had gone back into the kitchen to watch their alchemy.

Who were these culinary Circe’s?

African American ladies who had cooked in the kitchen forever, under the supervision of a succession of owners.

Eventually, a small lady from Thailand ended up making all of the biscuits after taking over from the original biscuit baker.  The original baker’s lungs could no longer endure flour dust.  Baker’s lung is a thing.

Any time we went, immediately upon arrival, I ran for a slice of coconut cream pie on the dessert table as they were always the first to go.

Always.

Can you tell I love coconut?

Regulars had their usual tables for years.

Miss Essie and General Edwin Pollock sat on the left by the window overlooking the goldfish pond.  Miss Essie enveloped us in hugs with her turkey waddle arms flapping generously around our small frames.

“Boys, go speak to Miss Essie and The General,” our mother would say.

“Oh, Jawge, the boys are gettin’ so big!” Miss Essie would exclaim. “Yancey, I know you’re so proud of these young men.”

The Harpers from Estill, and whatever part of their family could join them, were always in the front room.

The Sauls from Ridgeland had that table across from the Harpers.

Always a smattering of Tutens, Clelands, Malphruses, and Lowthers. Jasper County woods are full of them.

We almost always sat near the Harpers’ table.

“Well, hey, how are y’all?” Mr. Harper would nod over to us.

A local lady named Esther Cooler took over the restaurant after a number of years.  She seemed to be always smoking herself a 100 length cigarette.

I would not have wanted to cross Miz Cooler. No, Sir. Never.

One time I made the mistake of asking her for two meets on a weekday. During the week, The Palms proprietors allowed only one choice of meat, which they put on the waiting china.

Miz Cooler just glared at me and said, “Well, Son, I’d have to charge you double for that.”

My mother once asked Miz Cooler about her favorite thing on her buffet.

“Oh, I get sick to death of this food,” she said, “I just like to get me a cheeseburger from Wendy’s.”

Not us.

For the life of me, I cannot remember the name of the man who ran the place before Miz Cooler.

One time my father was at The Palms during the week, and he heard that gentleman toss his head back into the kitchen and inquire loudly, “Ruby! Ruby!……..hey, yea, Ruby!…….is them po’k chops ready yet?”

You know those po’k chops were fried, of course, and only available during the week.

Is them ready yet?

We weren’t there for the grammar, either.

It was mostly on Sundays that we adored The Palms.

Some Sundays we would eat so much that we would have to stop for sodium bicarb at a gas station on the way home.

One time, our friend Hayes Williams laid himself out in the back of his parents’ car moaning in sybaritic satiation.

“Son, you o.k.?” asked his father

“No, Sir. I’m gonna die,” replied our pal.

“No, Son,” said his father. “You just ate too much. Guess we need some baking soda.”

Sometimes The Palms laid us all out flat.

I hate to report that The Palms restaurant closed almost two decades ago.  My children never had the opportunity to eat there.

Like all good things, it came to an end after Miz Cooler retired and the cooks ended up dying out without anyone to take over that old time cooking.

Those of us of a certain age remember well those Sunday dinners.

My pal Robyn Josselson Shirley bemoans the loss of those biscuits.

It has been ages since my family delivered them for Christmas presents; former recipients still complain.

Wish there were a few more to smuggle out in my napkin.

Mark my words: I’m still going to steal one of those chandeliers.

 

 

Amalgamation

Martha Shannon, who worked for my great-grandparents, made the best according to my mother, my aunts, my cousin Manny Edmunds Salters.

Sharon Schwartz in Beaufort gave us the basis of what I think is the best as amalgamated by me right here.

Palmetto Cheese brand’s commercial variety works.  It’s from Pawley’s Island, so it’s got that going for it.

Ruth’s store brand contains too much mayonnaise and too much corn syrup and imitation cheese. It’s actually cheese product they use.  Not good.  Not at all.

Of course, I’m talking about the most beloved of spreads, Pimento Cheese.

Capitalized for effect.

So…may be food stylist isn’t my calling

All versions of Pimento Cheese amalgamate from other versions.

Hate to reveal what’s been revealed by many, but this ubiquitous Southern staple came from Up Nawth back in the 19th Century.

To quote Kurtz, “The horror. The horror.”

Since at least the mid-20th Century, Pimento Cheese has been as Southern as sweet tea, buttermilk biscuits, fried chicken, rice n gravy, barbecue, shrimp and hominy,  Hoppin’ John, tomato pie, chicken and dumplings, and, gulp, that abomination called banana pudding.

Robert Moss gives the full story right here:

https://www.seriouseats.com/2014/09/history-southern-food-pimento-cheese.html

I have taken various versions of the receipt and made the following my go-to for what Mr. Moss describes as the pâté  of the South.

I would contend that pâté is the pâté of the South, but, that’s just me living in the Lowcountry where there’s always been a strong French influence.

Anyway, here’s my version of Pimento Cheese.

I try to keep it on hand in the fridge as it’s an easy appetizer to pull out whenever there’s a pop-in from a neighbor who’s had a long day, a family member who just came by to drop something off, or a friend who invites themselves over for a spell.

Pour them a drink and put out some pimento cheese.

No one ever turns this down.

Like NO ONE.

EVER.

You’ll make their day.

I have served this to families, friends, and neighbors, and, to those who are alone.

I have taken this to the mountains, to the beach, to tailgates, to cocktail parties, to brunches, to suppers.

I have made obligatory tea sandwiches for events using this spread once it comes to room temperature.

Ever notice that we Southerners are death on bringing it to room temperature?

Usually that doesn’t take very long in our heat, even withe the a.c. cranking.

I have served this on Triscuits, Wheat Thins, Stoned Wheat crackers.

I have put this with celery sticks, much to everyone’s chagrin.

I have mixed this into grits and people think they have died off and gone straight to cheese grits heaven.

Make it your own.

There’s no right or wrong pimento cheese, except for Ruth’s store brand, supra.  It’s kind of wrong.  Kind of.

Enjoy, Kids.

With all my thanks to the late Martha Shannon and to Beaufort’s own Sharon Schwartz.

Pimento Cheese

1 7 oz. jar sliced pimientos – why we dropped that 2nd “i”, I’ll never know – drained and chopped fine

12-15 pimento stuffed green olives, drained and chopped fine

1 8 oz block cream cheese brought to room temperature – see – brought to room temp yet again

1 tbsp. yellow mustard – store brand is fine

2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp. garlic salt – yes – garlic salt – it rehydrates as it sits in the mixture and cuts back on the sodium content of which there is plenty with the other ingredients

1/2 tsp. fresh black pepper

1 tbsp. sherry (optional – but not really)

Dashes of Tabasco sauce to taste (optional – but not really)

1 jalapeno pepper seeded and chopped fine (optional – but not really)

2 lbs extra sharp cheddar cheese grated by hand – you’ll need all 2 lbs and may be more

Mayonnaise – preferably Duke’s – but that is a debate for another day

In a mixing bowl place the softened, room temperature cream cheese.  Add the chopped pimiento, olives, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, garlic salt, black pepper, sherry, Tabasco, and jalapeno pepper.  With a fork, mix by hand until all the lumps of the cream cheese are gone and the mixture is smooth and kind of runny and messy.  You’ll see what I mean the first time you make this.

By a handfuls, add the cheddar cheese and mix by hand with the fork after each addition.  It eventually becomes kind of a workout for your mixing arm.

After all the cheese is added, assess if you want more cheese if you think the mixture is too runny.

Then, add mayonnaise until it becomes a consistency you like.  I usually add no more than two or three tbsps. of Mrs. Eugenia Dukes’ culinary excellence to the mix.

Store in an airtight container in the fridge; it kind of keeps indefinitely, which is awesome.

To serve, bring to, you got it, room temperature.

Serve with crackers, on hamburgers, with vegetables, on hot steaks out of a screaming hot cast iron skillet.

It makes a fine lunch served on lite bread.

There are a gajillion variations of this B T Dubs.  A gajillion.

Make it your own.  You won’t offend anyone by changing it up to suit your tastes.

Notes:

Don’t over mayonnaise the cheese.  You can always add.  You can’t take away.

If you don’t like spicy food, don’t use the Tabasco and don’t use the jalapeno.

If you’re like my pal Adam Barr and despise sherry, don’t use sherry.

If you want to have watery eyes, grate a little onion until it turns to liquid and add that to the mix

In the name of all that is good in this world, and, most importantly, whatever you do, don’t eat Ruth’s.  Yellow 5 and Yellow 6 have no bidness being in pimento cheese.  Neither does sodium benzoate, whatever that may be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quotidian

 

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“Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow/Creeps in this petty pace from day to day….”  Macbeth (Act V, Scene V) Wm. Shakespeare. 

Isn’t there more than turning off the alarm?

Isn’t there more than brushing my teeth?

Isn’t there more than emptying the dishwasher?

Isn’t there more than checking the phone?

Isn’t there more than letting the dog out?

Isn’t there more than letting the dog in?

Isn’t there more than making the coffee?

Isn’t there more than getting the paper?

Isn’t there more than making the bed?

Isn’t there more than hopping in the shower?

Isn’t there more than filling the water bottles?

Isn’t there more than making their breakfasts?

Isn’t there more than locking the house?

Isn’t there more than dropping them off at school?

Isn’t there more than driving to work?

Isn’t there more than the radio station?

Isn’t there more than returning the call?

Isn’t there more than writing the brief?

Isn’t there more than drafting the report?

Isn’t there more than sending the letter?

Isn’t there more than taking the deposition?

Isn’t there more than filing the motion?

Isn’t there more than reading that decision?

Isn’t there more than checking the roster?

Isn’t there more than answering the emails?

Isn’t there more than setting up the conference call?

Isn’t there more than going to the courthouse?

Isn’t there more than typing all day?

Isn’t there more than paying the bills?

Isn’t there more than wondering how to pay the bills?

Isn’t there more than checking the mail?

Isn’t there more than dropping off the dry cleaning?

Isn’t there more than going to the store?

Isn’t there more than going to the doctor?

Isn’t there more than putting out the recycling?

Isn’t there more than doing the laundry?

Isn’t there more than picking up the carpool?

Isn’t there more than driving home?

Isn’t there more than washing the lunch boxes?

Isn’t there more than going to exercise?

Isn’t there more than arranging the babysitter?

Isn’t there more than meeting friends for a drink?

Isn’t there more than watching the news?

Isn’t there more than yelling at the news?

Isn’t there more than hearing the weather report?

Isn’t there more than Final Jeopardy?

Isn’t there more than running the errands?

Isn’t there more than clipping the coupons?

Isn’t there more than this one Saturday?

Isn’t there more than going to church?

Isn’t there more than lunch at the club?

Isn’t there more than going to the game?

Isn’t there more than our daily bread?

Isn’t there more than putting supper on the table?

Isn’t there more than turning on the lights?

Isn’t there more than helping with the homework?

Isn’t there more than loading the dishwasher?

Isn’t there more than cleaning the kitchen?

Isn’t there more than the three-day weekend?

Isn’t there more than driving down the Interstate?

Isn’t there more than mowing the lawn?

Isn’t there more than watering the plants?

Isn’t there more than spreading the pinestraw?

Isn’t there more than walking the dog?

Isn’t there more than texting a friend?

Isn’t there more than speaking to the neighbor?

Isn’t there more than sending them upstairs?

Isn’t there more than watching t.v.?

Isn’t there more than reading to them?

Isn’t there more than tucking them in?

Isn’t there more than the kiss goodnight?

Isn’t there more than twenty minutes to ourselves?

Isn’t there more than turning down the bed?

Isn’t there more than cutting off the lights?

Isn’t there more than brushing teeth?

Isn’t there more than reading the book?

Isn’t there more than turning on the alarm?

Isn’t there more than the other kiss goodnight?

Isn’t there more than watching the fan?

Isn’t there more than getting in their bed after the 3 a.m. nightmare?

Isn’t there more than these fitful naps?

Isn’t there more than turning off the alarm?

Isn’t there more?

Isn’t there?

No.

No there’s not.

Not at all.

Nothing more.

Nothing.

Thanks be to God.

 

Churched

One day tells its tale to another and one night imparts knowledge to another. Although they have no words or language, and their voices are not heard. Psalm 19:2-3

St. Philip’s Church, oldest parish south of Virginia, 1681, current building 1836

 

After twenty years and prayerful contemplation, we have switched churches.

Not the first time I have changed churches.

A door closing; a door opening.

It happens all the time.

Signs from God pointing the way.

As with any breakup, it can be painful.

Being told one is guilty of consumerism by one’s former Rector cements the decision to leave.

Really?

Really

Jesus wept.

So, now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.                  1 Corinthians 13:13

Lots of love from one church, its staff, its communicants.

Not much love from the other where we have been for two decades.

As one of my good friends says, “Oh, well, den.”

St. Michael’s Church, 1751, oldest church building in the city

Christians are to be known by our love.

One day I want to be a Christian.

Feeling a lot of love at the new church.

Welcomed with open arms.

As the song says, “They shall know we are Christians by our love, by our love, yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”

This being the South, most of my friends still go to church.

I don’t remember ever NOT going to church.

Growing up, we always went to church.

At Andover, I would attend the Protestant services with the Reverend Thayer Zader in the chapel. There weren’t many of us, but, wherever two or three are gathered, there He will be also.

In Chapel Hill, I went to church regularly at the Chapel of the Cross on Franklin Street.

When I lived in Kenya, I attended All Saints Cathedral in Nairobi.

In Law School, I joined Trinity Cathedral in Columbia.

When we married, we made picking a church home a priority.

Now we are in a new home after two decades of worship at the old one.

We were married at First (Scots) Presbyterian Church, my wife’s childhood church. During our counseling, Dr. Massie, then Senior Pastor there, told us that the only thing that mattered about where were went to church was that it was a place where we felt comfortable and where we could give comfort.

Well said, Dr. Massie.  Well said.

First (Scots) Presbyterian Church, est. 1731, building from 1814. Where we were hitched and where our children graduated from kindergarten

All the great events of my life have been in the shadow of the Cross: Baptisms, Confirmations, Weddings, Funerals.

I am related to Priests, Pastors, Bishops.

Part of my Virginia antecedents fled France to worship as they saw fit. Huguenots of Manakin, VA.

French Huguenot Church. Last one of its kind in the U.S.  Current building from 1844.  My ancestors Amer Via and Gabriel Maupin and their families fled France to worship as they saw fit.  The Perrin family fled for similar reasons.

In honoring their legacy, we attend church.

In keeping the commandments of Jesus, we attend church.

My mother’s mother used to say that she drew strength from Communion.  The bread and wine fed her. The Body and The Blood.

Rock of Ages, cleft for me.

I, too, draw such strength.

It’s in my blood that I should be washed in His blood.

The O’Kelley family motto is “Turris fortis mihi Deus.”  A mighty fortress is my God.

One of my favorite hymns is Martin Luther’s own “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.”

Coincidence?  There are no coincidences in God.

That hymn will be the processional hymn at my funeral.

If any of you reading this attend, please know that I have planned this funeral to not be about me, but, instead, to be an Easter service.  All joy. All resurrection. All the beautiful language of the Bible, the Prayer Book.

I planned my funeral after attending the funeral of my across the street neighbor, Dr. Charles Aimar, back in 2012.  Sat down and planned the whole thing.

I know the hymns

I know the lessons.

I know the Psalm, the 23rd, will be sung as “The King of Love My Shepherd Is.”

The Lord is my Shepherd.  I shall not want.

There will be homily, not a sermon.

Short

Sweet

Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so.

There will be Communion.

There will be hymns during Communion.

Those who attend will recess to “Onward! Christian Soldiers!”  The Church Militant singing me on to The Church Triumphant.

The most traditional-Rite-One-old-time-religion-all-hymns-out-of-the-hymnal-funeral-you-ever-did-see-where-you-leave-feeling-good-about-yourself-and-not-crying-for-the-deceased

But, now at a different church.

As a priest recently told me, sticking with the old liturgy and the old hymns equals cutting edge worship these days.

We made the right decision.

Time to get back to the work of the people.

The work of the Lord.

I go to church because He hung on a cross for me.

I go to church to thank Him.

I to go church to sing. To sing badly, but to sing.

Christ for the world we sing. 

The world to Christ we bring 

With loving zeal.

The poor, and them that mourn

The faint and overborn, 

Sin sick and sorrow worn,

Whom Christ doth heal.

I am sorrow worn having left our old church family.

I know I take this stuff way more seriously than most of my friends, too.

I love that a lot of my friends openly discuss these issues and their faith.

That being said, I have several friends who have already stated that I will be directing all aspects of their funerals.

You want “How Great Thou Art.”  Done

You want “Blessed Assurance.” Done

You want “Amazing Grace” on bagpipes. Done

You want “Abide with Me” by a soloist. Done

You want “I Sing a Song of the Saints of God.” Done

When the late President George H.W. Bush died, the nation seemed to be in shock at the dignity of his funeral.

Felt completely familiar to me.

The President’s funeral felt like every funeral I have ever attended in Beaufort, Charleston, Columbia, Greenville, Savannah, Ridgeway, Blythewood, Bishopville, Camden.

Perfect hymns and readings

Unlike the late President, there will be no eulogizing of me.  None.

It ain’t about me.

It’s about Him.

I  go to church to gain strength.

I go to church to profess the faith as approved by the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D.

Holy Holy Holy, blessed Trinity.

We Mainline Protestants forget to profess our faith from time to time.

It’s considered tacky to do so.

Don’t know why that is.

Guess if St. Peter could deny Jesus three times and have the church built upon him as the original rock, then it’s o.k. if we’re less than forthcoming about our faith.

We should be more comfortable with it.

My Aunt Em once told me this:

We should have Lutheran forgiveness, Episcopal liturgy, Presbyterian conviction, Methodist singing, and Southern Baptist food.

That would work for me, but, according to some, that would be consumerism.

 

 

Jocund Company

Eons ago, the Lowcountry exported bounties of daffodils in the late winter and early spring.

Hands buried bulbs in Beaufort, Bluffton.

Acres and acres of golden goodness.

Workers picked the yellow flowers in bud by the bushel. The farmers then shipped them Up North and all over the nation.

We used to have a lot of truck farms.

Now, we have a lot of tourists.

In her 1991 book, Ebb Tide-Flood Tide Beaufort County…Jewel of the Low Country, Beaufort photographer Lynn McLaren captured Mary Owens and Rosa Green picking daffodils for sale and a little girl named Miranda bringing in her own crop. Each worker handpicked each stalk and flower. I have no idea what they were paid, but I am sure it was backbreaking work.

From Ebb-Tide Flood Tide, Beaufort County…Jewel of the Lowcountry, Lynn McLaren (University of South Carolina Press, 1991), p. 81

Ms. McLaren captured the waning days of large scale, for-profit daffodil farming in Beaufort County.

The Pinckney family in Bluffton owned one such daffodil farm. For years, their descendants, the Merricks, allowed folks to come pick, for a fee, after their harvest.

The family of John Trask, Sr., owned another such daffodil farm on Kane Island, just over the bridge from downtown Beaufort.

The Trasks invited schoolchildren to Kane Island to pick daffodils after the harvest. Blythewood Kindergarten and Beaufort Academy took literal field trips out to Kane to pick.

We have the pictures to prove it.

It was not unusual for Caroline Trask to call my parents’ house around my birthday and let us know we could go pick. We would load up buckets and boots and run out to Kane to pick.

The smell of clean yellow freshness reminds me of my birthday every year.

When my children were little, the Trask family had a daffodil day or two where they had a band, picking parties, refreshments. Glorious late winter days.  Cool but not cold. Waving stalks capped with yellow which, to quote Wordsworth, were “[f]luttering and dancing in the breeze.”

We have a painting of my girls in the daffodil fields when they were much younger from one those very days.

Here ’tis:

 

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Those days of simple living and floral beauty contrast to one other day from twenty six years ago today.

Damn.

Getting old.

That day 180 degrees from those bucolic idylls.

Daffodilled drunken drugged debauchery.

The Daze in the Daffodils.

February 13, 1993, just a few days shy of my twenty-first birthday.

A bunch of friends from home decided we would all come for the party. We were all in college then.

In my contemporaneously scribbled journal, I noted ambivalence.

Going to that thing at the daffodil farm in a few weeks. Either way lame or way cool. Will see. Everyone coming home for it.

Way cool.

Waaaay.

Waaaaaaay too cool.

Organized by one of the Trask grandchildren and a friend, well, let’s just say it was our own little version of Woodstock.

But without the acid, or may be with the acid.

But without the pot, or may be with the pot.

There was a 1-800 number.

That’s how we knew it was a big deal.

Allgood, out of Athens, Georgia, headlined.

F/k/a Allgood Music Company.

Songs I remember of theirs were “Funky House”, “It’s All Right”, “Ride the Bee”, which was the name of their album. Our friends who went to Georgia knew them as a regular house band at parties. They, too, were coming home for the day of Daze.

Allgood played at Cat’s Cradle in Chapel Hill, the Music Farm in Charleston, and other great small venues where we experienced new music.

Southern bluesy rock with a penchant for touring and channeling the Allman Brothers.

Where are they now?

According to Mr. Gore’s Internet, they are still on tour.

Beek Webb’s bluegrass band opened for them. Who? Local band with fiddles? Get me some Allgood.

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Admission $10.00.

If you remember it, you might not have been there.

College students descended upon Beaufort from all over the Southeast.

The Lady’s Island Food Lion ran out of beer.

I still have my t-shirt.

Poor Wordsworth.

He never thought his Lake District poem would inspire such a trippy, stoned, muddy, drunken mess.

It had rained and the daffodil fields were a bit wet.

Sheriff’s Deputies directed traffic over the thin causeways, the only way onto and off of Kane Island.  It’s amazing they did not arrest every last twenty-something there for public intoxication.

Local parent types arrived all decked out to drink their wine and listen to the music.  They did not stay long.  Most of them didn’t see what was coming. Most of them high tailed it back into town as the clouds of patchouli inflected smoke wafted over our heads.

For us Beaufort wastrels who showed up there that day from our various schools and colleges, we walked the fine line of speaking to our parents and their friends and partying with friends from college and friends of friends from other schools.

Half of the College of Charleston came down to Beaufort that day.

Half of them camped out at the Hunting Island State Park.  My pal Hayes Williams and I almost drove out to Hunting Island that night.  Praise the Lord that we did not. I would not be alive had we gotten behind the wheel on Highway 21.

Some of my current friends told me the story of being stranded on Hunting Island.

No cell phones.

Calls made at the park rangers’ station to no avail.

Turn around.

We have to go back, y’all.

All of the people on Kane Island that banner day between the ages of 20 and 26 were beyond messed up. Knee walking. Blind. D-r-u-n-k drunk. Wasted. Stoned. High as kites. Shi’fahss’d. Thick tongued. Seeing double. Seeing triple. Effed up nine ways to Sunday.

How’d they all get off of Kane Island?

They drove.

We all drove.

No one should have been driving.

We all did back then.

Terrible.

We’d seen our parents do it.

Lots of times.

We’d be fine, too.

How there were no wrecks, arrests, deaths, beyond comprehension.

Our youthful zeal made us indelible.  That and all the beer and cigarettes.

We did hear of one person turning over in a ditch. We did hear of another going off the causeway at that one bad turn leading up to Kane Island, but, that was not uncommon with our parents after a big night.

NBD

Hell, we had all pulled a couple cars out of the marsh on that one tricky turn.

Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against thee in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. (From the Confession of Sin, Book of Common Prayer)

“I drive better when I’m drunk.”

“I’ve seen you drive drunk, and you’re fine.”

“Puhlease…I’m not drunk.”

“Oh, gimme the keys…I’m fine.”

We did that all the time, beyond comprehension.

How more were not caught, beyond comprehension.

How more did not die, beyond comprehension.

There but for the Grace of God goes almost everyone I have ever known, me included.

As proven, supra, I still have my ticket from the Daze in the Daffodils.

I cherish it as a reminder of a wild time with wild friends.

Absolutely gloriously wild.

The glory of youth is wasted on the young and on the young who are wasted.

As it is daffodil season, I am reminded of that messy Saturday in 1993, on this the day’s anniversary.

I am also reminded of the man who wandered lonely as a cloud in the Lake District sometime in 1804. At one point, I had to memorize his Romantic lark and recite it to a bored classroom.

I flash upon the inward eye, too.  Then I remember being flashed in a daffodil field.

I smell burning rope and cheap boxed wine.

I see Marlboro Light and Camel Light butts thrown among the furrows.

I see the hippy shake, the high step, the Rubik’s cube dances.

I see the wind blowing the acres of daffodils under a partly cloudy sky.

Let us redeem the muddy debauchery of that bacchanal by turning to the ode to the Narcissus pseudonarcissus.

Let us think not of college girls hurling up their guts near the portable potties.

 

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud

William Wordsworth, 1807

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
and twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretched in never-ending line
along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
in such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
what wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Today, in this vacant mood, I remain dazed by the daffodils.

 

 

Thanks G Dubya

Presidents’ Day approaches.

IMHO, the greatest of them all was the Father of our Country.

G Dubya his own self.

George Washington’s greatness began when he was young with his own daily catechism, 110 Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation.

In past years, I held him up as a model to my Godchildren.

I pray that one day they may say I contributed to their knowledge of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

Back in 2016, I updated a version of G Dubya’s catechism for their reference.

I pray that one day they will look back on these rules inspired by His Excellency and at least know a little something of my love for them, all seven of them.

Yes, seven Godchildren.

There are seven wonderful young people whose parents saw fit to entrust me with being responsible in some way for their spiritual well-being.

Solemn vows.

I will, with God’s help.

Growing in the knowledge, love, and fear of the The Lord.

Sacred trust.

Some live close by. Some live a bit a way. One lives in London. The eldest is in the 11th Grade.  The youngest in 4th.

My updated rules based on G Dubya are reprinted herein.

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Gilbert Stuart’s George Washington (Landsdowne Portrait), 1796

George Washington based his rules on those composed by French Jesuits in the 16th Century.

I based mine on my parents, my grandparents, my teachers, and Mrs. Post.

In 2016, I mailed a copy of them to my Godchildren.  Most of them wrote me back.   In thanking me, one of my Godchildren stated emphatically “I will live by the Rules.”

I like to think that they all are living by these edicts.

They’re just nice manners, really.

Apologies for redundancy for those who read them in 2016.

Apologies to His Excellency General Washington, too.

I shall not tell a lie; his were better.

 

Uncle Hammy’s One Hundred Rules

(For my Godchildren)

  1. Whenever possible, hold the door open for someone else
  2. Eat your vegetables
  3. Drink lots of water
  4. Use sunscreen liberally
  5. Do one thing a day that would make your parents proud but tell no one about it
  6. Always be kind to waiters and waitresses in restaurants
  7. Never stop reading for pleasure
  8. Learn something new every day
  9. Travel
  10. Put your napkin in your lap
  11. If confused at table, always work from the outside in towards your plate, or, wait and see what your neighbor does
  12. Sit up straight
  13. Stretch
  14. Park as far away from the store as possible and walk
  15. Find friends that make you laugh and keep them close to you
  16. Never ask for lemon and milk in hot tea at the same time
  17. Make your bed every day
  18. Floss your teeth
  19. Learn to write a good thank you note
  20. Learn to cook at least one thing better than anyone else you know
  21. Never put sugar in your grits
  22. Buy a good pair of shoes
  23. Wear a belt if the pants have belt loops
  24. Smile at strangers as you may be the only bright thing in their day
  25. Go to church
  26. Learn to shuck an oyster
  27. Take your coffee black, if possible
  28. Know the difference between Phillips head and flat head
  29. Always eat breakfast
  30. Take the tone of the company you are in – Lord Chesterfield said that, not I
  31. Call a cab or an Uber or a Lyft or whatever
  32. Put down the phone once in a while
  33. Remember that salt water is a great cure for what may ail you
  34. Mentholatum or Vicks Vapor Rub under your nose may help when you have a cold
  35. Go to bed
  36. Nothing good happens after midnight no matter what people may tell you
  37. Put flowers in your house every once in a while
  38. Pine straw hides a myriad of sins in your yard or garden
  39. Plant bulbs such as daffodils, tulips, caladiums, or paperwhites
  40. Set the table
  41. Use the silver
  42. Have a favorite sports team and be passionate about them
  43. Put up a Christmas tree
  44. Learn how to make a good steak
  45. Call your parents
  46. Read a Shakespeare play
  47. Thank one of your teachers later in life
  48. Dance at weddings and parties
  49. Swing a hammer
  50. Do some yard work; it never killed anybody
  51. Whenever you can, get in the water
  52. Take care of a houseplant
  53. Have a dog
  54. Wear sunglasses
  55. Do pushups
  56. Keep in touch with your childhood friends as best you can
  57. But, feel free to say goodbye to people who are no good for you
  58. Learn the words to one hymn; sing it often
  59. Use family names
  60. Put the butter out at least two hours before you serve the bread
  61. Salt in a cellar, pepper in a shaker, ketchup in a bottle
  62. Never salt or pepper your food before you taste it
  63. Learn to say Mass-ah-chu-sets and Ill-ah-noy correctly
  64. Always know that you are better than no one else but no one else is better than you
  65. Know that you are LOVED
  66. When your feelings are hurt, and I guarantee that will happen, remember that there are people who will always be jealous of you and who are unhappy regardless of what you do
  67. Take a walk
  68. Remember “anyways” is not a word
  69. Learn stories about your family, your ancestors, and repeat them
  70. Eat together as a family
  71. Make an effort when a guest comes to your house
  72. Learn to use an iron
  73. Clean out your drawers and closet once a year
  74. Wash your hands
  75. Offer a drink
  76. Put a napkin with that drink
  77. Remember that invitations are to be accepted or refused, but if you always refuse, you may never receive another invitation to be accepted
  78. Try to take people as you find them as you do not know what another person has been through that day
  79. Meet your neighbors
  80. Be happy for your friends when they succeed
  81. Commiserate with your friends when they fail
  82. Not everyone needs to know all you think
  83. If you are ever fired from a job, then that job was not right for you, so be glad
  84. Leafy greens should be part of your diet: collards, kale, spinach, cabbage, Brussels sprouts
  85. Remember who you are and where you came from no matter where you go as you are all from amazing stock
  86. Give up your seat for the elderly, new mothers, the sick
  87. Get a haircut before you need a haircut
  88. Do not spit on the street
  89. Take your elbows off the table
  90. Spoon your soup away from you
  91. Offer to bring something and never show up empty handed
  92. Give a compliment to your wife, husband, child, at least once a day
  93. Do not be so hard on yourself
  94. Speak to your friends so you can hear their voices, not just read the screen
  95. Remember birthdays of your families, friends, and neighbors
  96. Pray for your families, friends, and neighbors
  97. Fear not!
  98. An ounce of pretension is worth a pound of manure
  99. Keep the faith
  100. And, lastly, remember “With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.” Max Ehrmann, Desiderata

All my love,

Uncle Hammy

Hominy presents were this great?

For my fortieth birthday, our dear pals Anne Marie and Jimmy Hagood invited us to join them and some friends for an event during the Charleston Wine + Food Festival.

That night made up for the birthday present from my youngest.

A sickly yellowing blue-black eye.

She head butted me re-creating an unfortunate incident in the country wherein she developed two black eyes herself.

On that fateful night a few years ago, most assembled asked what happened. Instead of saying that my youngest had head butted me right before I tucked her into bed, I claimed a bar fight.

You should see the other guy.

Even with the shiner, the night I write about here ranks as one of the best nights ever.

Top ten.

A Charleston Dinner at the Hominy Grill.

 

 

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On Rutledge Avenue where we lay our scene. And our table.

 

That Charleston Wine + Food offering was the vision of the same Jimmy Hagood, half of the giver of the present, with help from Charleston’s culinary ambassadors, Matt and Ted Lee.

The organizers thought to create an authentic Charleston dinner for folks from off to celebrate typical meals of Charleston families.

It was only in the last thirty years that respectable food would be found outside of private homes in Charleston.

The problem with this offering is that locals snatched up most of the tickets.

So much for indoctrinating folks from off about traditional Charleston dinners of past and present.

Back in 2012, the Charleston Wine + Food Festival remained accessible to locals. It still had most of its original staffers. It had not morphed into the gargantuan event it is today. Most of us local types stay away now.

We used to know the director, the staff, the board members, the movers, the shakers.

We used to be invited to more events.

We don’t go any more.

Near my birthday in 2012, James Beard Award winner Robert Stehling of the Hominy Grill agreed to be the main chef of the Charleston inspired meal and to host us all at the Hominy.  Mr. Stehling cooked along with my host Jimmy Hagood, Kevin Johnson of The Grocery, and Chris Hastings of the Hot & Hot Fish Club in Birmingham.

The Hominy had just completed a renovation adding more seating.

Our house is not too far from The Hominy. Back when they served supper, we would take our young children there. We love that place.

We were honored to be included that perfect night by Anne Marie and Jimmy.

In addition to our traveling well together, we dine well together.

Their present to me in 2012 may still be one of the best birthday presents I have been blessed to receive. Church honor. Heart attack serious.

As stated, the task of the night was to serve up a meal that would have been on Charleston plates during the last 100 years.

We arrived at the Hominy that Saturday night mildly worse for wear from the night before having attended one of the Dine Around’s where guest chefs paired with local chefs. May be a touch of the wine flu flowed through our veins.

Our pals were not immediately there upon our arrival. We made small talk with some folks from Chicago and sipped the offered cocktail, a cup of St. Cecelia Punch, straight out of Charleston Receipts.

It’s the first beverage receipt in that venerable Charleston cookbook.

Lemons, brandy, pineapple, sugar, tea, rum, more brandy, champagne, and soda water. Served ice-cold.

A boozie doozie.

Julian Van Winkle would be in attendance that night along with his bride, Sissy. If you ever get the chance to sit at table with the Van Winkles, I highly recommend it.

I didn’t know it when we accepted the kind invitation, but Anne Marie and Jimmy had invited the Van Winkles and the winemakers featured that evening to sit with us.

The vintners were Tuck and Boo Beckstoffer.

Napa Nobility

She’s from the ATL originally.

Our table would be the Hagoods, Van Winkles, Beckstoffers, and….well…us…..still not worthy or sure why the Hagoods would think we were a good fit.

The Hagoods, Van Winkles, and Beckstoffers palled around at the Southern Foodways Alliance (the SFA) annual conferences at Blackberry Farm in Tennessee.

Our pals Chris and Libba Osborne used to always go to those events, too. They were in attendance that fateful evening.

Another SFA veteran and huge foodie, Rathead Riley,  came to the supper, too.

They were all great pals; we interloped.

As with all well-traveled folks who are accustomed to meeting friends of friends, the Beckstoffers and Van Winkles could not have been nicer, more fun, more gracious.

They made us feel like we had been old, old pals.

New besties.

Immediate connections.

As appetizers passed through the room, we began to assemble at our tables.

Grab a bite; have a drink; smile at someone you don’t know.

Anne Marie looked at us and said, “Y’all…over here.”

Sweet.

We had the eight-top with the others described above.

Close to the bar area.

A little bit away from the rest of the folks in the room.

At a long, long trestle table in the same room, our pals Libba and Chris Osborne and various other Charleston folks sat with food royalty, Nathalie Dupree herself.

Ms. Dupree is a BIG DEAL in the culinary world.  I think she has had as many t.v. cooking show appearances as the late Mrs. Paul Child.

If you don’t know who she is, well, then can we really be friends?

And there we were in the room with her, the most famous bourbon maker in the country, award wining wine makers, award wining barbecue cooks, and authors of successful cookbooks.

NBD

At the end of the table sat Julian Van Winkle, to his left sat Anne Marie Hagood, then me, then Boo Beckstoffer, then Jimmy Hagood at the other head, then Sissy Van Winkle, then Tuck Beckstoffer, then Mary Perrin and back to Julian Van Winkle.  Perfect mixing of the couples.

In breaking the ice at the table, I leaned over and said, “Mr. Van Winkle, what is your favorite bourbon?”

I’m sure that was the first time anyone had ever asked him that.

Take that Woodward and Bernstein.

Regular Geraldo Rivera am I.

“Please, please, call me Julian.” He replied. Then taking a sip of his own bourbon, he slyly looked at me and said, “And, to answer your question, it’s Smirnoff.”

The whole table erupted.

And, oh, the food that night.

There was crab stuffed flounder with hush puppies.

Guinea fowl and dumplings.

Shrimp and rice pilau (pronounced purr-low) .

Matt and Ted Lee stood to give those assembled the story of pilau in the Lowcountry.

They did an admirable job of reporting on a meeting with a Charleston doyenne whose mother helped edit Charleston Receipts. That doyenne may or may not be related to some of those mentioned here.

Those from off seemed appreciative of the story of Charleston’s culinary heritage.  All eight of them.

The local folks just wanted to eat.

Especially the roasted pork with spring onion gratin, roasted carrots and parsnips, Charleston gold rice with red peas, and, naturally, some braised collards. I still dream of that main course.

As the old joke goes:

Why are Charlestonians like the Chinese?

They eat rice and worship their ancestors.

Our new best friend Tuck Beckstoffer’s wines accompanied each course. As each wine pairing came to the tables, Tuck would stand and introduce the wine.

During the red meat course, which was that beautiful pork roast, we drank his luxuriously velvet Melee.

Tuck tells the story much better than I can write it, but, to paraphrase, that wine was named by his company’s chief financial officer quite by accident.

After going to said bean counter to ask about introducing that new vintage, the CFO protested Tuck’s profligate ways with the company’s money. He discussed profits and losses and years to fruition. He wagged his finger at Tuck’s vision and Tuck not taking into account the accounting.

Apparently, the CFO said that the new vintage would not just be a financial disaster, but, instead, it would be a fucking melee. Hence, the name of the wine.

I’ve heard Tuck tell that story more than once. He brings down the room.

Course followed course with Julian Van Winkle allowing those of us at his table and a few from the big table to take swigs from the bottle of Pappy 20  that he brought with him.

“Shh…don’t tell,” he conspired.

Chris Osborne made numerous visits to our table.

As another new course appeared at table, our other new best friend Sissy Van Winkle marveled at the gluttony.

“Y’all, we don’t eat like this at home. It’s usually me in sweat pants with a bowl of soup watching Jeopardy!”

We all howled.

Boo Beckstoffer extolled the virtues of being back in the South for the weekend. You can take the girl out of the 404 but you can’t take the 404 out of the girl.

[Side note: I must tell you she is one of my most ardent supporters on the social media. See? Immediate besties. Some 7 years later, the Beckstoffers just had another child.  Congratulations Boo and Tuck!  We have babysitters ready to go next time y’all are in town.]

That night, dessert was a drunken blur.

There was an upside down cake washed down with glasses of Mr. Van Winkle’s 20 year bourbon.

The shampoo effect had kicked in big time.

The shampoo effect happens on the second day or night after a big night. Take one drink and boom….drunk again….like shampoo running down your head in the shower. My sister-in-law Margaret Johnson Kunes told me about the shampoo effect years ago.

That supper at Hominy Grill years ago was all shampoo effect.

During the entire supper, there was a steady light rain outside.

It added to the ambiance, the over all effect, shampoo notwithstanding.

As we sat at table, I knew that it a was a rare night never to be repeated.

As I returned to our table from one visit to the big table, I thought, “I should take some pictures.”

Instead, I lived in the moment.

Revolutionary.

Towards the end of the meal, Robert Stehling, Kevin Johnson, and Chris Hastings came from the kitchen for their standing ovation. Some of the clappers swayed a bit as they applauded.

As we all went out to our taxis and waiting drivers, none of us wanted the experience to end.

There was another party we attended.

In the rain.

It stunk.

Robert Moss wrote about the evening for The Charleston City Paper. I have attempted to find his article to attach it here. I can’t find it.

I do remember that in his article, Mr. Moss described the magic of it all. The intimate setting. The perfect food. The laughter. The culinary potentates in the room. The stories told between courses, during wine pairings.

The perfection of it all.

Nothing stiff or stilted or boring about that night.

Bit of a melee.