Mon Cherie

Where’d she go?

The Elevator Lady

The Elevator Queen

The Lady in the Lift

Who?

Cherie Berry, head of the North Carolina Labor Department

Pronounced Sherry Berry, of course

For over twenty years her face was in every elevator in North Carolina verifying the inspection of the carriage, pulleys, hydraulics, brakes

For over twenty years, if you entered any elevator in the Old North State, you saw her

Memes

T-shirts

Jokes

The most well known signature in North Carolina

The most well known face in North Carolina

She assured any Tar Heel and anyone visiting North Carolina that the rider would not fall to his death in the elevator shaft

The Lady in the Lift

There she is in her signature red pointing to a black and white picture

She upgraded to color with a red jacket and blonded hair

The most famous visage in North Carolina

Recently, we learned she retired

The current head of the labor department’s photograph is slowing replacing mon Cherie

He’s not as recognizable

Average white guy

Mon Cherie’s cherry jacket stood out

As the new dude supplants mon Cherie, elevators with her picture in them have now turned into collectors items

Were I to be in such an elevator, I might swipe the inspection certificate and frame it so mon Cherie’s visage could kindly remind me that I would not be plunging to my death

There is a t-shirt company based out of Charlotte, NC, that puts a silk screened likeness of Ms. Berry on it

The caption states “Cherie Berry Gives Me A Lift”

Not any more, though

Being my second favorite state, being a proud UNC graduate, being the father of children who attended camp in North Carolina, and, now, being a father of a Tar Heel, I have flat logged some hours in North Carolina

I have flat logged a lot of time with mon Cherie smiling at me from the corner of the inspection certificates

That she is gone from mechanical hoisters in the Vale of Humility makes my life a little less, well, lifted

Her Twitter handle is Elevator Queen

That she was, is, and forever shall be

Cracka Meal

My father was and is a proud graduate of the Citadel in Charleston

My mother taught in Charleston

Growing up in Beaufort, we went to a lot of Citadel football games

Also, growing up in Beaufort, it felt like we had to drive to Charleston to buy almost anything

There’s a joke at home that my mother will drive to Charleston for a gallon of milk. She still keeps Highway 17 hot.

From the time I was born until 1998, if we were travelling to the Holy City from Beaufort any time on a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday, we tried to time it right to hit The Edisto Motel & Restaurant in Jacksonboro, South Carolina, known to all in the Lowcountry as the Edisto Motel.

At one brief time, Jacksonboro was our State’s capital on the banks of the Edisto River

From 1947 when it opened until it closed in 1998, the Edisto Motel was the main draw for Jacksonboro, which consists of a few houses, a few gas stations

Owned by the Hickman family who lived next door and only a stone’s throw from the black tannic waters of the Edisto River, the Edisto Motel remains for me the zenith of seafood cooking. I compare any seafood restaurant to the Edisto Motel. Some restaurants have come close, but none are as good

None

Change my mind? You can’t and won’t

Thirty five minutes from Beaufort

Thirty five minutes from Charleston

Fifteen minutes from Walterboro

Folks flocked to the motel for supper those three nights

Zelda Hickman and her sister Doris Cook ran the kitchen and cooked the food themselves. Really.

I know this because one evening my youngest brother was being very picky about eating his perfectly fried local shrimp

Mrs. Hickman always moved round the restaurant asking if everything suited her guests. That evening she stopped by our table, “Hey, how y’all this evening?”

She could see my brother’s reticence to eat despite my parents’ pleas. She squatted down beside him and with her lilting accent said, “Oh, Son, I need you to eat those shrimp. My sister and I peel and devein each one and then fry them just for you.”

Church honor

He gobbled every bite

People from all over the Lowcountry still bemoan the closing of the Edisto Motel Restaurant. As I said, we compare any fried seafood to Ms. Hickman’s and Ms. Cook’s. Knowingly, we roll our eyes and say to one another, “Still not as good as the Edisto Motel”

It was a family affair not just for the Hickmans and Cooks but for their guests, too

There were no reservations made

Instead, cars pulled in off of Highway 17 and patrons emerged to stand in line. If you were really lucky, you would arrive right at 5 p.m. on your way home from wherever you were going. Or you made that special trip to the Edisto Motel just for early supper

Standing in line and waiting was one of the best parts of the experience, because, it being South Carolina, all the customers would begin to chat and know people who knew people

“Oh, we’re from Walterboro”

“We live in Mount Pleasant”

“Just drove over from Lady’s Island”

“Came down from Summerville”

“We’re on our way back to Savannah”

Sometimes the wait would be for an hour or so

It did not matter one bit

I don’t recall anyone saying, “I’m not waiting in this line”

If they did they were a fool

The line was completely democratic and a cross section of humanity

The wealthy northerners that wintered at nearby plantations

The local folks who cleaned their houses

Black, White, Old, Young, Singles, Families, Folks from Off, Home Folks, Binyahs, Comeyahs, everyone went to the Edisto Motel

Inside the hallway of the building holding the restaurant there were long, metal, industrial coolers stocked with beer and soft drinks

Dads would always go inside and grab a couple cold ones and pass them around

By the time you snaked through the line and reached Mr. Hickman to seat you, he would ask, also in a wonderful Lowcountry brogue, “How many?” Then ” How manydidya have?” It worked on an honor system for the beer and cokes. They never monitored the coolers.

But no one came for the drinks

If you did not experience it, then there is no way I can describe it

Sorry

But, I’ll try

The seafood was fresh and local

Small creek shrimp

Mr. Hickman would drive to B&B Seafood at Bennett’s Point, to Gay Fish Company on St. Helena, and any shrimp dock in between to get the shrimp

They bought local oysters

Their flounder was flounder that had been swimming earlier that day

Their scallops were never skate wing

Crabs were deviled in the shells

Each meal was served with coleslaw or salad, baked potato or French fries, and hush puppies

I can hear Mr. Hickman now

Holding his order pad and pencil ready to go

“What ya having?”

“Slaw or salad?”

“Blue cheese, French, Thousand Island, Eye-tal-yun, Ranch, Oil and Vinegah, or Honey Musstahd?”

“Baayked or fried?”

He asked every diner that same question

Meanwhile, in the kitchen the ladies would put the seafood in a little egg and milk mixed together with some salt while you waited

They would then coat the seafood in cracker meal

Cracka meal as we say

Crushed crackers reduced to a flour like consistency

(N.B. Recently, a friend asked the Hickmans’ son what the secret was and he divulged the method and the brand of cracka meal. I’m in on the secret, but I’ll never tell)

Then, they would place the seafood into hot oil for just a brief spell then onto the plate with either the baayked or fried, some tartar sauce and some cocktail sauce. A lot of customers would order slaw just to have it to go with the seafood

The hush puppies fried in the same oil accompanied unnecessarily but oh so necessarily

The fried oysters in the winter were a work of art

During the early spring, if the shad were running, Mrs. Hickman would let you know that they had shad roe. She would fry it up and bring it sizzling to your table. I can taste the fried fish eggs popping in my mouth right now. I might be drooling

John Martin Taylor put the Edisto Motel fried shrimp receipt in his book Fearless Frying Cooking

He knew perfection when he found it

Like him, we knew perfection, too

We went their often growing up

During Law School in Columbia, a group of us went to the Edisto Motel for supper one night. Mrs. Hickman smiled and said, “I just love seeing people I’ve known for years all grown up” Little did we our days of fried perfection were not for long back in the 1990s

My family’s strongest and strangest memory of the Edisto Motel was sometime when I was in middle school. On a cold Saturday night on the way back from something in Charleston, we stopped for supper. It being cold, there was not much of a line. We were seated quickly at a table near the front corner of the restaurant

Across the restaurant were the Graces and Tuppers who also lived in Beaufort

We were next to a table of folks from Walterboro one of whom had draped what looked like a cheap rabbit fur coat on the back of her chair

After the usual slaw or salad, baayked or fried inquiry, we sat and chatted about the day, the weekend

In almost no time, our food arrived

Several of us had chosen the French fry option that night

Out of habit, my father grabbed the glass bottle of Heinz ketchup and began to shake it

Not knowing that the top was loose, he began to shake ketchup all over the dining room

He thought my mother had been shot

Mrs. Hickman, walking through the dining room, got ketchup on her glasses

Gene Grace’s shirt got hit from behind

The woman from Walterboro would never wear that cheap rabbit fur again

He shook with great vigor

No half measures

Finally, Mr. Hickman got hit behind the counter

Ketchup coated the ceiling

Once my father realized it was his violent shaking of the ketchup bottle and not a Stephen King movie come to life, he really started to laugh. So did all of us. My brothers and I didn’t get a drop on us

For years, whenever we went to the Edisto Motel, Mr. Hickman would wink at my father and tell him he checked the ketchup bottle tops just for him

I think there was a bill for the rabbit fur cleaning, too

I don’t know what that cost my parents

I do know that I would pay any exorbitant sum of money to have those shrimp and oyters again with some baayked or fried

On a camping trip a couple of years ago, a group of us almost recreated the fried shrimp using local shrimp, the right cracka meal, and hot clean oil

It was pretty close

But, it wasn’t the same without hearing Mr. Hickman asking if we wanted our potatoes baayked or fried

Kneadful Things

Where the hell have I been? Under a rock? Not paying attention? Why have I not known about Jim Lahey and Mark Bittman’s No-Knead Bread from the New York Times? Paradigm. Shifted

Man shall not live by bread alone. Matthew 4:4

But, he wishes he had known about this sooner as this had to have been inspired by the Word of God. It’s that good

According to the NYT, it’s one of the most popular things they have ever published. They say as much on the NYT Cooking website. There’s a video, even

This is from Jim Lahey of the Sullivan Street Bakery in NYC. I made a couple of changes

I did read the Notes and used some of the tricks in making my first batch recently

This bread tastes like a French boule straight from your favorite bakery. It’s got a chewy hard crust and a light as air crumb on the inside with big air holes from the yeast and steam and fermentation. Not quite a sour dough, but the chew, the mouthfeel (I hate that term), the flavor profile (I hate that term) aren’t that far away from sourdough

You will need a heavy, oven proof Dutch oven – enamel, cast iron – with a tight lid. I used a LeCreuset that can go into up to a 500 oven.

It takes a while

Up to 24 hours

Seriously slow process

But don’t rush it

It’s amazing

As it cools on a rack it snaps, crackles, and pops. Let it cool fully, slice with a good bread knife, then slather a thick slice with butter

It ain’t gluten free, though, so sorry to our pals who can’t eat gluten

I about fell out in my kitchen when I turned it on the rack to cool

Look at that beauty

Look at those gorgeous cracks and seams and splits and air bubbles all from fermentation and then cooking in an oven in an oven….thanks Mr. Lahey

No-Knead Bread

3 1/2 cup bread flour – not White Lilly – I used King Arthur brand with hard red wheat, high gluten content. Not good for making biscuit but on time for this bread.

1/4 teaspoon yeast. (Note: if you are using active, dry yeast, you will need to proof it as I did. If you are using instant yeast, no reason to proof it)

2 tsp. Kosher salt

1 1/2 c. + 2 tbs. water. I used the 2 tbsps to proof my yeast and used warm water for that.

Flour for sprinkling work surface, and for sprinkling the bread. You can use wheat germ or cornmeal to sprinkle on the bread, too.

In a large bowl combine flour, salt, proofed yeast and water and stir until blended. The dough will be shaggy and sticky. You will wonder why it looks such a mess. Use a wooden spoon. You will think, there is no way this going to work. Trust the yeast. It does all the work for you.

Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let dough rest at least 12 and up to 18 hours at room temperature. I made it before supper one night and then baked it the following mid-day.

The dough is ready when there are bubbles dotting the surface and it looks like it has come together. I checked on it in the middle of the night, and bubbles had just started. Even so, I was super skeptical that this would work.

After the 12-18 hour rest, line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper. Lightly flour it and place the dough on it. Sprinkle with a little more flour and fold it on itself a few times. Cover with the plastic wrap from the bowl and let it rest 15 minutes

With barely floured hands, roll into a ball quickly. Srinkle top with a little flour more flour or cornmeal or wheat germ, and cover with a cotton dish towel – but not terry cloth.

Let rest for two more hours.

When it’s ready it will be doubled in size and not bounce back when pressed with your impeccably clean fingers

A half hour before the end of the two hour rise, heat your oven to 450 degrees. Not on convection if you have a convection oven. Put a heavy 6-7 quart covered Dutch oven and the lid- cast iron, enamel, Pyrex, ceramic – in the oven as it heats. You’re creating an oven in an oven that will trap steam and heat. Trust me. It works. I had to take out one of my oven racks so that the top of the lid had room to fit.

When the dough is ready, using potholders for sure, remove the Dutch oven from the oven.

Plop in the dough. I threw it in with the parchment paper. I won’t do that next time as I think there would have been a darker crust, which would be fine with me

Place the lid on the Dutch oven, return it to the oven, and bake for 30 minutes

After 30 minutes, remove lid and bake 15 to 30 minutes until it is as brown as you want it to be. That’s the key. To brown it well. Had I not plopped it in with the parchment, I think I would have had a better colored crust. I will do it the right way next time.

After the bread gets as brown as you like it, remove it from the oven and turn out on a rack to cook. I held the rack over the Dutch oven and inverted it, then turned the bread over again right side up to cool

Let cool on a rack and listen to the snap, crackle, and pop

I may never buy bread again.

So crumby….look at all those pockets…can’t believe this worked

Hey, We Saw That First

Mise en place

There was an old commercial aired on local channels in the Lowcountry back in the 1970’s. At one point, one of the actors stopped and said, “Hey, we saw that first!” as he claimed all right, title, and interest in the hocked product.

I feel the same way about gumbo

Yes, gumbo

That national dish of New Orleans, be it Creole, file, z’herbes, whate’z’s

South Carolina beat them to the pot

Literally

We saw that first

Old cookbooks here call gumbo a mix of orka and tomatoes stewed and served over rice

It’s got Gullah roots

The word gumbo comes from an African word for okra

Okra is still one of our favorite foods in South Carolina. Having come over from Africa with the slaves brought to these shores against their will to grow rice, okra has been paired with South America’s tomatoes, Europe’s herbs, and local swimps and oysters for over three hundred years.

All about that rice

Carolina Gold

We had been serving okra with tomatoes and rice since well before Jean Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville named that historic Indian portage near the Bayou St. John for a French duke in 1718

That all being said, I love a good old New Orleans style gumbo, but, hey, we saw that first

I roux the day, which certainly is not from round these parts

I use the andouille sausage, which certainly is not from round these parts

I love a gumbo

I’ve been known to serve this to company. That’s how much I love gumbo

I also have a set of gumbo spoons. Wide bowls to scoop up all the goodness. Not cream soup spoons. Not bouillon spoons. Not place spoons. Full on gumbo spoons

I recommend them highly

In your silver pattern

And, yes, you need a silver pattern

Gumbo spoons work for all manner of soups and stews but work best for, you got it, gumbo

Here’s my version of Gumbo cobbled together from old South Carolina cookbooks, Emeril (BAM!) Lagasse’s (BAM!) cooking show on the Food Network, and Elizabeth’s on 37th in Savannah, Georgia, a city I love, with deep rice culture roots, too.

Remember to serve with steam producing white rice, some good bread, and the hot sauce of your choice.

Sorry to all my pals in the Big Easy, but, hey, we saw that first.

Gumbo

3 tbsp vegetable oil

1/3 c. all purpose flour

1 green bell pepper, chopped – when I say chopped I mean quarter inch style diced – that’s one of those cook’s notes of which I hear

1 yellow onion, chopped

2 ribs celery, chopped

1 tbsp. kosher salt

1 tsp. fresh black pepper

1/2 tsp. cayenne red pepper

1 lb okra, sliced

4 c. chicken borth

1 14.5 oz can chopped tomatoes

4 c. water

2 bay leaves

3 tbsp fresh thyme leaves

1 tsp. oregano

1 grocery store rotisserie chicken, all meat picked off the bones, skin discarded, and torn into bite sized pieces. We all know that I eat the skin as I pick the meat off the bones. Or, 5 chicken thighs baked for 45 minutes, cooled, and then skin discarded, meat torn into bite sized pieces. The grocery store yard bird is so easy

1 lb. andouille sausage – cut into bite sized rounds

1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled (optional)

1 pt. oysters (optional)

Juice of a lemon

1/2 c. fresh basil, chopped

That good cooked white rice – steaming hot

Parsley – if you must – for garnish

In a large pan, make a roux of the flour and oil by whisking slowly over medium heat. Cook until almost the color of dark peanut butter, dark brown sugar, milk chocolate. Add the green pepper, celery, onion, salt and both peppers. Cook until vegetables are soft – about 10 minutes. Add the roux, veggie mix to a large pot along with okra, tomatoes, water, broth, bay leaves, thyme, oregano, chicken, and sausage. Bring to a boil. Then, cut back heat to a low simmer and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes. If using seafood, add the shrimp 5-7 minutes before serving. Add the oysters and their liquor right before serving. To finish, add the lemon juice and basil. Makes it sing. Serve with that steaming white rice and hot sauce on the side. I usually ladle the gumbo into the soup bowl, then add the rice. My bride does just the opposite. Then, sprinkle on a little chopped parsley. If you must.

Wait, you made this?

We had our cohort, bubble, safe zone over for supper recently. Half of the group works in the medical field and had already been double dosed with the microchip by Pfizer

It being winter, I decided to pull out an old faithful citrus dessert from the pages of Southern Living some nine years ago. It’s super easy at the height of citrus season

It’s a perfect ending to a heavy meal with the mildest sweetness and silky luxurious goodness

Cooked cream

Panna Cotta with Orange Curd and Grand Marnier

As one member of the cohort, bubble, safe zone dragged her spoon over the dregs in her sorbet cup, she said incredulously, “Wait, you made this?”

Yes, ma’am

All me

It helps to have some really cool silver sorbet cups in which to serve like those bad boys up there

I highly recommend inheriting some

This is for the nice lady who was shocked I made this.

She said she felt like she was back in Italy

High praise

Grazie, Senora

Panna Cotta with Orange Curd and Grand Marnier

1 envelope unflavored gelatin

1 cup cold milk

3 navel oranges

1 1/4 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 cup turbinado sugar

1 cup orange curd – receipt below

1 bottle Grand Marnier – or Grandma to the cool kids

Sprinkle gelatin over 1/4 cup of the milk in a mixing bowl. Stir and let stand. The mix will be lumpy. Remove 3, 2×1 inch strips of rind from 1 orange with vegetable peeler. In a 3 quart pot, cook cream, sugar, and orange rinds over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved for about 5 minutes. Do not boil. Remove from heat and stir into gelatin. Add vanilla and remaining milk. Discard orange strips. Poor into six sorbet cups or wine glasses. Cover and chill at least 8 hours.

To serve, section the oranges and roll the sections in turbinado sugar.

Pour a bop/teaspoon/little hint/however much you want of Grandma over the panna cotta, then top with a tablespoon or so of orange curd, then garnish with the sectioned oranges covered in sugar.

Southern Living did not add the Grandma, but, trust me, you want it, as it makes it even more a l’orange

Orange Curd:

2/3 cup sugar

2 1/2 tbsp cornstarch

1 1/3 cup orange juice

1 egg, beaten lightly

3 tbsps butter, cut into pieces

2 tbsp orange zest

Pinch of salt

Combine sugar and cornstarch in a 3 qt saucepan. Whisk in orange juice. Whisk in egg. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking the whole time, and boil for 3 minutes. It will thicken up quickly. Remove from heat and whisk in butter, orange zest, salt. Place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap placed directly on the surface of the curd to keep a skin from forming. Really great on top of the panna cotta

I’ve been known to eat the leftovers cold from the bowl

When you serve this, your guests will ask, “Wait, you made this?”

Take full credit

LWSUS

For thirty three years, I have worn the same shorts.

Patagonia’s 5″ Light Weight Stand Up Shorts

Organic cotton

Five pockets

Bought my first pair in Boston in 1987

Bought my last pair in Charleston in 2018

They last forever

Worn them until they fall to shreds

Khaki

Stone

Olive

Brown

Green

Blue

Grey

Red

I’ve had them all

And, now, Yvon Chouinard and crew seem to have discontinued them

Why, Yvon, why?

There is an entire generation that grew up wearing your LWSUS’s

We wore them

We wear them

We will wear them

But, now, we will have to rely on our reserves

Didn’t we suffer enough in 2020?

Now, this

This cruel blow to our wardrobes

This cruel blow by the company that supposedly cares about its customers, their environmental activism, their stewardship of nature

I really need Patagonia to re-issue the 5″ LWSUS

Because I need them

What else am I supposed to wear?

I have worn those shorts to hike high hills

I have worn those shorts to work in the yard

I have worn those shorts to all manner of summertime events

I have worn those shorts to baseball games

I have worn those shorts to thirty-two 4ths of July

I have worn those shorts to concerts in Massachusetts, New York, South Carolina, North Carolina

I have worn those shorts to see The Dead in the most cliched wearing of those thirty-three years

I have worn those shorts from the Keys to Kenya, from Maine to Miami, from Lamu to Los Angeles, from Paris to Pawleys

Talk about a tribal marker

Whenever I see another pair of LWSUS on a fellow traveler, I know that person is one of my people

Why, Yvon, why?

Can it be that there is no more demand?

Can it be that all the organic cotton crops failed?

Can it be that those of us of a certain age are the only ones so sartorially inclined to wear LWSUS?

Can’t be

Does change.org work?

If it does, I beg of you to sign the petition I plan to send to my friends in Ventura, California

Because, I sure as hell ain’t wearing any shorts called Chubbies

21 and Done

In February, 1989, I hopped on what was then the Eastern shuttle from Boston to LaGuardia to meet my mother and Hedy and Hayes Williams for a weekend in New York.

Hayes and I were 17 years old.

My mother, Hedy, and Hayes had left Savannah at 0’dark thirty

We all met at the old Windsor Hotel, now condos, on 58th St.

In that pre-cell phoned age, we agreed to all meet in the Lobby at 3 p.m.

Miraculously, there were no delayed flights, no lost luggage, no bad traffic across the 59th Street Bridge

Snow was scheduled for that evening – just a light dusting

That was a cold Friday afternoon in the City

I don’t remember what we did that afternoon, but I do know we had reservations for early supper in the Bar Room at 21

The 21 Club

21 West 52nd St

The speakeasy

Now shuttered

Gone

Another victim of Covid

That venerable spot where The Rev held court in the Men’s Room in cufflinks given him by President Reagan

Before we left the hotel, Hedy asked Hayes where his tie and blazer were

“Back in Beaufort, Mom”

“Well, good luck getting into 21! Hamlin brought his coat and tie!”

Hayes replied, “Well, good for him.”

“You might as well just eat at a hot dog cart,” replied his mother

My mother tried to calm them both, “I’m sure they have coats and ties to borrow”

So, we walked over around 5:30 p.m.

Greeting us were the jockeys all lined up on the stairs and the porch

We stepped through the brass doors. I took my mother’s coat and gave it to the lady in the cloak room.

The maitre d’ smiled and said to Hayes, “Sir, we have a dress code of coats and ties for gentlemen. We will be happy to lend you both.”

The lady in the cloak room handed Hayes an ill-fitting blazer and a clip on faux regimental tie.

“Well, I look like an idiot,” Hayes said

“You’re own damned fault,” Hedy replied

We were taken to the cozy dark Bar Room with toys hanging from the ceiling and the banquettes with their red and white tablecloths

John McEnroe’s smashed tennis racket had a place of honor

Chairs pulled out for the ladies and menus presented

Shrimp cocktail

Lobster bisque

Caesar salad

Dover sole

Chicken hash

The Burger

Steak tartare

All the old standards

Our waiter asked where we were from and what we were doing in the City

“Oh, he’s up at school near Boston, so we all decided to meet for a long weekend”

“Well, you picked a fine one. Snow tonight. What may I get for you to drink?”

Our mothers each ordered glasses of wine

Having been served in NYC restaurants earlier that fall, I turned to the waiter and ordered what was then the height of fashion, “Heineken please”

Hayes ordered the same

We were 17

Our mothers’ eyes widened

The waiter didn’t miss a beat, “I’ll have those out in a minute”

We chatted, we talked, we ordered

After our first beers, Hayes and I ordered a second.

His mother, Hedy, raised an eyebrow

Sometime after the steak tartare, we each ordered a second, and, then, a third.

“May I have another?” Hayes asked our waiter as he pointed at his almost empty bottle

“Yes, Sir,” said our waiter

As he walked away, we heard Hayes groan

“Owwwwwwwwwww,” he glared across the plates as his mother. “What was that for?”

“Well, you didn’t have to order a forth beer, did you!”

Little did our mothers know that three was not a magic number, but just a start for us on any given night.

When the news came that the 21 Club had shuttered, I sent Hayes a message

“21 Club in NYC closing. Great stuff back in the day. Fun times. Fun Times.”

His reply “I am glad not to get kicked in the shins anymore for drinking more than three beers”

Place was a legend

So were we

Tie One On

For MPO, MC, JSH, PNH, LVP – because you were there

I charge $400/hour normally.

Back in 2018, when we could still go to things, we were picking up some friends in the lobby of the Dewberry Hotel here in Charleston.

They were in town for an event sponsored by Charleston’s publishing powerhouse Garden & Gun.

We were meeting them there first before going to some mutual friends’ home for a quick drink before their event.

I was really acting as the hired help/chauffer/DD

Always good to have a DD

DUI ain’t funny

(Side track. One of my favorite brutal expressions and some twenty plus years after that fatal car crash in Paris caused by a drunk driver, it’s fun to say to anyone going too fast or making rash decisions, “Woah! Slow down, Doadie, there’s a tunnel up ahead!” People cringe. Then they laugh. Poor Lady Di. But, I digress)

As we were waiting in the lobby for one friend to grace us with her presence, my bride and the other friends watched a group of twenty somethings gather prior to heading into a ballroom for a wedding reception

It was a glorious fall day in Charleston

Weather was in the 60’s

Soft sun setting around 5:30

Our other friend arrived

Hellos all around while the young folk – of which I still mistakenly think myself one – sauntered round the lobby, made for the bar for that pregame libation, ooohed and aaahed over each others’ dresses secretly judging and hating the other’s clothes. We could see it in their mascaraed and shadowed lidded eyes.

One tall fellow burst into the lobby, fully tuxedoed but with tie in hand

His date looked at him with exasperation

This was some A+ people watching by the way

He attempted to mess with his tie, but, no luck

Shouting across the crowded lobby, he bellowed, “Does anyone in here know how to tie a bowtie?”

Same exasperation in his voice as Charlie Brown asking if anyone could tell him what Christmas was all about during the most religious of all Christmas cartoon specials.

With the same equanimity as St. Linus the Evangelist from that special, I raised my hand and said, “I can. I can tie a bowtie.”

The date ratted him out

“This fool thought he could rent a tuxedo today. He had to buy this at Brooks Brothers like 3 hours ago. He can’t even tie a bowtie. He should have bought the pre-tied one.” Her eyes rolled.

Shaking my head, I told the guy to sit down on the leather stool in front of me.

I stood behind him and tied the tie in less than 30 seconds flat. My friend took a picture.

A quick little adjustment, and he was ready to enjoy his evening.

“Dude! You’re the MAN!” he said as he high fived me

In response, I said to him the words that my father said to me when I was in the eighth grade on asking how to tie a bow tie

“There’s nothing to it. Close your eyes. Tie your shoes.”

Close your eyes

Tie your shoes

That’s all it takes to tie a bowtie

Yes, you’re going to have to work with it

Yes, the first few times you do it will be sloppy

Yes, you have to make one end of the tie a little longer than the other to get it right

But, it’s just that easy

Close your eyes

Tie your shoes

So easy to tie one on that the fake ties should be outlawed, banned, sent into the outerdarkness

One day we will go out again

One day we will wear bow ties

One day there will be wedding receptions, dances, black tie events

One day a twenty something will need help in the lobby

Until then, you have time to practice

And, don’t worry if you’re slow at getting it

Remember, there may be a tunnel up ahead

Vertiginous

Vertiginous

A word I had not thought of in years

Capable of causing vertigo

Creating a sense of imbalance and disquiet

I like stark raving, bonkers, barking better

Crazy as a rat in a certain house

Needs to be checked into a padded cell

If you are a South Carolinian of a certain age, you’d understand if I said, “She belongs on Bull Street”

Former location of the State Hospital….also known as our looney bin

About whom am I speaking?

Everyone

But, especially, the woman at the grocery store

Not young

Not well dressed

Not full of the milk of human kindness even though her buggy was full of Lactaid

So much Lactaid

As the young man working in the produce section re-stocked the lettuces near faux milk filled buggy, she screamed, “YOU CANNOT BE HERE. YOU’RE WITHIN SIX FEET OF ME. I’M HIGH RISK. YOU ARE BREAKING THE LAW. MOVE! NOW! YOU CANNOT BE HERE! GET AWAY FROM ME! HE’S BREAKING THE LAW!”

Her arms flailed

She truly screamed

The nice lad replied, “Well, Ma’am, may be you should have stayed home.”

She then went on another diatribe

“I AM 76 YEARS OLD! YOU CANNOT BE THIS CLOSE TO ME!

I mean screamed

Glenn, who has worked at this store forever, whom some of you may know, went by and said, “Oh, she’s upset…oh she’s upset..oh she’s upset”

She was madder than a wet hen

Bonkers

Capable of causing vertigo

My head swam at what she was doing

What have we become?

She wasn’t nice

She wasn’t nice at all

Her foot ware should have been the tell

Screaming near the red leaf

Yelling by the romaine

Break down by the Boston

Poor dear

I watched in horror

I told the young man that obviously she’s not well

I told the young man that he was doing a great job

He was shaking

So was I

I’ve never seen such a display near cruciferous vegetables

Tart it Up

My great aunt Marion Peagler, late of Savannah, won the title of best cook in our family

Hands down

Champ

A life long weight watcher, fat phobic, and stylish dresser, it’s amazing that Aunt Marion didn’t weigh a ton considering her freezer always had containers of okra stew, raw beaten biscuit ready for baking, what she called ham steaks, McKenzie gold foil butter beans, and these perfect little cream cheese tarts

Bacon drippings remained in a dedicated container ready to season those butter beans and all manner of vegetables

Real butter only

Full fat everything

She taught me to make her cheese straws, which were the stuff of legend

A great old school Southern cook who embraced the microwave, the food processor, and any new gadget to come from the mind of engineers

She gave me “Aunt” Blanche Grundy’s shrimp creole receipt

She gave me my great grandmother’s tea punch written in her curling cursive

Her crab dip notes say “bake in petit pans” whatever those may be

One of my all time favorites of hers was indeed those cream cheese tarts

I call them Aunt Marion’s Cream Cheese Tarts

Easy as can be

People eat them and about die off

A perfect base for fresh fruit in season

My favorite is to serve them with peaches, macerated in a little sugar with the smallest hint of almond extract

So good in late July and August when it’s hot and peaches are in season

Also great with any form of berry macerated in a little sugar

Aunt Marion shared this receipt with everyone, so, here ‘tis

Take them out of the freezer and onto the plate

Easily doubled, too, by the way

And, because we all could use something sweet these days, I’m proud to share this with all 27 of my followers

Enjoy

Aunt Marion’s Cream Cheese Tarts

8 oz. cream cheese, softened and at room temperature

1 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 container Cool Whip – seriously – COOL WHIP -thawed

Line twelve muffin cups with cupcake liners.

In a mixing bowl, with a fork or hand mixer, mix the cream cheese with sugar and vanilla until well blended. Fold in the Cool Whip until thoroughly mixed. Drop by tablespoons into the cupcake papers. It’s about two full tablespoons per cupcake/muffin. Freeze in the muffin pan. After frozen, you can store in plastic bags.

If you serve with peaches make a simple syrup and add 1/4 teaspoon of almond extract. Trust me. Do it.

Aunt Marion would be tickled to know I’m letting everyone in on this secret. Absolutely tickled

Her words not mine