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


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


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?


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



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



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


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


“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


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



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


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”


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.

All for $5.99

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Hebrews 13:2

Bag from the Teetah

That final shopping trip to the grocery store before Christmas. It happened today for me. Around noon, I went to the Harris Teeter on East Bay Street. It’s my store of choice

After gathering all but one item on my list – supply chain and all – I stood in line to check out. With a real person. I loathe self-checkout

In front of me were three women chatting in Spanish. They wore painters’ clothes and had splatters of paint on their pants. Each of them held a lunch of some kind. One held a package containing half of a chocolate cake coated with a chocolate buttercream frosting and Christmas colored sprinkles

As they began to pay, the woman holding the cake held up her phone and pointed to it. The woman behind the cash register said, “Oh, we don’t do that kind of payment. It’s cash or card or check.”

The woman holding cake looked at her and motioned for her to refund the cake.

Without any hesitation, I looked at the young woman and said, “Ma’am, I’ll pay for the cake”


The three painters each thanked me in Spanish and English. Two of the three wished me Feliz Navidad and Merry Christmas. The one who originally held the cake looked me dead in the eye, patted my shoulder, and said, “God love you”

They all thanked me again and left the store.

The cashier said, “Thank you, Sir. That’s very kind”

She then began to speak quietly into her communication device hanging just below her neck while I was bagging my groceries

The next thing I knew, the manager of the grocery store was at the young woman’s side.

The manager looked at me and said, “Sir, what you did was lovely. Your groceries are on the Harris Teeter today.”

I protested

“But, these are going to cost way more than $5.99!”

Her reply, “Not today, Sir”

At least I waited for the automatic doors to close behind me before I burst into tears

Merry Christmas

Lessons and Carols with Matt

What an honor to have been asked to read at St. Philip’s service of Lessons and Carols.

Fear not….I think it’s the most repeated phrase in the Good Book

Matthew 1:18-23 in which St. Matthew tells of the birth of Jesus.

The famous scripture where Joseph determined to put away his espoused Mary privily, as the King James Version tells us. Then, the Angel comes to him in a dream, and, behold, he knows the child is of the Holy Ghost, and He shall save us from our sins.

Recovering from a cold, and, yes, it’s just a cold, my voice had the timbre of a croaking frog

Remember when Peter Brady’s voice changed? That was similar to my delivery when the appointed Sixth Lesson time approached.

After the choir finished Ave Maria as put to music by Philip Stopford, I made my way to the lectern

The lectern is in the shape of an eagle, symbol of St. John. Makes sense. “In the beginning was the Word…”

I started with “St. Matthew tells the birth of Jesus”

I ended with “…and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which, being interpreted is, God with us.”

A brief pause and then, “The Word of the Lord”

I walked back to our pew and enjoyed the rest of the service.

My wife, girls, and I were honored and privileged to share the pew with our friend Palmer Gaillard, who is a genuinely funny man. At least I think he is. Quick witted.

At the end of church, after the last “Thanks be to God! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!”, we chit chatted on our way out of the church.

Palmer looked me dead in the eye and said, “Hamlin, you read that precisely the way I wrote it.”

I replied, “Thanks, St. Matthew”

Not missing a beat, Palmer said, “Matt. My friends call me Matt.”

I’m still laughing

O come, O come Emmanuel

Don’t Ask Me

“Can you give me some ideas for the girls?”

“What can we give to MP?”

“Tell me something to give Hamlin”

“I am at a loss as to what to give the nieces”

“What do you think they want from us?”

“I can’t think of a thing to give, y’all. Guess I’ll just write a check”


Come on

December 25th is not an emergency. I will repeat. December 25h is not an emergency

The Feast of the Nativity occurs every year at the exact same day since Pope Julius I fixed the date sometime in the mid fourth century. Every year. December 25th. Since the mid-300’s

The height of annoyance during the fall, late fall, Advent remains questions from family about gifts

People think they are being considerate

They think it’s helpful

It’s not

It’s rude as hell

My telling you to give x or y or z to my family removes that x or y or z for me to give to my family or for my family to give to me. Please don’t ask me

Your houses are FULL of things, by the way, dear family and friends. Feel free to give something in a cabinet, hutch, chest that you no longer use or need or love. And old something you no longer want with a note would be more wonderful than a sweatshirt from the SXC store on King Street

Feel free to help with tuition

Feel free to help with tennis lessons

Feel free to help with to help with hosting Christmas meals or something. Stouffer’s lasagne even!

Feel free to help with camp

Feel free to help with spring break

Feel free to help with car repairs

Feel free to divest your self of the hoarded cabinets and chests of drawers and china cabinets and all the things

And, why, oh, why is this about the giver?

It is more blessed to give than receive, yet the givers in these situations want all the blessings, attention, gratefulness

Acts 20:35 tells us that Jesus said it was more blessed to give than to receive

I am going to need to pray to Our Lord and Savior that he give me peace and quiet during this Advent season to get over this annoyance and disquiet

And, I know this sounds deeply spoiled and whiny. Deeply spoiled. Deeply whiny

I am beyond grateful for my family and friends and friends who are family. That they would even think about giving something to me and mine still brings tears to my eyes that anyone would be so considerate and obliging

That being said, I must quote Ellen Griswold who once answered her daughter’s question about the pleasures of the season by saying, “I don’t know what to say, except, it’s Christmas and we’re all in misery”

Give what YOU want to give

Don’t ask me

You’re an adult

You’ve made it this far

You’re just copping out at this point

Don’ give anything

Christmas is not about the gifts

Christmas is not about stuff

Our folks would rather spend time with you then have you spend time figuring out what to put under the tree

Pleas don’t ask me

Because I won’t tell

In the Aah Aah

Back in May, I took I picture in a bathroom at the first event I had attended since March 14, 2020

A bathroom selfie

I did it as a joke

The face flushed a thousand toilets

There it is. The one that started it all

Since that time I’ve taken more pictures

Again, all with tongue firmly ensconced in cheek

In reply, I’ve received all manner of comments

“Damnit, I hate it when I click on these”

“About to unfollow”




“Don’t hurt em”

This one got the most comments. I think it’s the sport coat

All are valid responses

I generally let people know that the man in the mirror is a certified fool for doing this if anyone slides into the DMs. (Do the kids still say that?)

My mother calls bathrooms “rest rooms” which she shortens to “RR”. With her accent it sounds like “Aah Aah”. We say Aah Aah in my family when facilities are required for personal comfort

So, I’ve been taking pictures in the Aah Aah trying to make people laugh. Didn’t know I’d be making them mad, seem foolish, tricking their sense of propriety

One follower suggested a coffee table book

One suggested I begin a clothing line

One suggested I should be banned from using my phone

More than one has suggested I stop. Really. Please. Stop

Those who know me well can attest that I may be the least narcissistic person they know, which is in itself the most narcissistic statement I have ever written

In fact, I still have imposter syndrome, even though I’ve tried to get rid of that, too.

As Groucho Marx said, “Why would I want to be a member of a club that would have me as a member?”

These pictures are meant to make people laugh. I had no idea that such stupidity would cause so many reactions.

Especially with toilets, toilet paper, stalls, driers in the background

Again, as I have written to several commenters, “That guy is a fool”

See y’all in the Aah Aah

Hopsack, Hot, Cold

There Was Rice

Duncan Clinch Heyward wrote Seed from Madagascar in the 1930s. He wrote to chronicle rice cultivation in the Lowcountry from its beginnings in the late 17th Century to its end in the early 20th Century

First edition…still think it was designed to look like an old croker sack

According to Hewyard, it was rumored that Captain John Thurber gave rice seed to Dr. Henry Woodward while Thurber’s vessel harbored in Charleston. From whence came that rice seed? You got it. Madagascar. At least that’s how Mr. Heyward tells the story of the beginnings of rice culture round these environs. That tale is repeated in the Rice section of that venerable Charleston cooking tome, Charleston Receipts

“Long before there were cobblestone streets along the Charleston battery, there was rice, and there were slaves – the twin pillars upon which colonial Carolina wealth was built.” Duncan Clinch Heyward. Seed from Madagascar, The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill (1937)

I have copy number 4593 of the original printing. Mr. Heyward claimed to be a distaff relation of Dr. Woodward, too.

From 1685 to 1914, rice grew in the Lowcountry in large amounts. The Big Gun Shoot ended slavery. Hurricanes in the late 19th and early 20th centuries inundated rice fields which could never recover. Subsidence of flooded land didn’t help either. Neither did the discovery that rice could be grown cheaper and easier in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas

Local farmers have brought back rice growing round these parts in the last few decades, but we will never be the rice kingdom we once were

Carolina gold indeed

Despite not having large scale rice production for over a hundred years, this part of the world still eats a lot of rice. LOTS of rice.

Mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving? Hell no

It’s always rice and gravy.

Any good meat and three restaurant round these parts always includes rice as a vegetable

Old joke:

Why are Charlestonians like the Chinese?

They eat rice and worship their ancestors

And, oh, what rice they eat! Almost all versions of which evolved from West African cooking through the same people who planted, tended, harvested, winnowed, and packaged the rice for market

From plain white rice steamed hard in the old school rice steamer, to Hoppin’ John on New Year’s Day, to Limpin’ Susan with okra, to all manner of pilaus, and, to get to the point at last, cooked with onions, bacon, and tomato paste to make red rice

Some people add a little sausage to it

Red rice is my all time favorite rice dish, which food historians now tell us is an adaptation of Jollof rice from West Africa. Makes sense considering the slaves who grew the rice were brought from West Africa because of their ability to handle a rice crop

There was rice

There were slaves

My mother makes a baked version with shrimp and sausage. It’s devine. She makes it in an old Le Creuset Dutch oven with a tight fitting lid

The old Piggly Wiggly at the Sea Island Shopping Center in Mount Pleasant made the best red rice. Hands down. Each grain separated. Each grain coated with tomato, bacon grease, a little salt sugar, pepper. Onions cooked to almost liquid. Sausage coins throughout. A little heat from black pepper, but not much else.

I make the red rice from Charleston Receipts. I steam it hard in the old aluminum rice steamer that my parents gave me. It had been given them as a present in the early days of their moving to Beaufort

When I was in college in Chapel Hill, my aunt and uncle who lived there would ask me to make them some red rice and bring it over from time to time. They would freeze it. Both from South Carolina, they just couldn’t find red rice in The Southern Part of Heaven in Orange County, North Carolina

I think red rice might be a dish served from Brunswick, GA, up to Wilmington, NC. The old rice growing areas of the Southeast. I don’t see it anywhere else on the menu

I was asked by a pal in Charlotte, NC, to share the recipe, or I guess I should say receipt

In the old seafood restaurants round here, seafood was always accompanied by red rice and cole slaw

The Shrimp Shack outside of Beaufort always serves red rice with their seafood. It’s perfection, too

This goes great with any manner of fish, shrimp, crab

It’s gluten free

It’s not Keto

It’s not vegan

It is a balm to the soul

If you don’t have a rice steamer, make the rice as set forth below, but add four cups of water, turn into a baking dish large enough to hold all the ingredients, and cover tightly with a lid or with foil and bake for 40-45 minutes, stirring a couple of times

But, really, if you don’t have a rice steamer, then, well, bless your heart

Just kidding

As I said above, my mother has baked her red rice for decades and decades, and it’s amazingly delicious with the addition of shrimp and sausage. I probably should get her receipt

But, I still steam mine

Jeanne Sams Aimar, whom I called Memar, our across the street neighbor growing up, has her version of red rice printed in Sea Island Seasons. Memar steamed her red rice. However, right next to Memar’s version is Mary Olive Whitney’s baked version. No right or wrong to it. Steam it or bake it.

This version is an adaptation of the Red Rice as printed in Charleston Receipts submitted by Mrs. Charles Gibbs (Wilmot Welch).

Scattered, smothered, covered, wrinkled, annotated

Red Rice

1 can tomato paste

3 cans of water – will make sense in a minute

1 large yellow onion, chopped fine

2 tsps salt

2 tsps sugar – yes – sugar

5 slices bacon

1 tbsp or more fresh ground pepper

2 cups raw rice – do not use Uncle Ben’s – trust me

Cook bacon until crisp in a large sauté pan. Remove bacon and crumble when cool. Sauté onions in bacon grease until soft. Do not brown. Add tomato paste, then fill tomato paste can up with water. Add to the onions and tomato paste. Do that two more times for a total of three cans of water. Told you it would make sense. Add salt, sugar, pepper. Cook until smooth, about 5 minutes. Place rice in top of rice steamer and add tomato paste mixture and mix well with a fork. Fill bottom of steamer with as much water so to steam hard but not to touch the bottom of the part that holds the rice. If you steam rice, then you know what I mean. Steam hard for 1/2 hour. Add the bacon and mix well. Steam for another 30 to 40 minutes. If it seems too dry, you can add another half cup of water. You generally don’t have too. Fluff with a fork to mix any sauce that has settled on the top.

Again, if no rice steamer is in your kitchen, add four cups of water and not three cans of water, turn into a baking dish large enough to hold all the ingredients, including the bacon, cover tightly with foil and bake for 40-45 minutes, stirring a couple of times

Serve hot

I put a little hot sauce on the table when I serve it. Tabasco. Texas Pete. Whatever you like

As you savor each bite of goodness, remember to thank John Thurber, Henry Woodward, Wilmot Welch Gibbs (Mrs. Charles), and the thousands of slaves whose names will we never know who really brought, grew, harvested, and taught us to cook that seed from Madagascar