Category Archives: South Carolina

Prose and soup

“Read at the level at which you want to write.” Jennifer Egan (brainpickings.org)

I couldn’t read Roth until I was older and now he is one of my favorite writers. I hope he never dies! I may have read this Zuckerman novel before (or maybe it just seems familiar because it takes place in the Berkshires where I was born and lived a good many years?) No matter, it’s worth a re-read.

Here’s a sentence: “My guess was that it would take even the fiercest Hun the better part of a winter to cross the glacial waterfalls and wind-blasted woods of those mountain wilds before he was able to reach the open edge of Lonoff’s hayfields, rush the rear storm door of the house, crash through the study, and, with spiked bludgeon wheeling high in the air above the little Olivetti, cry out in a roaring voice to the writer tapping out his twenty-seventh draft, ‘You must change your life!'”

Swoon.


Beef with barley soup for lunch after another frigid walk with the dog. And since K won’t be here for dinner, I’m not even cooking: a bowl of fruit, yogurt and sunflower seeds topped with honey from Charleston.


*thank you Mo for link on FB to the article.


Soup and salad


This shrimp, bean, and chicken sausage soup was delicious! Not only does it come together in a hurry, but most of the ingredients are stock pantry and fridge items, meaning it could become a regular in my weeknight lineup. If you’re like me, you keep onions, black beans, and boxed chicken stock in the pantry, as well as frozen shrimp and corn in the freezer. I very often have a four pack of chicken sausage in the cold cut drawer as well because they keep forever and are a good alternative to beef and pork. Cilantro was the only thing I might not have on hand, but thankfully, I did.



There are both black beans and white beans in this soup, but the starring role goes to the white beans — baby white limas. I went in search of these beans while still in SC after an outstanding lunch at Bertha’s Kitchen* in North Charleston. I gushed about the meal on Facebook and a former Charleston resident commented, “Go to Doscher’s Market.” (That would be Donna Hardy of Sea Island Indigo. She ran the workshop I attended in 2014).


Doscher’s Market is an IGA in West Ashley that’s been run by a German family for generations. Part of the secret to their success has been to cater to their customers, who are largely African American. One article I read noted, “there are smoked pig parts representing everything but the squeal”.**

While I looked for the dried beans, K wandered along the seemingly endless meat counter in curious amazement.

Here’s the recipe.

Shrimp, Sausage and Bean Soup
Serves 4

Night before: pour boiling water over one cup of baby white lima beans and leave to soak. While assembling the soup the next day, drain the beans and bring to a slow boil in about three cups of water. I did not add salt.

1/2 onion, chopped
2 chicken sausage, cut in quarter moons
1/2 T red pepper flakes
6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
28 ounce can diced tomatoes, with liquid
14 ounce can black beans, without liquid
one box organic chicken stock (if no homemade in the house)
1/4 c chopped cilantro for cooking, more for serving

Handful frozen shrimp
1 c frozen corn
And, if on hand, two cups cooked rice

S&P

Saute onions in olive oil, add salt, and once wilted, throw in sausage and red pepper flakes. Stir to coat. Add six or seven cloves of diced or smashed garlic, allow their aroma to rise (about 90 seconds), then pour in chicken stock, diced tomatoes (with juice) and black beans (without liquid). If white beans are done, add them as well. Because the delicious, soupy side dish that I had at Bertha’s Kitchen looked to contain bean cooking liquid, I included some here. I happened to have cooked white rice from the night before, so I added two big clumps. Smash to separate and then throw in cilantro, frozen corn, and frozen shrimp. Cook to heat through, roughly five minutes.

Serve. Add more fresh cilantro and salt and pepper to taste. If desired, add a few jazzes of hot sauce. I poured my husband’s soup over toasted and buttered, homemade cornbread. With two kinds of beans plus rice and corn in the soup, that’s a little bit of carbo overkill, but not enough to render the dish unhealthy. Mine, I ate as is and it was very good and just as good the next day!

Now on to a spectacular lobster salad. If the soup belongs in the realm of week night cuisine, this one is for special occasions. A friend who parked her car in our driveway for two consecutive weekends brought us a container of cooked lobster as a thank you (she’s from Maine). That container was crammed full with SIX lobster tails. Oh man!

Lobster Salad 

1/3 c chopped red onion
1/2 T fennel
Put these two ingredients in a bowl and cover with boiled water. Soak while assembling the rest of salad.

1/2 green pepper, diced (would have used celery, but was out)
1 T capers, rinsed
2 generous T sweet relish
Couple big blobs of mayo
6 lobster tails, cut in chunks

The mayonnaise, which was probably about 1/2 cup, was slightly excessive. Also, we use full fat mayo in this house but I’m certain substituting a reduced fat version would have worked (but never no fat — gross!)

I didn’t think it would need salt because of the capers, but just a little dash helped. Since part of the glory of this gift was how easy it made dinner prep, I forewent spritzing the salad with lemon just before serving… it would have brightened the flavors nicely, I’m sure.

The fennel seeds were my sister’s idea. She’s a more adventurous cook than I and also had, coincidentally, just seen a cooking program on which the chef asserted that ‘no French cook would dream of serving seafood without fennel’. I was skeptical but went ahead anyway and I have to say that small cluster of seeds added a subtle and nice perfume. Definitely recommend.

Oh yum. YUM!  And there’s enough for Saturday lunch!

PS  When the news gets too unbearable to discuss, too awful in too many directions to wrap your mind around, count on food posts. They are reliably engaging to write and wonderful, constructive distractions.

* Bertha’s Kitchen has just been named an America’s Classic by the James Beard Foundation. The prestigious award is reserved for “beloved regional restaurants, distinguished by their timeless appeal”. Read more in this Post and Courier article.  

**Tim Allen of Rebellion Farm wrote that IGA article. Funnily enough, I’ve eaten pig that he’s roasted. “How can that be?” you ask. Well, he was the farmer who hosted Donna Hardy’s indigo workshop. Well-known Charleston Chef BJ Dennis catered the rest of the meal, by the way. (I didn’t know how illustrious he was until later, when I started to follow him on Instagram). Here’s my description of that meal from 2014. If you do a little research on southern food, you will find interesting and on-going discussion about cultural appropriation, foods of the African diaspora, and lasting contributions of the enslaved to Southern culture. 

Hail Mary, solicitors, and hope

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Two days ago, when I was editing a published post about the only Catholic prayer I still say and a little about travel by air, the phone rang. It was a persistent solicitor — a number I’ve been seeing every day for weeks. I picked up to politely request my removal from their list while simultaneously saving the post —

and the whole thing vanished. Not just the updates — all of it.

I walked away, resolved not to let negative narratives spin up around the glitch, but also without the energy for a re-do. The negatives arose anyway (was silence imposed because the post was braggy instead of vulnerable? was it too facile with the Catholic rituals? not remotely concerning what is truly and deeply on my mind?)

What IS truly and deeply on my mind?

Yesterday, the wordpress app on my phone seized. Geez! Haven’t I said, I’m not shutting up?

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So by way of recap, here’s a little from the other day — I hope I never stop feeling a sense of wonder about being up in the air and seeing the coast lit up below. I hope the Virgin hears our prayers. I hope Mary’s mercy can guide me to learn more about the complicated landscape of South Carolina. Help me filter history through a tender and flexible compassion.

Here’s one surprise from my recent trip. The most restorative aspect of our visit to Charleston came from a major reduction in news consumption. Not the sun, the 70 degree temperatures, the incredible food or historic sites (though they were amazing, too). It was LESS NEWS.

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For wisdom about the business of balancing duty and lightness, I turn to Rebecca Solnit (“Hope in the Dark”). Even though since November I’ve had a hard time reading political commentary that predates the election, she will be an exception. She wrote:

“Joy doesn’t betray but sustains activism. And when you face a politics that aspires to make you fearful, alienated, and isolated, joy is a fine initial act of insurrection.”

Giving is an act of insurrection, too. Did you hear about the crowd sourcing that planned to raise $20k in a month for purposes of repairing the vandalized Jewish graves in Missouri? They exceeded their goal in THREE HOURS. Or about the million-plus dollars raised to rebuild that burned down mosque in Texas? Twenty-three thousand people contributed.

Closer to home, my city just voted to be a sanctuary city.

Powerful examples of our collective goodness absolutely abound right now. To stay sane, I really need to pay as much attention to them as I do to the ugly and dark work of the GOP.

  • Photos of Virgin, magnolia tree and house were shot at Magnolia Plantation, SC last week.

Susie Jackson and Tywanza Sanders Hearts for Charleston Quilt

 

 On June 17 last summer, the Jackson family of Charleston lost three of its members: Susie Jackson, her cousin Ethel Lance, and Susie’s nephew, Tywanza Sanders. Because Tywanza Sanders tried to shield his aunt from the shooter and then reached out to comfort her as they both lay dying, I stitched their names on the same heart. Their funeral services were held together.
img_3873Susie Jackson, the oldest person slain last summer, was a trustee of the Emanuel AME and a former member of the choir. In this article from “The Post and Courier”, she was remembered as “a family and church matriarch.” According to the same article, Ms. Jackson “volunteered in myriad ways over her many years of constant faith and fidelity.” 

Because of her love of music, I couched some black satin cording in a G clef for the back of the block.

Here’s a “Post and Courier” photo of Ms. Jackson’s son, Walter, holding his mother’s picture:

At their joint service, a rousing performance of “I Can’t Give Up Now” was sung. Here’s a link to Lee Williams singing a version of same.

This “Post and Courier” photo shows two caissons carrying the caskets of Susie Jackson and Tywanza Sanders from the church.

Before he was shot, Tywanza stood between the shooter and his Aunt Susie and said, “You don’t have to do this.”

He was said to possess a brightness of spirit and such brightness is very visible on his instragram feed.  “The Post and Courier” quoted a friend as saying of him that he had a “majestic and contagious smile few people have”.

From the next quote, you can see why the article about him was headlined: Poet, Hero, Tywanza Sanders.

“He was remembered for his artistry. A poem of his was read that spoke of social conscience and ended, “divided by color/So we are all trying to be equal.” It was titled “Tragedy.”

Mourners kept coming back to Sanders’ last moments. The family’s remembrance of him in the program said his last words were, “Where is my Aunt Susie. I’ve got to get to my Aunt Susie” as he reached for her.”

Tywanza was also entrepreneurial and hoped to establish a barber business. He already had his license and undergraduate business degree.  I am about to stitch the barber pole with the signature red, white and blue stripes.
img_2309Liz Ackert contributed some unbelievably beautiful labels recently and I will post about them this week.

On a completely pedestrian note, it continues to be unseasonably cold here. I keep thinking I can put my down-filled coats away and then finding myself wearing them. Today I added a wool scarf for my neck!

To read more about this project,
please refer to the the sidebar category:
“Hearts for Charleston Quilt”

To investigate this style of quilting more,
please visit the inspiring and generous master quilter, Jude Hill
  at her blog Spirit Cloth

Hearts for Charleston Quilt – Depayne Middleton Doctor

IMG_3241This is the back of the heart dedicated to Depayne Middleton Doctor. She was 49 when she was slain last June during a Bible study circle at the Emanuel AME in Charleston. She left behind four daughters. So many people came to her funeral, they had to set up televisions in an overflow room in order to accommodate another 150 people.
IMG_3243According to “The Post and Courier”: ‘Middleton Doctor retired in 2005 as Charleston County director of the Community Block Grant Program. Last year, she began working for Southern Wesleyan University as admissions coordinator for the school’s Charleston learning center.’

The same article quotes a friend saying of Middleton Doctor’s singing voice: “So angelic it could move the very depth of your heart… How do you describe an angel?”

I made this heart and it was meant to capture a very rich personality, with some of the expansiveness of the heavens (the dotted dark cloths look like night skies to me).

Find out more about this remarkable woman and the family she left behind here.

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To read more about this project,
please refer to the the sidebar category:
“Hearts for Charleston Quilt”

To investigate this style of quilting more,
please visit the inspiring and generous master quilter, Jude Hill
  at her blog Spirit Cloth

Hearts for Charleston — Maggie’s for Rev. Daniel Simmons

“Although he died at the hands of hate, he lived in the hands of love.”

Artist and educator Maggie Rose of New Jersey made this heart in honor of Reverend Daniel Simmons.

This tribute written by Susan DeFreitas (published with her permission (find her blog here)) gives you some background on the pastor and expresses our collective grief:

Vietnam veteran, Purple Heart: Allen University, Phi Beta Sigma;
Master’s of Divinity; pastor; father, grandfather.
How many times did you wonder if today was the day
you would die? Some days last longer than others, we know,
and the world must have slowed in its rotation the hour
enemy fire found you, the young black soldier
in that green heat, when your bright blood
sought the earth. Did it return to you,
that green day, when enemy fire, as if traveling through time,
came to reclaim you? Those hours in the ambulance, the hospital,
the operating room must have been some of the longest
in recorded history. They draped the American flag over your casket
as your children and grandchildren lifted you up
in song, and it seemed as if the country itself, some essential part,
would descend into the earth that day. But you did not die young
unlike so many others whose names the nation
has lately learned to mourn. You died at seventy-four,
after three decades of saving souls; your children, grandchildren
are beautiful; and all the days you did not die can never now be
taken from you. Your family, not the enemy, had the final word:
“Although he died at the hands of hate,
he lived in the hands of love.”

 The open structure of the heart speaks to vulnerability. The perfect circle within suggests to me that by opening our hearts, there is a chance of experiencing some kind of unity.

Maggie used purple netting to stand for Rev. Simmons’s purple heart and picked some green strips to reference ‘that green day’ of battle mentioned above.

abc news photo

She has also included vintage fabrics from when her mother lived in Alabama in the 40’s (the sweet floral at the edge of the heart, is one). Maggie remembers her mother telling her about a black friend from those days — how they would share confidences over the fence but wouldn’t dream of, say, going into town together. Maybe that floral print was being hung on the line while the two friends laughed about something? The air between them fresh, but elsewhere so toxic?

Maggie also used silk tie remnants, apt for a prominent male leader. Reverend Daniel Simmons had been a pastor for most of his adult life.

There are also a few strips that I dyed during the Sea Island Indigo workshop last fall down in Charleston. This cloth was dyed with indigo plants genetically linked to the indigo that the enslaved tended in the 18th century. Indigo production, no small aside here, was back-breaking, smelly, rife with insects, and furthermore, certain aspects of production required extremely critical timing and understanding of Ph levels (ie skill).  The stitched kente cloth symbol above means, “he who doesn’t know can know from learning.”  I guess we hope that is true of all those who think we live in a post-racial America? Or who think African Americans are to blame for where they find themselves in 2015?

Interesting that it very nearly forms a nine-patch.  Maggie also built a cross by combining yellow velvet with yellow embroidery. She was remembering the old song about ‘tying a yellow ribbon around an old oak tree’ and wanted it to stand for remembrance, but also power and the richness of gold. I love that the velvet is so soft to the touch, which makes it resonate with forgiveness.

The cross is surrounded by an open ended form. Originally, Maggie stitched the Emanuel AME’s shield around the cross but found it clunky and unappealing. Once she unpicked the stitches forming the bottom rim of the shield, it suited — the openness of the shape got her thinking about ‘open religion’ and ‘open suffering’. Certainly one of the most powerfully upsetting aspects of the Emanuel AME tragedy rests in how welcome the hateful assailant was made to feel by the AME community.

As with the others, I show you the ‘wrong side’, because the back reveals another version of the same story. Here we find the tag of Peace and the Reverend’s name. But we also find the scraggly threads that show the beginnings and endings of stitch-runs, a skeletal version of the design, and the kente symbol showing more prominently. Like the others, there is the sense of the love and care in the block construction going right through to the back.

Today I leave you with an elegiac song with the chorus “We Can’t Cry No More” by Rhiannon Giddens : here.

Hearts for Charleston — Dana

And now for the incredible work by Dana of Raven and Sparrow.


One of the things I love about this quilt square is how it captures both the chaotic rupture of grief and the renewing power of hope. Look at the way Dana combined neat, orderly elements with loose and ‘messy’ ones.  The contrast speaks volumes.

heartsforcharleston-ravenandsparrowThe couched red threads on the left speak to blood, disorder, hate, and loss. They scramble and defy the cool, ordered grid below. The purple cloud of gauze has the visual feel of smoke or staining. It spreads across the surface and behind the heart. Looking at it, we wonder: is the damage done? How much further will it spread?  The heart is stained and rent. The edges of the central rip are frayed — in contrast to the neatly applied stitches that define the heart’s outer edges.  These skillful choices elevate the image to something beyond the cliche of the broken heart.    A five-petaled flower grows out of the place of brokenness and brings its purity into the messy tumble of red. It speaks to the enduring power of hope and also of forgiveness, an apt reference for a community living their Christian values.  Like Liz, Dana dyed her strips especially for this project. Not only that, but she used a resist to spell out the words, “open our hearts” — words spoken by President Obama in his eulogy for Rev. Clementa Pinckney.   Dana also used a resist to create a series of small hearts along one of the strips. She beautifully embroidered nine of them.

IMG_2342The floral embroidery in soft colors lends a sense of peace and purity to ‘the Nine’.  The pretty uniformity of these hearts stands in contrast to the wild chaos opposite. And, it’s something else.   It’s that this line of uniform and sweet encircled hearts suggest that in death, the Emanuel Nine became united — in faith and essence perhaps?

On the reverse side, with white thread on white linen, Dana stitched simply, “Remembering, June 17, 2015.”  All in all, this is a beautifully executed and powerful visual statement about loss and hope.  Please read more about Dana’s process, and enjoy her other beautiful dyeing and needlework and her extraordinary flare for table setting.

Specifically, the project is discussed here and here, here and here.

Thank you so much, Dana!

To read more about this project,
please refer to the the sidebar category:
“Hearts for Charleston Quilt”.