Monday, June 30, 2008


There's something about Purple Coneflower( also known as Echinacea) that really proclaims that summer is here. This drought resistant plant blooms in our garden just when we start entering the typically drier season of late June( though ours started in mid-June) and July. Happily, though, we had a weekend of on and off rainy periods that certainly helped the other less drought tolerant plants in the garden perk up a bit. As I type this post the rain has arrived again and I'm so grateful that mother nature is doing her part in nourishing the garden. Rain makes me long for a cuppa... So...if you'll excuse my short post, I'm going to see if I still have some Echinacea tea leftover from the winter...Hum......I found this interesting historic note about Echinacea:

Echinacea angustifolia rhizome was used by North American Plains Indians, perhaps more than most other plants, for various herbal remedies. Echinacea was one of the basic antimicrobial herbs of eclectic medicine from the mid 19th century through the early 20th century, and its use was documented for snakebite and anthrax. In the 1930s echinacea became popular in both Europe and America as an herbal medicine.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


I would like to offer a new weekly feature from The Ladies' Historical Tea Society. Every week( on Thursdays or Fridays)I will recommend a different tea for members and blog readers to try. This week's tea is Pomegranate Pizzazz from Bigelow. This is a caffeine free herb tea blend of apple, hibiscus, blackberry leaves, pomegranate, orange peel, and licorice root. It is a delicious fruity tea and one that is fitting served hot or as an iced herb tea with a sprig of mint or lemon balm...I've been drinking this tea most of this week and have had it both ways but I always prefer it hot. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Gabriel's cup should serve as the fountain opening and has in the past. Unfortunately, we've had lots of problems with leaking hoses so at them moment, the fountain portion isn't operational.

About 9 years ago I set out on a mission of sorts to find the perfect garden statue. I knew that I wanted an angel but it had to have the right look. Since a marble angel was out of the question I knew that it would have to be concrete but look like it belonged in a churchyard or cemetery...So began my quest...I searched high and low at garden centers and tombstone companies( yes...tombstone companies) but they either far exceeded my budget or just simply looked wrong...Imagine my surprise when driving east to visit my parents, infant son( at the time) in tow, we stumbled upon a family run concrete statuary shop and out front stood the most beautiful concrete angel! My quest was over! It looked the part of a messenger so I called him Gabriel...I loved this statue, which also turned out to be a fountain, from the moment I first saw it from the road. I knew we had to buy it right away but the problem was that we were in a small Toyota and I knew there was no way that we could get it home with us plus,it weighed a ton and my dear hubby would need help...So...hubby told me that he would have to line up some help to retrieve the heavenly being. A week later we returned with a van and hubby's father...They nearly broke their poor backs getting it into the van, even with the help of the man at the statuary shop, and they began to stress about how they would go about getting it out of the van. That, they knew, was going to be even more challenging than getting the statue in...When they arrived at our house, they opened the back doors and proceeded with grunting, groaning, and straining every muscle to get Gabriel out of the van...Suddenly, a man driving on the street pulled over, hopped out of his truck and immediately offered assistance. Now, it's hard enough to line up people you know to help you move something but this man volunteered to help perfect strangers move a 5 foot tall concrete garden statue...Hum...candidate for Good Samaritan, I would say... Without his help, I fear Gabriel may have been dropped on the sidewalk...Unfortunately, we never got his name or knew where this man came from...I wanted to get his address and send him some sort of thank you note, at the very least, but I had put my son down in the house and wasn't there when he left...Since the statue arrived here, it's been moved only once and that time it took 4 men to move it..."He" now stands among English Ivy and box woods and serves as guardian over our house. This statue always calms me. It truly has that quality. I love to sit out in our courtyard in front of him and listen to the wind blow through the trees. Sometimes, just looking at my concrete Gabriel, reminds me to thank God for the ministry of Angels...Especially for Gabriel, the ultimate messenger...

Here are some quick photos I took as I've been weeding for two days and have lots more to do...But..things are shaping up pretty well and I've been taking advantage of the cooler temps....

Welcome to the garden

St. Francis ( Patron Saint of Animals/Ecology) overlooks the garden from his new location( still showing the remnants of the ivy that was once attached to him for so long on the other side of the house). He now marks the halfway point in the garden.

Newest Nikko Blue with less acidic soil( hence the lavender shades in the blooms) at the far end of the garden...

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Not long ago I was looking through some of my older pictures from New Orleans and found this photograph from a courtyard just off Royal Street( I believe that's where it was located). Inside this courtyard, we found some eclectic little shops and stumbled upon this great birdbath which had been converted into a planter. I'm not sure if the birdbath had been damaged or if it was always intended to serve as a planter but my goodness, I love the results. I have a birdbath which I'm thinking of doing this with and have been on the lookout for a small cherub to put in the center like the one in the photo. Those who know me know that I absolutely adore statuary ( not all garden statuary mind you...primarily the ones that look ancient and most certainly like they came from a very old cemetery)- My poor husband still gets back aches when he looks at our 5 ft. angel statue in our patio area... I need to blog about the ordeal we went through when we got that statue....For now.. it's back to never-ending weeding in the garden...

Sunday, June 22, 2008

From Bigelow Tea

Looking for a fun and delicious way to add tea to your recipes? A couple of years ago, one of the ladies from the Tea Society made this cake for one of our events and it was absolutely delicious.

¾ cup boiling water
3 Bigelow Perfect Peach ™ Herb Tea Bags
¾ cup butter or margarine; softened, divided
½ cup brown sugar
1 can (16-oz.) sliced peaches, well-drained
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon or orange peel (optional)

Yield: Yields one 9” round cake.


Pour boiling water over tea bags. Let steep 10 minutes. Remove tea bags, squeezing out liquid.

Meanwhile, drain peaches in a colander; transfer to a plate and pat dry with paper towels. Set aside.

In small skillet, melt ¼ cup butter. Add brown sugar and cook over medium heat until brown sugar is dissolved. Pour mixture into bottom of 9" round cake pan. Arrange peaches on sugar mixture.

Preheat oven to 350° F. In small bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. In large mixer bowl, beat remaining ½ cup butter with granulated sugar until combined. Add eggs and lemon peel, and beat at medium speed until smooth and creamy about 2 minutes. Alternately beat in flour mixture and tea mixture, beating well after each addition.

Spread batter evenly over peaches. Bake 35-40 minutes or until cake tests done. Remove from oven and let stand on wire rack 10-15 minutes. Loosen cake from sides of pan and invert cake onto serving plate. Serve warm.

About Bigelow Tea:
R.C. Bigelow, Inc. has produced quality teas since 1945. Based in Fairfield, CT, Bigelow Tea takes pride in its family heritage and its successful growth into one of the nation's leading producers of Green Tea, Decaf Tea, Herbal Tea, Flavored Tea and specialty teas. Today, in addition to its flagship Constant Comment Tea , Bigelow Tea offers a wide variety of green tea, iced tea, and gourmet teas, everything from black tea, flavored tea, green tea, herbal tea, decaffeinated tea, iced tea, and loose tea, along with tea gift baskets, tea chests and tea accessories.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


Nikko Blue in the garden

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


The Rice Rose

Detail of the Rice Rose

The Chinia Rose

The Chinia Rose

Most all gardeners are familiar with names like Golden Showers, American Beauty, and Empress Josephine. They are of course names given to roses. As cliche as it may sound, roses will always be my favorite flower (with hydrangeas coming in a very close second). I have about 6 different varieties of roses growing in and around the garden but I wanted to highlight two of my favorites. The official names have been lost to me but what makes them so unique is that they are heirloom roses that came from my Great Great Grandmother's Gardens. One was given to me by my mother, Mary( a gardener) and the other featured in this post was given to me by my dear Great Aunt Chinia who has given me countless plants for my little cottage garden. I dare say that all the plants Aunt Chinia has so graciously shared with me have thrived and flourished here. Yet, the roses give me such joy. They perfume the air like no new hybrid could ever do and they have virtually no black spot or pests plaguing them. Since I do not know the original beginnings of the roses, I gave them names to honor the women who loved them so and kept them thriving for over a hundred years. The first in the above photos is The Rice Rose, in honor of my Great Great Grandmother, Margaret Rice. The color is actually more of a salmon than the photos show and the flower heads on this rose are so massive and heavy that as you can see, they weigh the plant down, making it droop. The other is The Chinia Rose, a pretty pink clustered wild rose, in honor of my Great Aunt and master gardener Chinia Stephens. This rose gets quite unruly and needs to be reigned in in order to keep it tidy. My hat is off to you, grand ladies, and I toast a cuppa Rose tea in tribute to your years of dedication to beautiful plants. I feel so honored to have a piece of something so near and dear to each of you in my garden.

Monday, June 16, 2008


Along the drive from the Georgetown, South Carolina area into Charleston, you pass your fair share of Spanish moss covered ancient oaks, swamps, and everything in between. Yet, when you near the community of Mount Pleasant, along with the fresh seafood markets and produce stands, you will find sweetgrass basket makers weaving and selling their treasures to interested passers by. These baskets are exceptionally beautiful and this art form is still flourishing in the Low Country. Not only are they sold at roadside stands but they can also be found in the City Market and on the streets of Charleston.

The History of Low Country Sweetgrass Artistry:

The art of basket making was introduced to the Lowcountry in the 17th Century by Africans taken from the present day Mano River Region, Senegambia and Angola- Congolese regions of West Africa. Brought by white planters to cultivate rice, enslaved Africans brought basket making skills as well. The early history of basket making parallels the rise of rice cultivation on the Southeastern coast of the United States. Enslaved Africans, usually men, made baskets for use on the plantation and for sale. On some plantations basket making was a seasonal chore. On other plantations enslaved Africans who were no longer able to work in the fields made baskets. Work baskets used in plantation households and in rice cultivation were made by men out of bulrush or rush.

The Civil War and Emancipation brought a transformation in sweetgrass basket making. Women began making smaller baskets from sweetgrass for storing and serving food to be used in their own households as well as on plantations. Basket making evolved from an agricultural craft to an art form produced for sale. The Mt. Pleasant (East of the Cooper) Community, just north of Charleston, where landed Black families began mass producing and selling show baskets made of sweetgrass, was central to this evolution. By the 20th Century, basket makers were sewing for mail order catalogues and gift shops owned by white businessmen, many of whom were from the Northeast. Merchants and middlemen modified the basketmaking tradition by buying baskets attractive to tourist and other consumers.

Today, basketmaking is centered in the Mt. Pleasant community. Basket stands along Hwy 17 North allow basket makers to compete with retail markets, establish a direct contact between themselves and their patrons and develop new shapes from traditional baskets forms and ordinary objects. Basket makers living east of the Cooper River can also be found downtown Charleston, along Market, Broad, and Meeting Streets.

Basket making has become an art form practiced and controlled by women who no longer perform domestic and other work outside of their homes. The economic independence the basket making affords professional basket makers to work in their homes and make baskets. Men remain the primary gathers of sweetgrass and their materials. Although the economic prosperity of tourism has been good for basket making, changes in ownership and use of land threatens the natural resources and human communities.
Compiled by the staff of the Avery Research Center at the College of Charleston.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

( Dad's Coming by Winslow Homer 1873)

For my dear Father, John( my husband and great dad to David and Kate), and to any Father's who might happen upon the Tea Society, I dedicate the poem below to you:

What Makes a Dad

God took the strength of a mountain,
The majesty of a tree,
The warmth of a summer sun,
The calm of a quiet sea,
The generous soul of nature,
The comforting arm of night,
The wisdom of the ages,
The power of the eagle's flight,
The joy of a morning in spring,
The faith of a mustard seed,
The patience of eternity,
The depth of a family need,
Then God combined these qualities,
When there was nothing more to add,
He knew His masterpiece was complete,
And so,

He called it ... Dad

~~Author Unknown.~~

Friday, June 13, 2008


In honor of the month's celebration, I thought a look at the Timeline of the History of Tea might be fun....

A History of Tea Timeline
The Tea Story:
2737 B.C.
• The second emperor of China, Shen Nung, discovers tea when tea leaves blow into his cup of hot water or so the story goes.

350 A.D.
• A Chinese dictionary cites tea for the first time as Erh Ya.

• Demand for tea as a medicinal beverage rises in China and cultivation processes are developed. Many tea drinkers add onion, ginger, spices, or orange to their teas.

• Now called Kuang Ya in the Chinese dictionary, tea and its detailed infusion and preparation steps are defined.

• Turkish traders bargain for tea on the border of Mongolia.

• Buddhism and tea journey from China to Japan. Japanese priests studying in China carried tea seeds and leaves back.

618-907 T'ang Dynasty
• Tea becomes a popular drink in China for both its flavor and medicinal qualities.

• Japanese monk Gyoki plants the first tea bushes in 49 Buddhist temple gardens.
• Tea in Japan is rare and expensive, enjoyed mostly by high priests and the aristocracy.

• The Chinese give tea give its own character ch’a.

• The Japanese emperor serves powdered tea (named hiki-cha from the Chinese character) to Buddhist priests.

• First tea tax imposed in China.
• Chinese poet-scholar Lu Yu writes the first book of tea titled Ch’a Ching (The Classic of Tea) in timely alignment with the Taoist beliefs. The book covers detailed ancient Chinese tea cultivation and preparation techniques.

• Buddhism and tea devotion spreads further.
• The Japanese Buddhist saint and priest Saicho and monk Kobo Daishi bring tea seeds and cultivation and manufacturing tips back from China and plant gardens in the Japanese temples.

960-1280 Sung Dynasty
• Chinese tea drinking is on the rise, as are elegant teahouses and teacups carefully crafted from porcelain and pottery.
• Drinking powdered and frothed tea or tea scented with flowers is widespread in China while earlier flavorings fall by the wayside.
• Zen Buddhism catches on in Japan via China and along come tea-drinking temple rituals.

• Chinese Emperor Hui Tsung becomes tea obsessed and writes about the best tea-whisking methods and holds tea-tasting tournaments in the court. While “tea minded,” so the story goes, he doesn’t notice the Mongol take over of his empire.
• Teahouses in garden settings pop up around China.

• Japanese Buddhist abbot Eisai, who introduced Zen Buddhism to Japan, brings tea seeds from China and plants them around his Kyoto temple.

1206-1368 Yuan Dynasty
• During the Mongol take over of China, tea becomes a commonplace beverage buy never regains its high social status.

• Japanese Buddhist abbot Eisai writes the first Japanese tea book Kitcha-Yojoki (Book of Tea Sanitation).

• Mongolia takes over of China and since the Emperor of Mongol isn’t a “tea guy,” tea drinking dies down in the courts and among the aristocracy. The masses continue to indulge.

1368-1644 Ming Dynasty
• At the fall of the Mongol take over, all teas — green, black, and oolong — is easily found in China.
• The process of steeping whole tea leaves in cups or teapots becomes popular.

• The Japanese tea ceremony emerges onto the scene. First created by a Zen priest named Murata Shuko, the ceremony is called Cha-no-yu, literally meaning "hot water tea" and celebrates the mundane aspects of everyday life.
• Tea’s status elevates to an art form and almost a religion.

• Japan's shogun Yoshimasa encourages tea ceremonies, painting, and drama.

• Europeans learn about tea when a Venetian author credits the lengthy lives of Asians to their tea drinking.

• Tea is mentioned for the first time in an English translation of Dutch navigator Jan Hugo van Linschooten's travels, in which he refers to tea as chaa.

End of 1500s
• Japanese tea master Sen-no Rikyu opens the first independent teahouse and evolves the tea ceremony into its current simple and aesthetic ritual. During this ceremony, one takes a garden path into a portico, enters upon hearing the host’s gong, washes in a special room, and then enters a small tearoom that holds a painting or flower arrangement to gaze upon. The tea master uses special utensils to whisk the intense powdered tea. Tea drinkers enjoy the art or flowers and then smell and slurp from a shared teabowl.
• Europeans hear about tea again when Portuguese priests spreading Roman Catholicism through China taste tea and write about its medicinal and taste benefits.

• The Dutch bring back green tea from Japan (although some argue it was from China).
• Dutch East India Company market tea as an exotic medicinal drink, but it’s so expensive only the aristocracy can afford the tea and its serving pieces.

• Chinese ambassadors present the Russian Czar Alexis with many chests of tea, which are refused as useless.

• Tea catches on in the Dutch court.
• A German physician touts a warning about the dangers of tea drinking.

• Wealthy Dutch merchants’ wives serve tea at parties.

• Tea parties become quite trendy among women across the social classes. Husbands cry family ruin, and religious reformers call for a ban.

• The Dutch introduce several teas and tea traditions to New Amsterdam, which later becomes New York.

• The first tea is sold as a health beverage in London, England at Garway's Coffee House.

• The debate over tea’s health benefits versus detriments heightens when a Dutch doctor praises its curative side while French and German doctors call out its harmful side.

• When Charles II takes a tea-drinking bride (Catherine Braganza of Portugal), tea becomes so chic that alcohol consumption declines.

• English East India Company brings the gift of tea to the British king and queen.
• The British take over New Amsterdam, name it New York, and a British tea tradition ensues.

• Holland tea prices drop to $80-$100 per pound.

• English East India Company monopolizes British tea imports after convincing British government to ban Dutch imports of tea.

• The Massachusetts colony is known to drink black tea.

• Tea with milk is mentioned in Madam de Sévigné’s letters.
• The Duchess of York introduces tea to Scotland.

• The first tea is sold publicly in Massachusetts.

• The first known Taiwanese cultivation and export of domestic tea takes place.

Late 1600s
• Russia and China sign a treaty that brings the tea trade across Mongolia and Siberia.

18th Century
• The controversy over tea continues in England and Scotland where opponents claim it’s overpriced, harmful to one’s health, and may even lead to moral decay.

• During Queen Anne’s reign, tea drinking thrives in British coffeehouses.

• Annual tea importation to England tops 800,000 pounds.

• Thomas Twining serves up tea at Tom’s Coffee House in London.

• Tom’s Coffee House evolves into the first teashop called the Golden Lyon. Both men and women patronize the shop.

• British Prime Minister Robert Walpole reduces British import taxes on tea.

• The Russian Empress extends tea as a regulated trade.
• In order to fill Russia’s tea demand, traders and three hundred camels travel 11,000 miles to and from China, which takes sixteen months.
• Russian tea-drinking customs emerge, which entail using tea concentrate, adding hot water, topping it with a lemon, and drinking it through a lump of sugar held between the teeth.

• Tea easily ranks as the most popular beverage in the American colonies.

• The Townshend Revenue Act passes British Parliament, imposing duty on tea and other goods imported into the British American colonies.
• A town meeting is held in Boston to protest the Townshend Revenue Act, which leads to an American boycott of British imports and a smuggling in of Dutch teas.

• Parliament rescinds the Townshend Revenue Act, eliminating all import taxes except those on teas.

• In protest of British tea taxes and in what becomes known as the Boston Tea Party, colonists disguised as Native Americans board East India Company ships and unload hundreds of chests of tea into the harbor.
• Such “tea parties” are repeated in Philadelphia, New York, Maine, North Carolina, and Maryland through 1774.

• A furious British Parliament passes the Coercive Acts in response to the American “tea party” rebellions.
• King George III agrees to the Boston Port Bill, which closes the Boston Harbor until the East India Company is reimbursed for its tea.

• After several British attempts to end the taxation protests, the American Revolution begins.

• Before the indigenous Assam tea plants is identified, British naturalist Sir Joseph Banks, hired by the East India Company, suggests that India grow plant and cultivate imported Chinese tea. For 50 years, India is unsuccessful.

• Parliament further reduces the British import taxes on tea in an effort to end the smuggling that accounts for the majority of the nation's tea imports.

• 11 million pounds of tea are brought into England.

• English tea drinking hits a rate of 2 pounds per capita annually, a rate that increases by five times over the next 10 years.

• Samples of indigenous Indian tea plants are sent to an East India Company botanist who is slowly convinced that they are bona fide tea plants.

• English Quaker John Horniman introduces the first retail tea in sealed, lead-lined packages.

• Congress reduces U.S. duties on coffee and tea and other imports.

• By an act of the British Prime Minister Charles Grey (the second Earl Grey and the namesake of the famous tea), the East India Company loses its monopoly in the trade with China, mostly in tea.

• The East India Company starts the first tea plantations in Assam, India.

• The first American consul at Canton, Major Samuel Shaw, trades cargo for tea and silk, earning investors a great return on their capital and encouraging more Americans to trade with China.

• The first tea from Indian soil and imported Chinese tea plants is sold. A small amount is sent to England and quickly purchased due to its uniqueness.

• American clipper ships speed up tea transports to America and Europe.

1840s and 50s
• The first tea plants, imports from China and India, are cultivated on a trial basis in Sri Lanka (Ceylon).

• Anna the Duchess of Bedford introduces afternoon tea, which becomes a lasting English ritual.

• Parliament ends the Britain's Navigation Acts, and U.S. clipper ships are allowed to transport China tea to British ports.
• Tea wholesaler Henry Charles Harrod takes over a London grocery store and grows it into one of the world's largest department stores.

• Londoners get their first peak at a U.S. clipper ship when one arrives from Hong Kong full of China tea.
• U.S. clipper ships soon desert China trade for the more profitable work of taking gold seekers to California.

• Tea is planted in and about Darjeeling, India.

• Local New York merchant George Huntington Hartford and his employer George P. Gilman give the A&P retail chain its start as the Great American Tea Company store. Hartford and Gilman buy whole clipper shipments from the New York harbor and sell the tea 1/3 cheaper than other merchants.

• Over 90 percent of Britain's tea is still imported from China.

• The Suez Canal opens, shortening the trip to China and making steamships more economical.
• In a marketing effort to capitalize on the transcontinental rail link fervor, the Great American Tea Company is renamed the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company.
• A plant fungus ruins the coffee crop in Ceylon and spreads throughout the Orient and Pacific, giving a hefty boost to tea drinking.

• Twinings of England begins to blend tea for uniformity.

• The Adulteration of Food, Drink, and Drugs Act deems the sale of adulterated drugs or other unlabeled mixtures with foreign additives that increase weight as punishable offenses.

• A new British Sale of Food and Drugs Law calls adulteration hazardous to personal health and increases its legal consequences to a heavy fine or imprisonment.

• Thomas Johnstone Lipton opens his first shop in Glasgow, using American merchandising methods he learned working in the grocery section of a New York department store.

• Thomas Lipton buys tea estates in Ceylon, in order to sell tea at a reasonable price at his growing chain of 300 grocery stores.

Late 1800s
• Assam tea plants take over imported Chinese plants in India and its tea market booms.
• Ceylon’s successful coffee market turns into a successful tea market.

• Englishman Richard Blechynden creates iced tea during a heat wave at the St Louis World Fair.

• Green tea and Formosan (Taiwanese) tea outsells black tea by five times in the U.S.

• New York tea importer Thomas Sullivan inadvertently invents tea bags when he sends tea to clients in small silk bags, and they mistakenly steep the bags whole.

• Thomas Lipton begins blending and packaging his tea in New York.

• Sumatra, Indonesia becomes a cultivator and exporter of tea followed by Kenya and parts of Africa.


McCoy, Elin and John Frederick Walker, Coffee and Tea, G.S. Haley Company, Inc., 1998

Thursday, June 12, 2008



If you are a lover of china and porcelain then you have no doubt happened upon a number of lovely portrait plates in antiques and collectibles shops. I love these beautiful masterpieces of decorative art and am always delighted by the vast array of different designs and subjects to be found among them. I found the Austrian portrait plate pictured above in an Antique Mall in South Carolina. I adore the pink border but the lovely scenery in the middle is mesmerizing.

Victorians were of course lovers of the ornate and quite fond of most decoration. Portrait plates were not unlike most other decorative plates of the period, which were intended to be displayed in China Cabinets and never intended to have food served on them.

The Victorians also had an affinity for adorning a variety of surfaces with images of beautiful, often almost ethereal ladies. Until approximately 1915-1920 the Art Nouveau images of women and/or historical figures decorated not only dishware but also postcards and book covers.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Being from Kentucky, I don't mind saying that I've eaten my fair share of grits. Most people from here and from the rest of the South Eastern US have grown up with this dish but it was only when I first traveled to Charleston that I tried Shrimp and Grits for the first time. My first encounter with the dish came at a restaurant called The Noisy Oyster and it was love at first taste. I came back to Kentucky determined to add this dish to my favorites and I've been making it ever since. Since it's such a unique recipe, I searched for some background information on it and came across some very interesting facts in an article written for "What's Cooking America."

To a Southerner, eating grits is practically a religion, and breakfast without grits is unthinkable. A true grit lover would not consider instant or quick-cooking grits; only long-cooking stone-ground grits are worth eating. Outside of the southern states, the reaction to grits is mixed.

Grits are served as a side dish for breakfast or dinner and are traditionally eaten with butter and milk. three-quarters of the grits sold in the United States are from a belt of coastal states stretching from Louisiana to the Carolinas, known as the "Grits Belt."

Grits (or hominy) were one of the first truly American foods, as the Native Americans ate a mush made of softened corn or maize. In 1584, during their reconnaissance party of what is now Roanoke, North Carolina, Sir Walter Raleigh and his men met and dined with the local Indians. Having no language in common, the two groups quickly resorted to food and drink. One of Raleigh's men, Arthur Barlowe, recorded notes on the foods of the Indians. He mad a special not of corn, which he found "very white, faire, and well tasted." He also wrote about being served a boiled corn or hominy.

When the colonists came ashore in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607, the Indians offered them bowls of this boiled corn substance. The Indians called it "rockahomine," which was later shortened to "hominy" by the colonists. The Indians taught the colonists how to thresh the hulls from dried yellow corn. Corn was a year-round staple and each tribe called it by a different name.

In the Low Country of South Carolina and particularly Charleston, shrimp and grits has been considered a basic breakfast for coastal fishermen and families for decades during the shrimp season (May through December). Simply called 'breakfast shrimp," the dish consisted of a pot of grits with shrimp cooked in a little bacon grease or butter. During the past decade, this dish has been dressed up and taken out on the town to the fanciest restaurants. Not just for breakfast anymore, it is also served for brunch, lunch, and dinner.

In 1976, South Carolina declared grits the official state food:
Whereas, throughout its history, the South has relished its grits, making them a symbol of its diet, its customs, its humor, and its hospitality, and whereas, every community in the State of South Carolina used to be the site of a grist mill and every local economy in the State used to be dependent on its product; and whereas, grits has been a part of the life of every South Carolinian of whatever race, background, gender, and income; and whereas, grits could very well play a vital role in the future of not only this State, but also the world, if as The Charleston News and Courier proclaimed in 1952: 'An inexpensive, simple, and thoroughly digestible food, [grits] should be made popular throughout the world. given enough of it, the inhabitants of planet Earth would have nothing to fight about. A man full of [grits] is a man of peace.'
Article by Linda Bradley

Creamy Shrimp and Grits

1 pound large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined*

1 cup heavy cream

2 cups water

1 1/2 cups hot stock (shrimp, chicken, or vegetable)

1/4 cup butter

Salt and black pepper to taste

1 cup stone-ground grits**

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Salt and black pepper to taste

6 bacon slices

2 tablespoons finely chopped onion

1 clove garlic, minced

2 tablespoons finely chopped green or red bell pepper

* Add add flavor, place the shells of the shrimp in a saucepan and cover with water. Simmer over low heat approximately 7 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and strain the broth, discarding shells. Add shrimp broth to hot stock.

** If using quick-cooking grits (not instant, reduce cream to 1/2 cup and reduce stock to 1 cup.

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, combine cream water, and hot stock; bring to a gentle boil. Add butter salt, and pepper. Slowly add grits, stirring constantly (so that the grits do not settle to the bottom and scorch), until all are added; reduce heat to medium-low. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally (be careful not to scorch mixture), or until the grits are tender.

NOTE: Grits should have absorbed all of the liquid and become soft and should have the same consistency as oatmeal (moist, not dry). If the grits become too thick, add warm stock or water to thin. remove from heat. Serve shrimp and grits with a wedge of sweet yellow cheddar corn bread.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


When we were browsing through the city market in Charleston last Saturday I ran into a lady at one of the booths there and my husband and I some how got on the topic of the city’s ghost tours with her...It was then that I learned about the notorious Lavinia and John Fisher. According to different accounts, the Fisher’s owned an Inn called the Six Mile House. Named that, presumably, because it was located 6 miles from Charleston proper. Legend says that wayward travelers would find themselves at the Inn and disappear after renting a room from the Fishers. Supposedly, the couple was part of a gang of robbers and used their Inn as a means to increase their purse. However, the most infamous label that some have given to Lavinia is that of America’s first female serial killer. Her method of carrying out the dastardly deeds is the reason I could not resist blogging about this macabre tale. The following account is based largely on accounts told by Ghost Tour Guides in the Holy City...There are many variations to this story and some involve a guard named Dave Ross but this one is my favorite:

In 1819, one John Peeples, traveling from Georgia to Charleston, happened upon the Six Mile House. He was greeted by a ravishingly beautiful woman, Lavinia Fisher. She told him that there were no rooms there at the Inn but invited him to join her for a nice lunch and some tea while he rested. He was delighted by her invitation but was dismayed when her husband, John Fisher, joined them for lunch and persisted on coldly staring at him through the duration of an otherwise stimulating conversation. Mrs. Fisher was very inquisitive and insisted he tell her all about himself, where he was headed and all the details of his trip. She then excused herself from the room but returned with a hot pot of tea and some wonderful news. A room had just become available for Mr. Peeples. The Innkeepers excused themselves once more and Mr. Peeples, being perhaps one of the few people in 1819 who did not particularly like tea, saw an opportunity to pour it out in a nearby plant before they returned. He was far too polite to turn down his lovely host but could not fathom the thought of drinking tea. After a lovely afternoon turned into evening, Mr. Peeples was shown to his room and reveled in the thought of the beautiful Innkeeper being so attentive to him. Then he began to ponder on the nature of her inquiry. Why did she want to know how much money he had? Why did she want to know if anyone was expecting him? John began to feel very uneasy and then decided that he did not want to sleep in that bed and opted for a chair near the door. He felt that would be safer should a robbery attempt be made on him. However, he was so exhausted from his trip that he dozed off but was abruptly awakened to a loud sound. When he opened his eyes towards the bed, he found that it had disappeared! The floorboards beneath the bed had opened to reveal a long drop to the bottom. Terrified and confused, he made his escape through the window and then saddled his horse and headed to Charleston to the nearest authorities.

What was found in the drop were multiple sets of bones, possibly as many as 23 bodies, along with the discovery that the tea that Lavinia Fisher had served was made with a poison used to either put the victim in a deep sleep or to kill them. If needed, Mr. Fisher reportedly would finish them off, hence the drop, after they retired in their beds for the evening. The couple was arrested along with others who were the presumed accomplices to the robberies. Mr. Fisher and the others were put to death by hanging but Lavinia depended on her beauty to charm the court into sparing her life. She reportedly wore her wedding dress to the trial and believed the judge would take pity on her but due to the angry mob gathering in the court room, he sentenced her to death. It is said that she shouted out in anger, “If you have a message for the devil, give it to me now for I’m about to meet him!” Most reports claim that instead of waiting for the noose to drop, she jumped from the platform herself to finish the task. Lavinia was reportedly buried in a grave with other convicted criminals at the Graveyard of the Unitarian Church in Charleston. This was supposedly the only church that would allow her burial there. Ironically, the Judge who convicted her is also said to have been buried in the same graveyard and it is by his grave where a spectral vision has been spotted as well as in the old jail which housed her until she awaited her execution.....A side note...As I looked over my photos of the Battery, I couldn’t help but wonder if the mysterious “herb” used in the tea might have been the beautiful but deadly Oleander that the city is so famous for...

Unitarian Church of Charleston

Church Graveyard

Oleander lining the East Battery

Monday, June 09, 2008

Charleston is called The Holy City because of the large number of historic churches View from the East Battery Images from the Edmonston- Alston House

Edmondston-Alston House History( From Middleton Place Plantation WebSite)
In 1820, as Charleston outgrew its original limits, Bay Street stretched beyond the site of the southernmost battery that was reinforced by a permanent seawall. Behind the wall, the wetlands to the west were filled in and divided into lots and houses were built along the road that ran beside the embankment. The road was known as High Battery, and the new neighborhood was considered a desirable residential location. By 1850 houses occupied all of the lots.

In 1817, Charles Edmondston (1782-1861), a successful Charleston merchant, purchased a plot of land on East Bay that had previously been the site of a portion of Fort Mechanic (named because the mechanics and carpenters of Charleston contributed their services to construct it in 1794). Edmondston finished building his house on this plot in 1825. His house would be the first dwelling built on Charleston’s High Battery. Unfortunately, a series of financial depressions in the 1820s and 1830s, the most severe being the Panic of 1837, greatly depleted Edmondston's resources. By 1838 Edmondston was forced to sell his Battery home.

The buyer was Charles Alston (1796-1881), a member of one of the wealthiest rice-planting families of South Carolina's Georgetown County. He made several changes to the exterior of the house to conform it to the popular Greek Revival style of the period. He added a third floor piazza and altered the roofline by adding a parapet emblazoned with the Alston coat of arms.

In the 1860s, the piazzas of the Edmondston-Alston House provided a front-row vantage point to history as General Beauregard joined others at the Alstons' to watch the bombardment of Fort Sumter. Robert E. Lee must have also appreciated the harbor view the night he took refuge at the Alston house from a wide-spreading fire that threatened his hotel further uptown.

More images of Blue Skies and Sunshine.....
Coming soon...South Carolina Trip Part II: Low Country Treats and Death By Tea

Sunday, June 08, 2008


We had such a lovely trip and I'll be blogging more tomorrow when the clothes have been laundered and put away and the dog has been retrieved from my dear mother's house...The weather was perfect all week by the sea but it is now so hot and humid here in Kentucky that I just may be drinking "Iced Sweet Tea" all week...Then again, I usually do during the summer...