South Carolina Lowcountry Food & Culture

Flickr Photo by Bruce Tuten

If you've read my life list, you may have noticed, #12 to visit the Lowcountry in South Carolina, where my paternal grandmother was born. I still haven't visited, but I'm working on it.

Recently, I was going through my inbox cleaning out old email. Much of it was saved links for future posts and research. One of the saved links was for the Avery Research Center For African American History And Culture, located in Charleston, South Carolina. I saved it back in 2007 as a place that might be helpful in my research.

So now four years later, since I stumbled upon it so randomly, I decided to check the website and see if anything was happening there. It turns out that this coming September, the Center is hosting a two-day symposium: We Carry These Memories Inside of We: Celebrating the 20th Year Anniversary of Daughters of the Dust.


The movie Daughters of the Dust, by Julie Dash was not only one of the most beautiful pieces of cinema that I had ever seen, but I realized that it was part of my family story. Click here to see a film trailer. The Library of Congress honored Daughters of the Dust by placing it in the National Film Registry.

My grandmother had an accent that sounded Jamaican, which I had never understood until I saw this movie. I knew that she was born in this country, so how could she have a Caribbean accent? Not until seeing Daughters of the Dust, did I hear about Gullah culture. I still don't understand why my grandmother didn't talk more about this culture. She died years ago, before the movie was released. There are so many questions that I can never ask her.

Julie Dash will be at the symposium and I would love to go to South Carolina to research my family and hear her speak.


The Avery Research Center also has information about a new project having to do with food called the Lowcountry Foodways Project. Could anything be more interesting to me?!

It's a collaborative project between Trident Technical College Library and the Avery Research Center.

According to the Lowcountry Foodways Project website, the "Lowcountry is a geographic area that stretches from Wilmington, North Carolina, to Jacksonville, Florida, and 30 miles inland, following estuarine boundaries; culturally, its roots are a blend of African, Caribbean, English, French, and Native American peoples."

The cuisine is very distinctive. Because of many economic and demographic changes, that culinary heritage is in danger of being lost. The purpose of the project is to preserve this food history. I spoke with Project Director, Laura Barfield to find out more. Barfield said that they received a small planning grant to find out what is needed and hope to get a much larger grant to carry out the work. Currently they have people working on oral histories, video sharing applications, and going to archives to locate primary sources.

I was very excited to hear about this project and look forward to learning more about their progress and of course, the food!

*Updated 5/13/2011* Blogger has had several problems over the past few days. This post has disappeared, then reappeared. At the moment, the comments are gone. *sigh* Not sure if they are coming back, but I didn't delete them in case anyone was wondering what happened to them.

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Can-Can said…
Daughters of the Dust is one of the most beautiful films ever made and it celebrates the beauty of women, black women, and of Gullah and African-American culture. My daughter was 13 when I "forced" her to see it when it opened at the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline. They showed it on a very large screen. She ended up holding my hand, she was so awed by the images. I was later able to show it at Boston City Hospital (BMC now) as part of a Black History month celebration. I hope you can go to the celebration. How wonderful that will be!
Thanks for sharing.
Lisa Johnson said…
can-can - I'm sure your daughter is so grateful that you "made" her see it. I'd like to get the DVD, so I can see it a few more times or just whenever I want. That's wonderful that you were able to show it at BCH. I'm sure everyone enjoyed it!
Suldog said…
Blogger. Meh. I actually posted something, the first time in over a month, and Blogger ate it. It was a combination of self-pity over the Celtics losing and self-congratulation on my having predicted their demise back when they traded Kendrick Perkins. No great loss, but still...

The food looks delish!
Lisa Johnson said…
suldog - Well, this fiasco reminds me to backup my template again. What a pain!

My mom and I were just talking about the Celtics losing and how she thought it was because of Perkins not being there. I guess they are really paying for that trade now.

I knew you'd start blogging again! : )
Carrie said…
YUM. Just got back from Charleston, definitely inspired me to try some new recipes! On my "to make" list are shrimp and grits and a new type of martini from Cypress. Love Lowcountry cooking!
Mama Up! said…
Food history is fascinating, especially in this, the age of homogenization of American eating. I'm a big fan of the Slow Food movement... cultural food history should be preserved. Hopefully those larger grants come through!
Lisa Johnson said…
carrie - Welcome! I definitely have to try shrimp and grits. I love them both separately, so they must be wonderful together. I just looked up Cypress Restaurant and it looks like quite a place to visit!

the babbymama - Thanks for stopping by! I hope the grants come through too!
Josephine said…
I'm going to Charleston in a few weeks, and I keep seeing restaurant recommendations. I've got Southern food on the brain, for sure :)
Lisa Johnson said…
josephine - Sounds like a really fun trip! And delicious too! ; )

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