March 21, 2005

Benne Candy and Wafers

While I have not had any benne candy in years...may be even more than 5 years. I love the candy and the wafers. They are good and also good for you. The best place to buy it is down in the Market in Charleston. Good to the last bite!

Benne cakes are a food from West Africa introduced to this area by slaves. "Benne" means sesame seeds. The sesame seeds are eaten for good luck. Wafers and cookies made from benne are now a part of Kwanzaa ("first fruit" in Swahili), the African-American family festival that lasts from December 26 through January 1.


3/4 cup butter
1 ½ cups brown sugar
2 eggs
1 ½ cups flour
½ cup sesame seeds
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
(OPTIONAL: Add just a "jot" of sesame oil to the butter and sugar while creaming the mixture.)


Cream butter and sugar together and mix with other ingredients in the order given. Drop with a teaspoon onto a well-greased cookie pan, far enough apart to allow spreading while baking. Bake in a 325 degree F oven for 7-10 minutes. (Yield: 7 dozen.)

It is not the paper mill! It is pluff mud!

March 15, 2005

Quick! Get the Broom!

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While this blog is about all the things I love about the low country it is not complete without my most worrisome pest besides spiders. Tonight I was using my mouse and something velvety brushed the top of my hand. I did not see anything but I immediately thought that I was not alone. I thought it was a roach. I did not see anything and I looked around for it, broom in hand. Nothing.

I had not see a roach since last summer. Spring is almost here so I guess they are coming out of hiding. I felt the flutter about 3 hours ago. The cat now is doing crazy things under the computer. Damn! There it is. Let me go get the broom. A little red roach. He is now on his way to China via water!

I am glad to say that I only see about 2-3 roaches a year and I do believe that they come in from outside. While they are eating them on Fear Factor, I am killing them here and flushiong them out to sea! Some stores here used to sell chocolate covered roaches. I passed on that one. They are just too dirty for me.

They are impossible to get rid of once you become infested. These roach facts are kind of wonder they are so hard to get rid of:

  • Some female cockroaches mate once and are pregnant for the rest of their lives
  • A cockroach can live a week without its head. The roach only dies because without a mouth, it can't drink water and dies of thirst.
  • A cockroach heart is nothing but a simple tube with valves. The tube can pump blood backwards and forwards in the insect. The heart can even stop moving without harming the roach.
  • Young cockroaches need only a crack as thin as a dime (about .5mm wide) to crawl into. Adult males can squeeze into a space of 1.6mm or the thickness of a quarter. Pregnant females need the most space to hide: 4.5mm or a space as tall as two stacked nickels.
  • Roaches can live without food for a month, but will only survive a week without water.
  • Most species of roaches live in the tropics. But roaches live all over the world, including the North and South Poles. Pest cockroachs can withstand temperatures as cold as 32°F (0°C), but will die if the temperature goes much below that. In extremely cold places, however, they survive by moving in with humans
  • What!?! Roaches can swim? That's right. A roach can hold its breath for 40 minutes too!
Maybe my roach is not on its' way to China long drowned. Maybe he is just going for a 40 minute underwater swim. Well at least he is not in this house anymore!
It is not the paper mill! It is pluff mud!

March 13, 2005

Grits for Breakfast

Who doesn't start the day with grits? I like to and I will have you to know that grits have become food that is served in fine restaurants now. Shrimp and Grits are on most menus everywhere and not just in the south.

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I like grits cooked with milk. The texture is creamy and when you go to most restaurants it is made with grits. I grew up with grits made with water. Once you have it made with milk you never go back. The first time I had grits in a restaurant that was made with milk instead of water was at a wonderful restaurant called Red Bone Alley in florence. They make a wonderful dish called Low Country Shrimp and Grits.

Now you can make this dish at home. Gone are my days of just plain grits and butter. If it does not have the onions, cheese and all that other stuff it is not grits. And I make it like that for breakfast. Plain grits just won't do.

What are grits? Some of you out in the blogosphere may never have tried them. It is basically ground corn with the consistency of oatmeal. For the detailed process of what are grits ? check here. Grits are found everywhere. Just check your local supermarket. I like Quaker the best.

Yep...the day just has to start with grits. It just won't be right without grits.

Some people have taken grits to a new and possible low level. Can we say Grits Festival. It is a day of fun and a lot of southern cities have them but craziness goes on there. Rolling around in huge vats full fo grits to see who can get the most grits on them is crazy! the local Grits Festival here in South Carolina is coming up. The World Grits Festival will be held April 15-17 in St. George, S.C.

Good gawd, ya'll, grits have gone Up Town.That's right!

Americans eat about 100 million pounds of grits each year. And that' s not all consumed south of the Mason-Dixon line. In fact, grits are eaten in every state of the Union, usually by Southerners who have been transplanted there.

Anything as popular as grits deserves its own annual festival. So each April the good folks of St. George, S.C., stage their annual World Grits Festival which draws tens of thousands of grits lovers, and some of the curious, to their town about an hour west of Charleston.

The highlight of the festival has to the Rolling in the Grits competition. A kiddie pool is filled with cooked grits and contestants dive in and coat themselves with as much grits as possible in 10 seconds. Contestants wear big hats and loose pants with lots of pockets because the person with the most pounds of grits on his or her body wins the $75 first prize.

It is not the paper mill! It is pluff mud!

March 12, 2005

Charleston She Crab Soup

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1 small onion, minced
4 tablespoons butter
1 pound crabmeat (about 12 crabs)
1 quart milk
2 cups light cream
1/4 teaspoon mace
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4 cup dry sherry
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup orange crab roe
Rind of 1 lemon, grated

Sautee onion gently in the butter, add crabmeat, and set aside. Heat milk and cream in the top of a double boiler, add crab meat and onion, seasonings, and sherry. Cover, and let steep over very low heat for 30 to 45 minutes.

Beat the egg yolks, pour a little of the hot liquid into them, and then stir the yolk mixture slowly into the soup. Put a spoonful of roe in each soup bowl, ladle in the soup, and sprinkle the top with grated lemon rind.

Serves 4 to 6.

It is not the paper mill! It is pluff mud!

March 11, 2005


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I remember when I was in middle school and my mother had a doctors appointment in downtown Charleston right on Calhoun street on the right in a builidng across from Roper Hospital. It was a summer day and my mother said she was not going to be gone long. She left me and my brother in the car and said she would be back in a few minutes. Those were the days when parents thougth nothing of leaving young kids in the car alone. It was safer back them and times were different. Not like the amber alert times we have today. We were safe.

Well anyway, we were parked in the lot behind the building and behind us was small pond. Next to the pond was the road....Lockwood Blvd and just beyond the blvd the Ashley River or in reality Charleston Harbour. Where the parking lot met the water behidn the building was a long concrete ledge that ran the length of the parking lot. On any given day you would see people sitting on the ledge crabbing or fishing. That day there was nooone crabbing. The remnants of crabbing could be seen though. Someone had left 3 pieced of twine with chicken drumsticks attacked. All anyone need to crab is a pieceof string and a raw chicken drunstick.

Well, my brother and I decided we would crab. We had no net so it was just for fun. Just to see if we could get anything to bite the chicken legs. Mom had left the car keys with us. She always did. I was the oldest so I always kept up with the keys. We threw the lines in. We caught two crabs. They did not want to let go of the meat so I decided that we should try to get these crabs home. With no net we decided that the only place to keep them kind of cool was the car trunk. We carried the crabs attached to the drumstick to the car trunk and dropped them in. We did it again. We got two more crabs. We got very excited. Those crabs were biting!

We caught more and more crabs and put them in the trunk. All together we caught about 20 blue crabs. We were just bristling with excitement because we had caughty dinner. My mother was going to be surprised. We kept an eye out for my mother coming and we had decided that we would just drop the lines when we saw her and run back to the car. We would leave the lines there for the next two adventurous kids to use. My mother came back and she got in the car and we went home.

My brother and I just looked at each other and grinned the whole way home. We had decided that we would tell her once we got home. It took about 10 minutes to get back home West Ashley. When we got to the house and we exited the car and were standing in the driveway, my brother and I told my mom about dinner. We said, "we are having crabs for dinner, ma." My mom just looked at us. "No, we are not." she said. "We caught crabs while you were at the doctor. Crabs for dinner. They are in the trunk." My mother just looked at us again with a very puzzled look on her face.

We encouraged her to open the trunk. We had about 20 crabs for dinner. Well, she opened the trunk and saw all these loose blue crabs running about the trunk and she began to yell about catching them to get them out of the trunk. I told her to get the net. She did. She did stop yelling once it became clear it would not be hard to get all those loose crabs out of the trunk.

We had crabs for dinner. When my father came home we told him what happened too. It is a story that my mother will never--ever--let my brother and I live down. The day we caught blue crabs with no net will go down in history.

It is not the paper mill! It is pluff mud!

March 10, 2005

Oyster Love

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There is nothing like oysters or nothing I like more than oysters. I like them any way they are cooked. Raw, fried, you name it, I will eat the oyster . I think my favorite way to eat them is right out of the shell. Lightly steamed but not overcooked. I like good, juicy , slimy oysters.

I remember when I was in college at the College of Charleston, there was an oyster roast at one of the fraternity houses on Wentworth Street. I went and at so many oysters it was ridiculous. I actually think that I ate so many, I was peeing sea water. That was no joke. Those were the best oysters I ever had. Free and all you can eat.

Now I usually eat them out of the shell about once or twice a winter. I will go to Captain Don's Seafood and buy a bushel. Recently I had an oyster pie for the very first time and it was out of this world. Can't wait to have it again. Here is the recipe. Enjoy!

Oyster Pie


  • 3 thick slices bacon
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 18 shucked oysters, drained with liquid reserved
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
  • 2 (9 inch) unbaked 9 inch pie crusts


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Place bacon in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium high heat until evenly brown. Drain bacon, reserving 1 tablespoon bacon grease. Crumble bacon and set aside.
  2. Heat bacon grease and vegetable oil over medium heat. Stir in flour and cook until flour is light brown. Slowly whisk in milk and 1 cup reserved oyster liquid. Stir until a thick gravy has formed.
  3. Stir in Worcestershire sauce, Cajun seasoning and oysters. Pour mixture into a 9 inch pie shell and cover with top crust.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, until crust is golden.

Food is not the only ting in Charleston that oysters are famous for. If you are visiting please visit White Point Gardens named for all the white oyster shells bleaching in the sun.

The high Battery wall on East Bay Street is virtually unchanged since the Civil War. You may stand at White Point Gardens as Charlestonians did then and look out toward Fort Sumter, imagining what they must have seen, as Confederate and Federal troops exchanged the first shots of the war.

White Point Gardens, also known simply as the Battery, is a place for remembering -- a bridge to the past. An evening stroll to the park, along cobblestone streets, past historic homes aglow with life, allows you to feel as though you're alive in antebellum Charleston. You may sit on a battery bench, gaze over the harbor and believe, for a few minutes, that you've stepped back into the past.

The first Carolinians sailed past this place, where the Ashley and the Cooper rivers meet to form the Atlantic Ocean. Imagine the masted ship as it rounded the southernmost tip of the peninsula in search of a protected landing. The ship's inhabitants would have seen a low, marshy area strewn with oyster shells bleached white from the southern sun. When the Charles Towne settlement moved onto the peninsula, this point was considered uninhabitable and remained outside the walled city.

In the early 1720s, infamous "gentleman" pirate Stede Bonnet was hung here with about 50 others like him. Townspeople filled the gallows area and jeered as the outlaw was brought to his rightful end. Bonnet was buried in the nearby marsh. His epitaph has been memorialized and stands today in the park.

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It is not the paper mill! It is pluff mud!

March 08, 2005

Pluff Mud Love

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I love pluff mud. I love the smell of pluff mud and look forward to smelling it around the lowcountry. What is pluff mud anyway? Well here is just a little about it.

South Carolina has an estimated 400,000 acres of coastal marshes and 100,000 acres of tidal swamps. Beaufort County (with 335.98 square miles of water area vs. 587.03 land area) and Charleston County (with 439.72 water vs. 917.42 land) have the greatest share of salt marshes in the state. Tidal rivers (the Santee, Stono, Ashley and Cooper) feed brackish marshes upstream, and there are many tidal fresh marshes and swamps along the drainage basins of coastal rivers (Combahee, Savannah, Edisto, Pee Dee, Waccamaw, Santee, Cooper and Ashepoo). Hunting Island State Park and Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge (near Savannah) preserved areas of coastal marshland, as are Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge in Awendaw, Edisto Beach State Park, Huntington Island State Park in Murrells Inlet, and Charleston’s Folly Beach County Park.

Spartina grass species (cord grass, salt marsh cord grass, and marram) are by far the dominant plant life in salt water marshes (which are wetlands, like swamps; in swamps, trees and bushes are most common, however). There are just a few species of flora in the marsh. According to Peter Meyer, "marshes are some of the most productive land on earth. Using photosynthesis, marsh grasses convert vast amounts of solar energy into plant tissue; as the grasses die, large nutrient loads are released into adjacent estuarine waters." These organic nutrients (ten tons per year) go on to feed perhaps 95% of the fish, shrimp and shellfish harvested in our ocean sounds and high seas.

Marsh mud itself is made when rain and river water bring in topsoil that has run off from dry land. The silt follows the slower currents into steep banks of the tidal stream. With time, the ooze slows the channel flow. The marsh grasses then colonize the sediment fields (and are covered to some extent at high tide). Mr. Meyer wrote, "Marsh sediments are stabilized by spartina as much as sand dunes are stabilized by Sea Oats and Beach Grass. Spartina grows taller near the water’s edge, smaller near higher land." These grasses seldom produce any fruit.

The movement of the waves sometimes forms "beach balls" (spheres of marsh mud containing bits of sea shells), and clumps of "rusty mud" appear when iron within the mud starts to oxidize. "Swash lines" composed of tidal debris intersect the marsh flats after the water has ebbed out.

Marsh mud itself is made when rain and river water bring in topsoil that has run off from dry land. The silt follows the slower currents into steep banks of the tidal stream. With time, the ooze slows the channel flow. The marsh grasses then colonize the sediment fields (and are covered to some extent at high tide). Mr. Meyer wrote, "Marsh sediments are stabilized by spartina as much as sand dunes are stabilized by Sea Oats and Beach Grass. Spartina grows taller near the water’s edge, smaller near higher land." These grasses seldom produce any fruit.

Regarding the origin of the term, "pluff mud", the Myrtle Beach Convention Center’s webmaster offered this explanation: "‘Pluff’ is actually the sound you hear when your truck keys fall out of your shorts pocket, while you're climbing over the side to drag the boat out of the aforementioned pluff mud." The closest match of meaning for "pluff" in the Oxford English Dictionary is "to blow out (smoke or breath) with explosive action, to puff". The sound of the word echoes the noise it describes.

And then there’s that distinct "marsh smell". Though certainly an acquired taste, marsh smell has long been the first sign of homecoming for Lowcountry people returning from trips away from the mudflats (the cover of Pat Conroy’s novel, The Prince of Tides, depicted a salt marsh vista, after all). The smell is not sewage or pollution, as many newcomers suppose, though sulfur dioxide fumes from Savannah’s paper mills have reached Beaufort on southwesterly winds. Mr. Ballantine wrote, "the fine-packed (mud) sediments are oxygen poor. Here native anaerobic bacteria decay bottom matter and release hydrogen sulfide ... a poisonous gas smelling of rotten eggs."

It is not the paper mill! It is pluff mud!


It is not the paper mill! It is pluff mud!