There are any number of ways to learn more about the history of Charleston and the reasons things are the way they are around here. Guided tours are available on almost every corner of the City Market. Carriage tours leave about every 15 minutes. There are walking tours that focus on pirates and ghosts.
Bus tours might teach you some new words in Gullah. There are trips to be taken to the gardens and plantations that reveal other aspects of our rich history. There also are boat rides that tell our port city's story from a different perspective. It's a vibrant part of the area's economy that has enjoyed particular growth in the last 25 years.
There's now a new kid on the tour block. This tour tempts the tourist not only with its history but primarily with our food.
Savor the flavor
You have to appreciate the way companies market their products in the Market. Two companies are offering culinary tours: One is called Culinary Tours of Charleston, the other is Charleston Culinary Tours. Though their names enjoy the same words, they offer different experiences.
Both seek to seize on the renaissance of interest in and excitement for the Lowcountry's love of food. Some of our chefs are "rock stars" in the food business. Our restaurants regularly receive national acclaim for serving dishes that are a unique combination of all who have come, and are still coming, to this area.
A tour group is usually limited to about a dozen folks. The morning I walked along, the group featured visitors from Texas, Ohio, Georgia and Delaware.
Some weren't sure they cared for sweet tea, others received their first taste of grits.
It was a normal, stifling, humid summer morning. As we walked along the sidewalk, the clip-clop of carriage horses kept time nearby.
Along the way, there were many opportunities to taste and smell.
With the late morning temps hustling to reach 90, the next air-conditioned stop is even more appreciated than the aroma of bourbon bacon pecan pie.
Taste of Charleston
As Charleston's reputation for food continues to grow, so do the walking culinary tours. These tours also offer education and historical context along the way.
These aren't just random stops along some cobblestone street. The businesses have advance notice and plan for that group's visit accordingly. The tour company often pays, in advance, for the food that will be sampled. On other stops, the business might benefit by selling its cookbooks or tea and spices.
The guides often are experienced history guides, so there are opportunities to weave stories of different groups who lived or settled in the Lowcountry and brought these recipes with them.
This tour started with opportunities to sample grits and a sweet potato cornbread. Along the way, we smelled different blends of teas and learned about the origin of the hushpuppy. There was a stop at a sweets shop to further appreciate pralines. The final call allowed the out-of-towners to understand the down-home goodness of red rice, collards and barbecue.
It's probably best that this is a walking tour. At least you feel like you're burning a few calories between pit stops.
I know different parts of the country are proud of their various food options, but just think of what's been mentioned here: red rice, grits, collards, hushpuppies, sweet potato cornbread. Those barely scratch the surface.
Locals are certainly welcome on these tours, just leave time for a necessity: a nap.
Reach Warren Peper@ 937-5577 or wpeper@ postandcourier.com