charleston food books

These three books are good to get you started understanding Charleston food. Provided. 

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A reading list for Charleston food fans

My official title is "food editor," which looks good on a business card, but is slightly misleading: Most of the time, the only person I edit is me.

Starting next month, though, we’ll have a food writer on staff to help us better cover the Charleston area’s ever-growing culinary scene (and to put some teeth in my e-mail signature.) Amanda Hancock is coming to us from The Quad-City Times in Davenport, Iowa, where she's a features reporter: She'll introduce herself in a future newsletter.

In the meantime, though, I’m getting a head start on orienting her to the region's culinary past and present by putting together a suggested reading list. Amanda grew up in Kentucky, so she's accustomed to the South, but hasn’t spent any significant time in South Carolina.

I was in a similar situation when I moved here: Although I'd lived in western North Carolina for a decade, I had a lot to learn about the Lowcountry. Among the books I consulted when I probably should have been packing were John Martin Taylor's Lowcountry Cooking; Matt and Ted Lee's Charleston Kitchen and Charleston Receipts, which I studied like a textbook. Before I had any clue what grist, salt, water, eggs, Worcestershire tasted like together, I knew they added up to Hominy Surprise.

All three of those books are on the list I compiled for Amanda, which you can check out here. In the end, I came up with nearly 20 titles I decided were indispensable for understanding what people here eat and why. A few of the books aren’t explicitly concerned with food: I don’t think there’s a single biscuit in Madness Rules the Hour: Charleston, 1860 and the Mania for War. Nobody is going to learn how to make pilau by reading Padgett Powell’s Edisto.

Still, history and culture figure into food choices, so they’re on the list, along with general surveys that only glance at Charleston, such as Marcie Cohen Ferris’ The Edible South and John T. Edge’s The Potlikker Papers. Eugene Walters’ The Happy Table is on the list (and on my desk!), because his peculiar combination of mischievousness and nostalgia is the heartbeat of Southern hospitality, and because every food writer should strive to channel that much joy.

Trust me: Limiting the list to 17 books was no easy task. But if I overwhelmed a new reporter before she’d even started work, what kind of food editor would I be?

How many of the books on the list have you read? If you were making selections for any one of the 28 people moving here every day, which titles would you choose to enhance their dining pleasure? Email me and let me know.


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Review: The Royal Tern’s successful landing brings small plates and drinks to Johns Island

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Seafood Chowder at The Royal Tern restaurant on Maybank Highway on Johns Island, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2019. Wade Spees/Staff

Three stars for this wildly popular seafood restaurant.

Gabrielle is now open

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Gabrielle Charleston is now open as the Hotel Bennett's signature restaurant, Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019. Wade Spees/Staff

The Hotel Bennett's restaurant is the only place you can eat on Marion Square.

New Charleston app lets people see the crowd at bars on a live stream

Uptown Social

Inside Uptown Social on King Street, on King Street between Cannon and Spring, on Aug. 26, 2018. Wade Spees/Staff

Among the 14 bars that have already installed BarGlance cameras are Uptown Social, El Jefe and Juanita Greenberg’s.

Quick bites

+Glove up: Chefs cut themselves all the time. But safety gloves aren't finding a foothold in restaurant kitchens.

+Robert's Original Seasoning Mix: there is no way to precisely reproduce the flavor of the well-loved seasoning mix.

+New Italian: a new Italian option is coming to Charleston's upper peninsula.

Upcoming events

Soul of Lowcountry: Fourth annual Soul of the Lowcountry oyster roast featuring local brews and spirits, live music, a silent auction and more. 1-4 p.m. Saturday. Sunlean, 3211 Eenjy Lane, Johns Island. $40.

Chili Cook Off: Hugs for Harper will present its inaugural chili cook off featuring tastings, live music by Brady Smith, a silent auction and an all-you-can-eat barbecue buffet. Winner gets $300. Noon-4 p.m. Sunday. Southern Roots Smokehouse. $15 for buffet; $25 to enter the competition.

Cookies & Beer: Tradesman Brewing will host a Girl Scout cookies sale and offer beer pairings to compliment them. Swing & Swine will be on site to offer up. 1-5 p.m. Sunday. 1647 King St. Ext. Free to attend.

Honey Paw: Butcher and Bee will host The Honey Paw restaurant from Portland, Maine, for a one-night event of Pan-Asian cuisine and cocktails. 5-10 p.m. Tuesday. 1085 Morrison Drive.


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Reach Hanna Raskin at 843-937-5560 and follow her on Twitter @hannaraskin.

Food editor and chief critic

Eating all of the chicken livers just as fast as I can.