Sunday, February 22, 2009

A Taste of Gullah




Gullah food wraps the richness of the culture into dishes heaped with flavor. As descendants of skilled rice planters, the cuisine focuses on rice, rice and more rice. A typical Gullah restaurant will serve at least three kinds and I'm not taking about white or brown rice. There's red rice, a mixture of tomato sauce and pork, a mini meal of rice, chicken, shrimp, sausage and vegetables called Gullah rice and the famous Hoppin' John, which blends rice with field peas. At Gullah Cuisine Restaurant, just off Highway 17 in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, owners Charlotte and
Frank Jenkins (pictured above left) serve up country charm along with the rice.
The extensive menu offers okra gumbo, shrimp & grits, fish head stew, oyster salad, fried flounder, collard greens and macaroni and cheese. Charlotte hovers over customers like an indulgent mother and the eatery envelopes guests with friendliness. I couldn't finish all of my flounder and Charlotte whisked it off to put in a to-go bag, making me promise to finish it all the next day. The spices are what distinguish Gullah food and I couldn't quite put my finger on what they were. Charlotte shot me a demure smile when I asked her about her recipes. "Why, there's good stuff in there, history and things."




At Gullah Grub Restaurant in St. Helena, South Carolina, the chef, affectionately known as Mr. Bill (above right) is just as particular about his dishes. Mr. Bill explains that the preparation and natural seasonings is what separates Gullah cooking from traditional soul food. After spending hours in the restaurant, which resembles a quaint Southern living room, with shelves of knick knacks, I understood what he meant. The fried whiting, collard greens , corn bread and rice that I sampled looked like typical soul food but didn't quite taste like it. It was less heavy and greasy and the spices left a tingle in my mouth. I bought some of Mr. Bill's packaged spices to cook fish with and it transforms my seafood with a melange of flavors that I can only identify as Gullah.

15 comments:

Dominique said...

We ate at Gullah Cuisine a few years back! Read about it and drove on out there special to visit. We happened in when they had the lunch buffet...and we fortunately knew enough to arrive -hungry-. I think just about everything on the menu was out on the buffet that day, and it was a great deal. Plus, we didn't need to eat again for the rest of the day.
Thanks for reminding me of a great meal :)

Ebony Intuition said...

Red rice, I have to try that, never knew.

kristine said...

ah...the best type of spice! history and a little love :)

Yvonne said...

wow the food sounds just delish. I love quaint little places off the beaten path. Always the best food. Thanks for sharing

Fly Girl said...

Thanks for visiting Dominque, I'm glad I stirred up happy memories!

Ebony, the red rice was defintely something I hadn't seen before but I had never seen so many vairies off rice as side dishes outside of Asian cuisine.

Kristine, yes, there's lot of history and spice in Gullah food!

Yvonne, thanks for dropping in. The food is beyond delish,it was unforgettable. The sweet potato pie haunts my dreams.

Stephen Bess said...

I've traveled Hwy 17 many times when I lived in Savannah. I would go to Charleston a few times a year for Naval Reserve drill. It was one of my favorite places. The Gullah people have a rich and beautiful history in the Low Country.

Btw, I should have listed you on the "25 Writers" meme that I did on my blog. Otherwise, how are you?

Fly Girl said...

Charleston is one of my favorite place too! Thanks Stephen, I'm pretty busy. I plan to interview Geoffry for Sky Writings Magazine soon.

jen laceda said...

I NEED to try one now!!!

Fly Girl said...

Thanks for dropping by Jen. Gullah food is tempting, I know. Writing this post made me hungry too.

lynne Jordan said...

I can taste the food!!

Wendy said...

I would love to sample this food. Rice, potatoes and pasta (or noodles) I think are always the staple food in cultures depending on the part of the world. And the ways to prepare any of the above are endless.It's all about the spices.

Leigh said...

Sorry to have missed trying Gullah food when we were in the south last year.We traveled between Savannah and Charleston and ate lots of great food but none that I would call traditional and only a small amount of rice.

Fly Girl said...

Leigh, you can't travel through the Carolinas and eat only a little rice! It's the basis for the culture. If you had she crab soup, hoppin'n john or shrimp n grits, you had Gullah food.

The GypsyNesters said...

LOVE Gullah food. We've spent quite a bit of time on the Sea Islands, the history is rich, the people fantastic. Gullah breakfast rocks too...

Fly Girl said...

Veronica, I love Gullah period. Thanks for visiting.