Mount Pleasant Magazine July/August 2023

72 | | One needs only take a short stroll through Charleston’s City Market to experience Gullah Geechee heritage firsthand. There you’ll find sweetgrass baskets, vibrant artwork, colorful textiles and specialty blends of aromatic spices — all handcrafted by people whose ties to this area date back centuries. In 2022, the cookbook “Gullah Geechee Home Cooking: Recipes from the Matriarch of Edisto Island” by the late Emily Meggett drew critical acclaim and brought traditional Gullah Geechee recipes to the national stage. In honor of the upcoming 19th Annual Sweetgrass Festival, which celebrates Gullah Geechee culture, chef and entrepreneur RaGina Saunders spoke to Mount Pleasant Magazine about an integral part of Gullah life: food. Saunders, whose family hails from James Island, owns Scott’s Grand Catering and Events and Destiny Community Cafè, where she serves traditional Gullah Geechee dishes. In Gullah families, cooking is a communal activity, in which young people and elders gather to prepare farm-to-table ingredients for family meals. Techniques and recipes have been passed down this way, from one generation to the next, for centuries. The style evolved from traditional dishes brought to the Lowcountry by Africans who were enslaved on rice, indigo and cotton plantations and was adapted based on regionally available ingredients. Ingredients such as rice, shrimp, collards, okra, butter beans, yams, hot and green peppers and peanuts are all common to traditional Gullah cooking. Seasonings include garlic, thyme, sage, allspice and celery seed. Meals are often prepared in a single pot, as they would have been centuries ago. Saunders talked about traditional and popular Gullah Geechee dishes, their origins and how you’ll find them today. RICE DISHES Rice features prominently in Gullah Geechee cooking. Charleston red rice is a well-known example and derives its name from the rich tomato base that gives the dish its namesake color. You’ll find red rice as a staple side item in many restaurants in the Lowcountry. Purloo rice, or perloo, originates from West Africa and typically incorporates onions, peppers, garlic and shrimp as its base, but recipes vary from chef to chef. Purloo shares similarities with its famous Creole cousin, jambalaya. SEAFOOD DISHES You’d be hard-pressed to find someone in the South who has never heard of or tried shrimp and grits. Most Made With Love Savory Gullah Geechee dishes BY SHERRY WHITING food Photo by RaGina Saunders. Gullah crab cakes.