EDISTO ISLAND, S.C. (WCBD) – Collard greens, red rice, fried fish, shrimp and grits, lima beans, and okra soup – if that sounds like home to you, your mouth will water with news of the New York Times Best Selling cookbook ‘Gullah Geechee Home Cooking.’
Released in April, the cookbook authored by the matriarch of Edisto Island, Emily Meggett, shot to the top of best-selling lists giving people access to true Lowcountry cuisine.
But the 89 year old doesn’t actually own any cookbooks of her own. Her recipes are stored in her head, her hands, and her heart.
It’s a saying that everybody ‘round Edisto knows: “If they see that side door open, they stop by. And every day they stop by.” So, that is exactly what we did – stopped by Emily Meggett’s home and found her stove hot and spoon in hand.
Getting a lesson from the matriarch of Edisto happens fast. Like, give your grits a good washing, Crisco’s gotta be carved out of the can, and salt pork is not ready until you hear the pop.
For her book, Meggett has condensed a lifetime of lessons from her grandmother, her first teacher, and harsh lessons from working at Dodge Plantation where she learned to cook things like deviled crab, and corn pudding.
“Biscuits- I had to learn to do that biscuit right. If I didn’t do that biscuit right, she would throw it in the garbage,” she recalled. “I learned the hard way, but I learned.”
More than a hundred recipes in her catalog of Gullah Geechee cuisine, but she doesn’t write them down. So, from her mouth to the pages of the cookbook.
“We had more than 100 recipes and we only had to go back and fix three,” she said.
The work took about three years. But now locals and folks long distance are eating up what she dished out. “Shrimp, crab, oysters, ain’t much out there to name that’s not in that book,” she said.
While she is mother to 10 children, Meggett has welcomed hundreds into their home over the years.
“And raised over 100 and something children,” she said. “Some of them was raised right here in this house. I had four rooms then.”
Now grab a cookbook or stop by because as she says, “If that door is open, that means there is something on the stove, in the cake plate, or the refrigerator.”
Meggett was honored with the President’s Volunteer Service Award at Charleston City Hall on Friday for her lifelong commitment to building a strong nation through volunteer service.
Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg also presented a proclamation declaring the day “Emily Meggett Day” in the city of Charleston.
You can listen to Carolyn Murray’s full conversation with Ms. Emily Meggett on the next episode of our podcast, Let’s Talk, which premieres on Sunday.