Black history comes alive in Avery cookbook

March 23, 2011 

  • Kitty's Chow Chow relish

    2 quarts green tomatoes, chopped (approximately 6 pounds)

    2 quarts chopped cucumbers (12 large ones)

    2 quarts chopped pepper (red and green)

    2 quarts chopped onions

    2 medium-sized head cabbage, chopped

    1/4 cup salt

    2 quarts vinegar

    1 package pickling spices

    4 to 5 cups sugar

    Mix all vegetables. Soak overnight in salt. Pour 2 quarts hot water over vegetables. The next day, simmer the vinegar with pickling spices. Add sugar. Add vegetables that have been well drained. Bring to a boil and simmer for a few minutes. Keep stirring to prevent sticking. Pack into sterilized jars and seal.

    Okra Pilau

    2 tablespoons bacon drippings

    Fried bacon, diced

    1 cup rice

    1 cup okra

    2 cups water

    1/2 small onion

    1/4 small green pepper

    salt and pepper to taste

    Saute onion, green pepper and okra in bacon drippings over low flame (too hot of a flame will cause the okra to burn quickly). Add the rice, cold water and salt and pepper (or other seasonings) to taste. Cover and let steam until done (about 35 to 40 minutes). Diced bacon may be served on top of rice.

    Pan-Fried Shad Roe

    Shad roe

    1 egg, slightly beaten

    Flour

    Seafood seasoning to taste

    Strips of bacon

    Wrap each half of a roe sac in a strip of bacon. Dip in egg. Dust in a little flour. Add seasoning. Fry on both sides until bacon is done, about 4 minutes on each side.

The reading of the book "Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom" will have a special meaning to the students of Whale Branch Middle School who recently read the account of William and Ellen Crafts' 1848 escape from Macon, Ga., to Philadelphia.

The fact that the couple stopped in Savannah gave the story a local connection. And the Crafts' relationship to Herbert DeCosta, one of their descendants, made the book more meaningful. The late DeCosta was a longtime board member of Penn Center and a graduate of the Avery Normal Institute.

The Avery Normal Institute sank deep and branching roots in the sandy soils of the Carolina Lowcountry. The school was established by the American Missionary Association in Charleston in the spring of 1865. Former slaves saw a chance to continue in the open the studies they had been forced to begin surreptitiously.

For most of its history, it was the area's sole college preparatory institution open to black students. In that role, Avery emphasized training to produce a liberally educated, politically active, socially responsible black leadership for nearly 100 years.

The institute eventually closed, and now the Avery Research Center for African-American History and Culture is part of the College of Charleston. The center was founded to collect, organize and make available to students, scholars and the public materials illustrating or bearing on the history and culture of the blacks in the United States, with particular emphasis on the experience of African-Americans of the Lowcountry.

In the "Avery Cookbook, Treasured Recipes," the history of Avery Institute is condensed but tells the story of the pride of learning and the struggle to hold on to history. The book gives an insight into the kitchens of many of the proud graduates and family members of Avery Institute.

Port Royal resident Ervena Faulkner is a retired educator who has always had an interest in food and nutrition. Email her at features@beaufortgazette.com

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