A Lowcountry Thanksgiving: Still a land of plenty

dlauderdale@islandpacket.comNovember 22, 2011 

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Thanksgiving dinner in the Lowcountry weighs us down with things to be thankful for.

We can have oyster soufflè, oyster pie, oyster stuffing or even a whole oyster roast in the yard with friends. That's enough to make you thankful all year, if you're smart enough to place your order in time at the Bluffton Oyster Co. Oyster lovers are thick as no-see-ums at Thanksgiving.

Sweet potatoes have kept the Lowcountry from starving for so many generations, we should give thanks for them even if they're not on the menu. On Thanksgiving, they're a dessert when we load them down with cream, butter, vanilla extract, brown sugar and pecans.

Emory Campbell says that pecan trees are one of the great legacies of the Lowcountry's Gullah culture. The African Americans who were here before all the development don't often have monuments to mark their old homesteads. As Emory said, sometimes the only way you can tell that they were here is by the stand of pecan trees.

Pecans have gotten expensive, in part because the Chinese have a growing taste for the sweet nuts that have always been one of the Lowcountry's favorite tastes of autumn.

Collard greens are more closely associated with a New Year's feast, but they're in season and they'll make it to many a Thanksgiving Day table. So will the rice and field peas we call hoppin' john.

Sugar cane is ready for children to suck like candy on Thanksgiving. A few Lowcountry folks still make cane syrup between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but you have to be lucky to get a jar of it.

Venison would be the Lowcountry's most plentiful meat for Thanksgiving. Wild turkeys are much harder to come by. All our quail have flown the coop. But they're shooting dove this week. And there should be plenty of shrimp, clams and crabs for those who appreciate our natural resources and the local professionals who get out and harvest these delicacies.

But I'm most thankful for something few might expect to be slurping down on Thanksgiving: a fresh tomato sandwich.

At Dempsey Farms on St. Helena Island, third-generation farmer Davey Dempsey planted a fall crop for his you-pick customers for the third time this year. The tomatoes he planted in the blazing heat of July finally turned red the third week of October. Maybe because of the cool nights and the slower growth of fall, the tomatoes seem even sweeter than the summer crop.

I'm thankful for all these things. I'm thankful this is still a land of plenty.

Follow columnist David Lauderdale at twitter.com/ThatsLauderdale.

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