Years ago, I reconnected with Bettie Alexander Briggman at the Winn-Dixie on Lady's Island.
It started when I heard her voice as I was waiting at the deli: "You have not changed a bit," she said.
Bettie is from my old neighborhood, Booker Washington Heights in Columbia. I was surprised to see her and wondered what brought her to the Lowcountry.
She and I have a lot in common. We grew up on the same street, four blocks apart. We were members of the same church and attended the same schools. She spent many hours in our home -- my mama was like a second mother to her.
Bettie and her husband, Calvin, liked to rent a cabin at Hunting Island State Park and fish. After our initial reunion, we rekindled our friendship and began seeing more of each other, here and in Columbia, where she and her husband lived. Through them I got in touch with old neighborhood friends and took part in events there.
Bettie and I share the same love of travel and of friends, food and flowers. It must be our upbringing. As our parents began to experience declining health, she and I became even closer.
Bettie and Calvin loved to come to Hunting Island State Park. They came to this area often and brought friends with them. They liked to fish -- Calvin could, and does, eat fish for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I used to offer to clean the fish and cook for everyone, but they never let me. My only job was show everyone around Beaufort and the surrounding areas.
When we were making plans for this past Christmas, though, I knew something was wrong. That's when she dropped the bomb. "I have been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and I have been given three months to live, due to the fact that I am refusing chemotherapy. I want to come to Hunting Island State Park."
I visited Bettie in May. She was up and about, getting her hair and nails done as usual and visiting people. Calvin took care of our meals for us, which we enjoyed.
My visit this past month, though, was different. Bettie was up and moving, but she was slower. We made plans to get our hair and nails done, but they were just plans. The doctor has given her six to seven weeks to live.
Bettie's faith is strong, though.
Now I stay in touch with telephone calls. Sometimes she wants to talk and other times she chooses not to.
We have shared so much over the years: time, friends, places of interest, readings, secrets of the neighborhood, handwritten recipes, food from each other's table ...
Now I share with you recipes of dishes I have eaten at her table -- be it at Hunting Island State Park or at Lincolnshire, her Columbia neighborhood.
Croaker, spot or bass
Clean and wipe thoroughly the fish to be fried. If the fish are small, fry with heads on. Season the fish, roll in corn meal and place in hot oil. There should be enough oil so that the fish will not have to be turned. When browned, remove from oil and place on paper towels.
GARLIC STRING BEANS
We would use garlic and string beans from Bettie's garden. She could never understand why I did not have a garden. I was happy we could share each other's canning.
1 picking of string beans, usually 1-2 lbs.
1 clove garlic, minched
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
Remove ends and strings from beans. Cook beans in boiling water where oil has been added for approximately 1/2 hour. At this time add garlic and cook long enough on low heat to allow the garlic to season the string beans well.
BABY RED POTATOES WITH HERBS
2 pounds red potatoes, washed and cleaned
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon minced dill
2 tablespoons rosemary
1 tablespoon thyme
Clean red potatoes and leave whole. Place in a pot and cover with water. Boil until they can be pricked with a fork. Remove from pot and while hot toss in the remaining ingredients. Serve hot.
Columnist Ervena Faulkner is a Port Royal resident and a retired educator who has always had an interest in food and nutrition.