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Wellard: New book captures tastes and spirit of Lowcountry

Pat Branning's Thanksgiving centerpiece.
Pat Branning's Thanksgiving centerpiece.

Anyone familiar with the work of Pat Branning knows that she is first a southern woman, and beyond that, a wife and mother.

She is also a journalist, art appreciator, curator, in a way, an amazing cook, and, the author of a series of highly regarded coffee table cookbooks.

Co-founder, along with her son, Andrew, of Branning Publishing, she is now publisher of a series of successful and collectible books. She has built a substantive career over nearly five decades, and these recent successes have earned her an impressive reputation among Lowcountry chefs, the culinary elite as well as the thousands who simply enjoy food.

"Shrimp Collards & Grits: My Southern Kitchen, Recipes, Stories and Fine Art from the Coastal Southeast" will be released Dec. 1.

Her computer brims with images that reflect the progress she is making toward completing another edition of her book, due out in September, 2016, "Shrimp Collards & Grits, Volume III, Southern Gatherings."

Her earliest beginnings were in High Point, N.C. with a brief connection to prep school in the Northeast. After graduation, Branning returned to the south to the University of Georgia, where she earned her degree in journalism.

"I went to work as the food editor with WSB, the NBC affiliate in Atlanta, where most of my broadcast work was about women's issues," she said. "I wanted to report the news; to tell stories.""

She first came to Beaufort in 1971 but left only to return some 40 years later with her husband Cloide, a developer. She appreciated the charm of the Lowcountry, its spirit, its lifestyle, really, and its natural beauty.

"There was so much I loved about living in Beaufort," Brannnng said,"particularly its rich history, and its southern traditions. We entertained in each other's homes, we shared life experiences. Through it all, story teller that I am, I continued to write short stories about southern living, and, at the same time, continued to gather the most amazing local southern recipes."

"I wrote a small spiral backed book filled with little stories about the joys of living in the south," said Branning. "I actually printed it on line... In my mind I thought we'd print just print 25 or so. But the group from St Helena Episcopal saw my book in another light ... and actually printed 1,000."

Pat Branning's "Magnolias, Porches and Sweet Tea" followed in 2012.

There was a kind of tipping point. for Branning. In 2012, she and her son formed their publishing company and brought out the first "Shrimp, Collards and Grits Volume I". That book expanded her characterization of life in the Lowcountry and focused on the paintings of nationally acclaimed artist Ray Ellis.

Artists in the new book include Callawassie Island painter Michael B. Karas, whose "Lowcountry Enchantment" is featured on the cover; the work of Dan McCaw, noted for his expressive images of mothers and children at waters edge; the Gullah artist Jonathan Green; and the Smith family of Charleston -- Betty Anglin Smith and her children and the entire Rhett family of artists: Nancy Ricker Rhett, William Means Rhett and their son William Rhett III. Photographs by Branning's son are also in the book.

"Shrimp Collards & Grits: My Southern Kitchen, Recipes, Stories and Fine Art from the Coastal Southeast" is or will be available at:

- Gifted, Village of Wexford; S.M. Bradford, Harbor Town; Markel's in Bluffton and Eggcentricities.

In Beaufort at MacIntosh Books on Bay Street and the Rhett Gallery.

Signed copies are available at shrimpcollardsgrits.com

Artist, musician, teacher and writer Nancy K. Wellard focuses on portraying and promoting the cultural arts, first in Los Angeles and, for close to 30 years, in the Lowcountry. Email her at nancykwellard@gmail.com.

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