Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Charleston - The Holy City



Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church
This blog is primarily about food and travel, and I try to stay clear of polemic issues on this platform. But after beginning to compose a piece about my recent trip to Charleston, my brain and heart kept going back to the horrific shooting and killing of nine innocent people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in the city's center. 
I would feel remiss in not mentioning it here, and I am astonished not at just the cold-blooded way in which the killer attacked his victims, but at the remarkable act of forgiveness of members of the congregation, in the face of tremendous loss and grief to their families and community.
Unfortunately, race is still a divisive issue in the U.S., while at the same time, all across Charleston and the U.S., people of all races, creeds and backgrounds have demonstrated solidarity for the unfathomable loss of life in this beautiful city in the American South. 
In my own town of Princeton, N.J., religious leaders of all faiths will offer prayers and reflections tonight, followed by a candlelight vigil as darkness falls, to show support for the victims of the shootings. Similar events are taking place across the country, and I am sure that in Charleston, whose nickname is the "holy city," leaders of churches there are holding similar services.
Here are a few photos I took recently of the many beautiful churches in this extraordinarily scenic city:
Grace Episcopal Church
St. Michael's Church
St. Matthew's Lutheran Church
French Huguenot Church
St. Philip's Episcopal Church
Charleston also lays claim to the second oldest synagogue in the nation, and the oldest in continuous use - the Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim Synagogue:

The lovely religious institutions are just one of the many reasons to visit Charleston. 
The gracious homes in the central area beckon with their beautiful gardens and elegant architecture: 
Many of them are designed with side porches, called "piazzas."
The houses were designed this way to take advantage of local winds.
The gardens surrounding the homes are frequently as show-stopping as the houses themselves, with beautiful plantings and flower boxes.

Magnolias were in full bloom on my recent visit there.

 The twisted limbs and vibrant green leaves of the live oak tree lent a mysterious appearance to many public spaces.


For an overview of the city, a tour in a historic carriage, complete with a narrated history lesson, can't be beat.


You're sure to see sweetgrass baskets for sale, one of the oldest art forms of African origin in the United States. The baskets were originally crafted for collecting rice and cotton in plantation fields, but are now quite pricey.
For something more affordable, you can always buy a small "rosette" made of palm from one of the young people making them on street corners.
There are many reasons to visit Charleston, but for this trip, the main attraction was the Spoleto Music festival, held each year at the end of May/beginning of June. Venues range from large outdoor spaces in front of the old customs house (above), to auditoriums in the College of Charleston campus.
There are a cornucopia of cultural offerings to please anyone's taste, including Shakespeare from London's Globe Theater (above photo); to ballet, opera, jazz, symphonic music and choral singing too.

Charleston has become quite the town for foodies too, and we ate some really outstanding food, including an exceptional octopus and citrus salad at Trattoria Lucca, our favorite dining spot of all we tried.
Using this as inspiration, I recreated something similar after I got home - to be posted on Ciao Chow Linda soon.
More from Lucca's - a creamy cauliflower sformato oozing with runny egg.
And perfectly toothsome tagliolini with local crabmeat was delicious down to the last forkful.
The gelato and sorbet was a refreshing way to finish the meal and included the following flavors, left to right: amaretti, basil, strawberry, ricotta gelato and lemon sorbet.

I couldn't leave South Carolina without trying some good old Southern barbecue and this pork sandwich was exactly what I hoped it would be - smoky, tender and packed with flavor.

Grits are a staple Southern dish, so I had to buy some from a local farmer's market downtown. I'll be cooking these up soon in a traditional shrimp and grits recipe. Stay tuned on Ciao Chow Linda for a future post on this Southern classic.
*****************************
To read more about the individual lives that were lost to the shooting in Charleston on June 17, 2015, click here for a short bio on each person's life and history, published in the Washington Post on June 18, 2015:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/national/charleston-church-shooting-victims/
May their souls rest in peace.


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9 comments:

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Beautiful houses, churches and food, but tragic event...

Cheers,

Rosa

Claudia said...

Beautiful, Linda. This remains a city I need to visit. I was so heartened by so many demonstrations of love after the tragedy. I hope this doesn't dissipate and more conversations can happen regarding what it is like to be African American in the U.S. today and the reality of white privilege. I would love Charleston to lead the conversation.

Chiara Giglio said...

Ricordo il film "Via col vento", Charleston era presente in molte scene, è una bella città aperta a molti culti religiosi, sai anche qui a Trieste abbiamo , oltre le cattoliche, il tempio ebraico,la chiesa anglicana,la chiesa evangelica valdese,la chiesa evangelica luterana,la serbo ortodossa e la greco ortodossa,Trieste /Charleston potrebbe essere un buon gemellaggio !

Sheryll And Critters. said...

Yes, Charleston is the most loving, welcoming, open hearted city I know and to have this horrific tragedy happen to these loving people is more of tragic than words can express.

Marisa Franca @ Allourway said...

Thank you Linda for saying exactly what I would have. Charleston holds a special place in my heart. Hubby and I spend three months out of the year in the South and I can truly say that all the people are gracious and giving. I have not witnessed this horrible mental attitude in Charleston or Saint Simons Island Georgia where we spend a lot of time. I pray that we can all be as forgiving as those who lost love ones in Charleston. Beautiful tribute.
And before I forget -- thank you for the restaurant review. Next time we are in Charleston we'll definitely visit your favorite restaurant.

For Sale By Owner said...

I love your post, you have a great way of telling a story. I wish we could travel more.

Roz Corieri Paige said...

Oh Linda,
This is one of the most beautiful posts that any person (blogger or not) could possibly have written. My husband and I adore Charleston and its people . . . so beautiful in spirit, hospitality, and graciousness. Ways of life that many of society has left behind and forgotten. Being a South Carolinian of 19 years now, I have never regretted moving to the South despite many academics in grad school questioning our choice. Upon moving here, we fell in love with not only the natural beauty of this very small state, but we were mesmerized with the people and vowed to be their servants in education. I have been a defender of South Carolina ever since, knowing its truth that is not portrayed accurately on the media that still clings to negativity of the 60's, the Antebellum period and slavery, and the Civil War. I was prayerful and hopeful that this horrific tragedy would not be in vain, but rather a demonstration that evil cannot conquer the love of a Godly people who practice what they believe. This has been a sad, but miraculous time in South Carolina . . . as if it were Christ's death and resurrection in spite of all who defied us. I am so happy to hear that you had a delightful time here. It's hard to not fall in love with Charleston and this state full of beautiful people of all races. There are even more Italians moving here . . . to offer our delicious cuisine of course, and to educate. This year my College will now have 3 Italian-Americans. I am no longer alone. We have much work to do, as a people, we are a continual work in progress. But we are not afraid to forge forward with the light of goodness and love. This is a precious and beautiful turning point in the state of South Carolina after a week of intense sorrow and mourning of ALL of us who live here. Pray that our politicians make the right choices without fear. It is time for the world to see the new South Carolina that my husband and I saw emerging in 1996 when we moved here.

Lastly, I want to thank you for posting this . . . I have not been able to do so due to the level of emotional pain I have been, and all that I know here have been feeling. There is an intense silence of going within, not knowing the right words to express our feelings, just being quiet in prayer and hopefulness. All I could do was open a discussion with my students who needed to get their feelings out, both black and white alike. It has been a most powerful moment that I doubt I'll ever experience again in my lifetime.

Your words are perfect!

And I thank you,
Roz

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

The attack in Charleston was so horrific! The victims have been in my prayers.

I never had the opportunity to visit Charleston, although it is on my bucket list. I could see why this is your favorite restaurant in that area.

Marcelle said...

What beautiful pictures! I've never visited Charleston, but it's on my list of "must-see" places. This post has me inspired to start planning!