From the Office and Backyard to the Road, Boat, or Plane–Backstories and
Side Stories While on Assignment. Updates on Personal Projects, Too.

Archive for the ‘Lowcountry S.C./Charleston’ Category


Fall’s coming and the eating is fine. Last night we ate hot forkfuls of smoky orange-yolk eggs, gathered in the backyard and fried with butter and chopped basil. The grill is set under the pecan trees, and we broke pecan twigs onto the coals, then sat at the picnic table to wait and watch the fire.


This morning, something sweet. I’ve been making yogurt for a couple of years, this latest batch completely rich with whole milk and heavy cream. On the bread is the last of the raspberry jam from a Maine farm visited one rainy morning in July. I tasted the fading summer with every bite.

– Sandy Lang, September 2009 (images by PFE)

St. Helena Island, SC - Peter Frank Edwards Photographs

In a white-painted, one-room building on St. Helena Island, Joseph “Rev.” Bryant was singing “Oh Lord, come by here.”  His voice filled the spare, shed-sized structure, with its benches of narrow boards nailed together, one bare bulb in the ceiling. After the spiritual, Rev. got back to telling stories – talking fast, mixing in Gullah-Geechee pronunciations. He told of moral lessons and Gullah traditions, of plucking fiddler crabs from the pluff mud as a child, and of “sour sally,” the red flowering sourgrass weed “that you can suck on when you’re walking and thirsty, but it’ll put a real knot in your face… more sour than a lemon.”

Describing himself as “the real deal,” Rev. is a one-man tour business, the kind where he’s a passenger in the tour-goer’s own car, giving directions and pointing out sites on St. Helena and nearby sea islands, all within about a 75-mile drive south from Charleston. Along the way, he tells stories and describes the scenery he knows so well from driving a local school bus for many years – the family and community names (often from former plantation owners), the Reconstruction-era houses that are still standing, the cottage that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used as a writing retreat, and the dirt road through the pine woods that you can follow a ways to see a 19th-century cemetery.

An ordained Baptist preacher and Navy veteran, Rev. Bryant fell into song that morning when we stopped inside one of the community praise houses, where, he explained, the descendants of formerly enslaved Africans still meet between church services to share information, pray, sing, and shout. As I sat and listened to his claps and choruses, I let the sights and sounds sink in as much as I could. Glory be.

Joseph “Rev.” Bryant, photo by Peter Frank Edwards

The storytelling, singing Joseph “Rev.” Bryant, above. The copy is an excerpt from an “On the Road” travel feature I wrote for the July 2009 issue of Charleston Magazine, just published.

– Sandy Lang, July 2009 (Images by PFE.)



STITCH gets rolling

What a nice project… I’ve been writing copy for a couple of graphic designer friends who are known for the textures and handcrafted details in their work. Amy Pastre and Courtney Rowson have just formed STITCH, a design company with a studio in downtown Charleston.

The two are also partners in Sideshow Press, and own this old Kluge press, which makes a commotion of sound when they’re printing – like when it whirred and popped through a batch of my own business cards and letterhead. I’m definitely a fan.

Sideshow Press, Kluge, photo by Peter Frank Edwards

Congratulations and best wishes to Amy and Courtney on this new venture. I look forward to seeing what they create through STITCH, and to collaborating again very soon.

– Sandy Lang, June 2009 (photo by PFE)



Guerrilla Bite

Back on the covert dining beat, I wrote this Quick Bite feature for the May 2009 Charleston Magazine, the arts issue with the Shepard Fairey cover. I’m a fan of street art and underground supper clubs, so it was a great fit.

Shepard Fairey cover, Guerrilla Cuisine

A year ago this month, the e-mail arrived on a Saturday night with details about where to be the next evening, at 6:00 sharp. Directions were a bit cryptic, mentioning a street address “a few doors down from a favorite local meeting spot… the Wild Wild Joker. Bring yourself, a sense of adventure, and don’t forget to BYOB.“

The message was sent only to the 40 or so people going to another sold-out Guerilla Cuisine dinner, part food exploration, part art show. Begun in the fall of 2007, the underground dining group’s founder is a local 30-something known as “jimihatt” who’s worked in kitchens from Med Deli (the 1990s version) to McCrady’s. He and fellow chefs, mostly from Charleston restaurants, do the cooking for the clandestine, monthly dinner. And like a party or a rave, each meal is different, some better than others.

Walking up on the steamy May night to the Heriot Street address, guests could see crawfish being skewered onto sticks, prep cooks firing up grills on a line of tables outside. That dinner was held in a warehouse of glowing light and long tables, with art lining the walls… most of it by local artists, and for sale. There was a deejay playing house mixes, wait-staff in black-and-white costumes and face paint, and a drummer from Ghana. Guests chose their places at the snaking tables, and course-by-course the meal was served… mako shark and venison chops, roasted quail with a quail egg cooked inside, buffalo carpaccio with onion, and the fire-grilled crawfish. The 20-something to early 40-something crowd tasted, talked, and shared their wine.

A few months later, at another Guerrilla Cuisine dinner, guests sat on the floor of an otherwise empty, mid-century house off of Highway 17 South in West Ashley. Boxy, foot-high “tables” held the place settings that night, when every meal course featured hot peppers. It was all part of Guerrilla Cuisine’s nod to cooking what’s local and in-season.

The mystery and momentum of changing chefs, locations and art continues. Potential guests can sign up anytime for e-mail updates,

Guerrilla logo

– Sandy Lang, May 2009

Mr. Biggerstaff

His business cards read, “Honey is my hobby,” and 72-year-old Robert Biggerstaff isn’t kidding. Since 1967 he’s been building bee boxes, tending hives and collecting honey – all under the oak trees in his sideyard that backs up to a tidal creek off the Stono River on Johns Island.

“The Bee Man,” just published with images by Josh Zoodsma, is one of several pieces I wrote for the 2009 issue of 5757 Palm, now in print. Click here for an earlier post about Mr. Biggerstaff and his bees.

– Sandy Lang, May 2009

River Road, P.M. King’s Gro.

Down on Wadmalaw Island where the road splits to go either to Rockville or Cherry Point, Simon Black had the BBQ drum cooker going hot with some split oak – he adds pecan or hickory wood when he has it. On the grill were a couple of nice-sized pork ribs and shoulders, a line of whole chickens.

His wife, Rachel, had finished wrapping up a dozen or so sandwiches – pimento cheese and shrimp salad – and lined them up in the cold case inside, next to the sausage links and bacon. She gets the shrimp from the boats right down the road at Cherry Point then boils, shells, chops, and makes the salad on soft bread with big gobs of shrimp. (Rachel’s great-grandfather built this island grocery, opened in the late 1940s.) By 11 or so, when the meat was smoked and ready, Simon wrote the day’s specials on a board – $10 plates of ribs with homemade slaw, baked beans and french fries or potato salad; or $8 for the BBQ chicken plate. Pulled pork sandwiches would be $5.

Cars started to pull in. A couple guys got a bag of single beers to go, two Ice House and two Ballentine. A woman with a toddler in a pink t-shirt ordered four hot dogs. And a boat captain came in for “his usual” to take out on the water – a ham and cheese sandwich, bottled water, and a pack of sweet cigars. “I’ll try the grape ones today,” he said, pointing to the boxes behind the register. By then, the first rib plates were ready…

P.M. King’s Gro.

– Sandy Lang, April 2009 (images by PFE)

Comments Closed

Food, Lowcountry S.C./Charleston

For a couple of sweet years, a few years ago, I lived in downtown Charleston on Archdale Street on the third floor of an over-sized single house, circa 1812. My kitchen door opened to a wide piazza, a courtyard below. From my attic bedroom, I was eye-level with two 19th century church steeples… one so close you could pitch a penny to it.

I walked everywhere. Or pedaled the Canondale bike I’d bought from a College of Charleston kid, and never did peel off any of his band stickers. For Attache Magazine (the then in-flight magazine for USAir), I wrote a batch of stories about Charleston, including a block-by-block tour of some of the sidewalks, alleys and cemetery gardens I would walk through the most. A few months ago, I was asked to dust off that walking tour article and revise it for the first issue of 2009 for G Magazine, with new images by Peter Frank Edwards.

Walking Tour, Charleston, page 1

I am still, as ever, enchanted by our city. Click below to see a PDF file of the six-page story.

Walking Tour, Charleston

– Sandy Lang, March 2009



Polaroid spring

Polaroid, camellia

I know it’s still officially winter, but the fading camellias next to the new azalea and pear tree blossoms brought out the bees in the backyard yesterday. Warblers are stopping in too, on their way to somewhere. I shot a few Polariods with an old box of film, a 1960s camera… tucked each shot under my arm to process, peeled back the paper to these images.

Polaroid, studio2

Through the trees is the tiny backyard studio where I often sit to read and write, listen to birdsong, blues.

– Sandy Lang, March 2009

Murrells Inlet, Russell’s signs

Back in September I posted a preview of my food-travel feature about Murrells Inlet… it’s now in print, in the February issue of Charleston Magazine, earned a mention on the cover.  To read a version online, click here.

 – Sandy Lang, January 2009


I haven’t even seen a printed copy yet, but I’m pleased to have a couple of food stories in the December issue of Charleston Magazine (the annual Food issue), which is now out in print and online.  One piece that got cover billing is titled “Epicurious,” and is about the new wave of ethnic grocery stores in Charleston.  Peter Frank Edwards and I spent a month of Saturdays visiting the stores this fall, including the H&L Asian Market, Euro Foods, La Tapatia, and KC International Mart.

Click here to read the feature and see some of PFE’s images.

Epicurious, Charleston Mag. 12/08

 – Sandy Lang, December 2008

Image 01 Image 02 Image 03 Image 04