At lunch I savored raw local oysters and my first taste of fried green tomatoes. We visited Charleston, South Carolina yesterday–graceful and elegant even in pouring rain. After braving the ferry ride to Fort Sumter and maxing out on Civil War history, we returned to the visitor center and headed across the peninsula. We gaped through beaded windows at the stately mansions, and then turned our attention to lunch. Amen Street Fish and Raw Bar caught my attention, especially since I knew we had a date for ‘cue later that day. I wanted a light meal, suspecting I would be crossing the entire spectrum of dining within a mere six hours.
Amen Street charmed me all at once. The cozy brick walls dressed up with fashionable decor. The wait staff moved briskly about their business in white shirts and ties. A casual but refined energy permeated the room. I was ready to enjoy and I did. The menu opened to a full page of raw oyster options. When questioned, our server quickly explained that patrons in Charleston scrutinize a menu of oysters pretty much like a fine wine list. Knowing so little, I immediately asked for help.
Not every oyster selection was in season or available, helping narrow the options. I still had no idea what I was doing, so I opted for a half dozen order with three different local varieties. My favorite? The Otter Island, but I enjoyed the Carolina Cups and Capers Blades as well. A chilled glass of prosecco perfectly complimented my adventure.
Frank ordered a She Crab Soup that was tasty and rich enough that one spoonful was enough. I know why he likes my chowders better–you can eat a decent bowl without feeling completely overwhelmed. Our guts are just not used to cream based soups.
Next up another unknown, but local favorite: fried green tomatoes served with pickled okra and peppers. Everything in my body savored each bite. This is one dish I will try to emulate at home. The savory fried tomatoes complimented the crisp and tangy okra to perfection. Every bite sublime, I barely offered a taste to Frank or Noah. I took so long eating that we had to run out at the last minute to feed the meter–so much for a brief little repast.
Afterwards we took a few minutes to walk alongside Bay Park just as the sun tried to peek through the clouds. It was the first opportunity to walk the graceful paths and view the architecture without the blur of a rainstorm. More charm. We will return
ALL YOU CAN EAT ISN’T ALWAYS ENOUGH
Three hours later we arrived back in Columbia and picked up our cousins for dinner. Off to Little Pigs BBQ–an all you can buffet. I had been warned, and found the classic fixings to be just as advertised. The buffet seemed more like a trough with an incredible variety of barbecue with all the fixings. The locals reminded me that in South Carolina macaroni and cheese is a vegetable, but I still found it easy to fill half my plate with plant food. I enjoyed a tasty meal of collards, stewed tomatoes and okra and sweet potatoes along with all three varieties of pulled pork, two different ribs. a fried chicken gizzard and a couple of morsels of fried catfish. A balance of food filled the plate, but that comes from practice. It’s what I eat–mostly protein and produce.
I could have easily filled up with mac and cheese, grits, mashed potato, potato salad, macaroni salad, rice, pasta, and other heavy and starchy sides. I could have topped all of that with mounds of chocolate or banana pudding, along with all the soda I could swallow. In sum, it is possible to consume an enormous amount highly refined starch and sugar coupled with plenty of fat for $9.95 at Little Pig’s BBQ.
Thankfully, I can navigate abundance without feeling over full or uncomfortable. But not everyone has the skill or the capacity to self regulate in an environment of abundance. The seduction of all you can is too much for too many. I am not a small woman, but I felt positively petite at this establishment. Ironically, the meal didn’t come close to satisfying me the way a much more modest portion of incredibly delicious food did earlier in the day. Barbeque at Little Pigs quieted my belly, but didn’t begin to satisfy my soul.
Ultimately, two things are abundantly clear and reinforced every time I travel. First, I see evidence of two food worlds in every corner of this country. Secondly, delicious food usually costs more money– a lot more considering how many calories you are served. My exquisite, but relatively light lunch totaled just over $35.00. Little Pig’s all-you-can-eat buffet was priced at $9.95.