This gentleman [known on the island as The Original Crabman] was getting his crab trap ready when I was walking out to the end of the pier to photograph the progress on the Golden Ray cleanup effort. As is typical, he was using a chicken neck and fish head as bait. After dropping his trap in the water off the pier for just a few minutes, he brought it back up with several crabs.
Tag Archives: People of Coastal Georgia
I recently had the pleasure of revisiting and photographing the wonderful Geechee Gullah Ring Shouters at the 2020 African-American Festival at Fort Frederica National Monument. Visit this link to learn more about the history of the ring shout and the Geechee Gullah Ring Shouters. As I’ve told nearly everyone who will listen, the Shouters are a real treasure and I encourage all to attend one of their performances if they have the opportunity. I’m presenting these photographs as a gallery, without captions, as I think the photographs speak for themselves.
Locals will quickly point you to Jodee Sadowsky’s legendary Breakfast Club, on the corner of Butler Avenue & 15th Street near the Tybee Pier. There’s nothing pretentious about the place and you can tell when you walk in the door that it’s a temple to good food. It’s made right in front of you by friendly cooks and the staff are as welcoming to tourists as they are to locals, always a good sign. But you likely won’t find it with any empty stools unless you go in the winter and even then that’s not guaranteed. Blogger Nick Dekker sums up Breakfast Club “etiquette”: …The place runs like a well-oiled machine, so you need to know how the process works. First, expect a line. Things move quickly at Breakfast Club (don’t hang around when you’re done eating), but waiting is often part of the game. Line up outside, and server will poke his/her head out once in a while to check on your group size (your whole group needs to be present to get seated).
It may cost slightly more than a breakfast at McDonald’s but it’s exponentially better. The Breakfast Club makes their own sausage and uses as many locally sourced ingredients as possible.
When the weather on the coast turns cooler an invitation to an oyster roast is the one most coveted by locals. Whether an impromptu affair in one’s backyard or an orchestrated event benefiting a special cause, these gatherings are central to the folklife of the coast and it’s not a recent phenomenon. The Guale people perfected the art of roasting oysters long before Europeans ever arrived.
Oyster etiquette, if such a thing exists, requires no more than an open fire, a sheet of metal (often the inverted hood of an old junk car or truck), and enough wet burlap to cover your bivalves. Beer and other adult beverages also figure mightily into the ritual.
Folks who live along the Gulf of Mexico will argue for their oysters’ superiority but they only have size on their side. It’s true that ours live in complex razor-sharp beds known as clusters and as a result don’t get as large as Gulf oysters, but what we sacrifice in size we more than make up in taste. Georgia’s oysters are more flavorful, hands down, with a sweet saltiness not found in their Gulf counterparts.
The tender at this particular roast (known as Clam Jam) benefiting Altamaha Riverkeeper at Altama Plantation was busy all evening taking shovelfuls of freshly steamed oysters from fire to table in short order.
Newcomers to oyster roasts are often put off by the shucking but there are always folks around who will help the uninitiated. Most locals have their own gloves and oyster knives. Tables with long legs that position the oysters in easy reach of the diner are essential at a large gathering like this one.
Thanks to Jen Hilburn for inviting me to Clam Jam 2017. Mike McCall and I had fun showing guests around the Altama property while waiting for supper.
Croquet was a favorite of the millionaires who were members of the exclusive Jekyll Island Club in the late 19th century, and in honor of that tradition a beautiful croquet law is still maintained for visitors of the Jekyll Island Club Resort.
Jekyll Island National Historic Landmark
I drove down to Riceboro yesterday to see the wonderful work Jim Bacote (above, right) has done with Geechee Kunda and to check out his Gathering, an annual celebration of Geechee and Gullah folkways. Jim is passionate about preserving this history and it’s tangible. Geechee Kunda is the culmination of his lifelong fascination with this endangered way of life. I first met him a couple of years ago when he was still working on his museum and history center so I didn’t get to make any photographs. He invited me to come back and I’m so glad I finally got to see it yesterday.
The highlight for me was a performance by the Geechee Gullah Ring Shouters (not to be confused with the McIntosh County Shouters, who organized about a decade before the Geechee Gullah). This group of dedicated men and women share the ring shout with the world and aim for authenticity. They’re historic interpreters of the highest order and preserve a tradition that was thought to be extinct as recently as 1980. Historians believe the ring shout is the oldest surviving African performance tradition in North America. While “shouting” in the vocal sense is a part of the performance, linguist Lorenzo Dow Turner, who spent a lifetime researching the Gullah language and culture, suggested that the term came from the Afro-Arabic word saut. This is a reference to the forward-moving shuffle, during which the feet are not to cross, associated with pilgrimages to the Kabaa at Mecca.
It’s hard not to come away from a performance by the Geechee Gullah Ring Shouters with a better understanding of a culture that, especially as white Southerners, we have kept at a distance at best or dismissed altogether at worst.
One thing you’ll quickly notice when you’re around the Shouters is their charisma. They’re very passionate about what they’re doing and you can feel it. You not only learn but you’re uplifted, as well.
In 2011, the Geechee Gullah Ring Shouters set the Guinness World Record for leading the largest recorded ring shout, during the “Word, Shout, Song” exhibit at the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum in Washington, D. C.
Besides the world record ring shout, the group is also proud to have among their performers Mrs. Butler (above, right), who at 90 is the world’s oldest living ring shouter. She’s amazing.
At the end of the performance, a narrative of Emancipation is re-enacted and is quite powerful. If you couldn’t already tell, I was very moved by these living historians and would encourage anyone who has the opportunity to attend one of their events.
The first weekend in February brings a popular celebration to historic Wormsloe each year, with colorful reenactors and period vendors on hand.
One can really appreciate the difficult lives of Georgia’s first settlers, especially on a damp, cold day.
Military reenactors win the prize for best-dressed participants.
Their dress is quite colorful.
These ladies were braiding belts and had some for sale, giving a nice demonstration of Colonial crafts.
If you’re ever in Savannah the first weekend of February, check out this event. It’s a great way to celebrate Georgia history.
Every Saturday (from 9AM-1PM) year round, the South End of Forsyth Park is the place to be in Savannah. The Forsyth Farmers’ Market was founded in 2009 by six women who came together with the intention of supporting their common vision of a local food system that is good for the health of all people and the environment. They merged with the existing Starland market and sought permission from the city to allow a farmers’ market in historic Forsyth Park. The first market was on 9 May 2009…From the very beginning, the market has focused on food and food issues which is why it is a producer-only market (meaning all vendors have to be producing at least 75% of the products they sell) and allows only food and plant vendors. * from the Forsyth Farmers’ Market website
Organic vendors from all over the Low Country bring a wide variety of wholesome vegetables.
Fresh cut flowers, like these zinnias and sunflowers, are available in the spring and summer.
Products made from local crops are also on offer, like Vegetable Kingdom’s popular Hot Chow Chow.
Bell peppers, blackberries, and okra were in abundance when I was there.
All the vendors at the market accept cash, but if you’re bringing plastic, you have to buy tokens which are used like cash. They eliminate the “middle man”, i.e. the bank and its transaction fees. This way, vendors can concentrate on what’s most important: their wonderful produce and food items.
Visit them online for particulars, or better yet, make a point to visit them on any given Saturday! It’s an experience you won’t soon forget, and if you live near Savannah, you’ll likely return.
I rarely endorse businesses on any of my websites, but some places are so extraordinary they deserve a mention. One such place is the unlikely St. Simons landmark, Southern Soul Barbeque. You might have read about it in Garden & Gun, Southern Living, or The New York Times, or seen it on the Travel Channel, or the popular Food Network show, Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives. But none of those outlets can compare to a visit in the flesh. Owners Griffin Bufkin and Harrison Sapp transformed this 1940s gas station into a mecca for barbeque and soul food lovers and their fans are legion. There’s a great beer selection and a good variety of sauces for different tastes. (I prefer the mustard/vinegar-based Carolina style sauces, none of the sweet stuff for me).
Everyone probably has his own favorite dish. Mine is the first meal I ever ate here. The pulled pork with mac & cheese and collard greens was truly heaven on a plate. The white bread was a fitting accompaniment to this holy trinity of Southern cuisine.
You know it’s going to be good when the employees who work in the heat and smoke all day still have smiles on their faces.
Books like the Southern Foodways Alliance’s classic series, Cornbread Nation, take up shelf space with modern culinary classics ranging from The Whole Hog Cookbook and Southern Belly to Pickles, Pigs & Whiskey and Smoke and Pickles. As a reader and book collector, I was amazed!