Category: Charleston

Benne There?

Christian was bored this morning so he decided to cook up a batch of benne wafers. Go figure. Of course, he included a “super sized” version.

Here’s the recipe courtesy of The Fannie Farmer Cookbook.

1/2 c. sesame seeds

1 tbsp. butter

1 c. light-brown sugar

3 tbsp. flour

1 egg, beaten

1 tsp. vanilla

1/4 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter and lightly flour some cookie sheets. Put the sesame seeds in a small pan and stir or shake them over moderate heat until they are slightly brown. Remove from the heat, stir in the remaining ingredients, and mix well. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto the cookie sheets, leaving 2 inches between them for the cookies to spread. Bake until just slightly brown, 4 – 6 minutes. Remove from the cookie sheets very carefully while still warm. If they stiffen and are hard to remove, put the cookie sheets back in the oven for 1 minute. Makes about 36 cookies.




I like waking up early.

Now, I’m not talking about the get-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night-to-pee-and-not-going-back-to-sleep kind of waking up.

I mean, waking just before dawn. When things are still, as if nothing has happened yet.

It’s not a matter of self-discipline or an attempt to be better than anyone else. Rather, the introvert in me likes the alone time while the sun rises. I need it, to compose my thoughts and my day.

No wonder early morning software release deployments don’t annoy me. I say, “Let’s get up, brew some joe, and get this thing live!”

Late night? I zone out. I want to lose myself in a mind-numbing television sitcom or non-critical read and, of course, sleep. I never pulled an All-Nighter in college. Recalling my first career, hotel management, I sometimes had to cover the front desk during the dreaded night audit shift. 11:00 pm to 7:00 am. Yuck. I fought to stay awake past midnight, let alone balance the previous day’s books.

Our dogs also like the early morning. We walk our neighborhood before dawn. In their canine way, they ensure all is in-check, that everything smells the same, they take inventory of all squirrels, and ensure no new cats have moved in overnight.

Me? I relish the quiet, the sometimes fog (and foghorns), the end of dark, and the burgeoning light.


We are always on the hunt for authentic ingredients and cuisine. Living in a mid-sized Southern city has posed its challenges in the past, but as the Holy City becomes more popular, its offerings expand.

Hence Kimchi. Many of you, I know, will cringe and profess, “Kimchi?? Ew, gross!” Too bad for you.

Ken has decided that the best kimchi is made in Korea. Um, that does make sense since it is Korean. We have tried versions from New York City, and even some homemade in Charleston by different purveyors that offer otherwise great food.

The best yet? Trader Joe’s. We thought it would be middle-of-the-road bland. Nope, it’s the real thing.


The more bitter, the better

Ken and I are pretty adventurous eaters. A stop at the local Asian mega mart may be a journey into an alien world for some, but it’s on our tour of regular grocery-shopping stops. One of our favorite exotic veggies in stock there is the bitter melon. When we go through the check out line, we typically get that “You do know what you’re buying, right?” look. Once we assure the staff that we know exactly what we are doing, we are offered recommended preparations and old family recipes.

Some of you may already know that bitter melon requires a very acquired taste. As Ken states, those who love a really hoppy beer may enjoy it. I’ll leave it to other sources to tout its medicinal benefits. I know that I always feel healthy and refreshed (and full) after consuming it!

Our preferred way to eat it is rather simple: stir-fried with dried black beans. We use Grace Young’s recipe in The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen: Classic Family Recipes for Celebration and Healing. I have omitted the flank steak, as we typically do, for this recipe:

2 medium bitter melons (1 1/4 pounds total)

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons plus 1 tablespoon finely shredded ginger

1 teaspoon rice cooking wine

1 teaspoon thin soy sauce

1 teaspoon plus 5 tablespoons vegetable oil (we usually use far less and substitute with olive oil)

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper

1 tablespoon Chinese dried black beans

1 clove garlic, finely minced

Cut the bitter melons in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Slice into 1/4-inch thick pieces. Place in 1 quart of boiling water and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Allow the water to return to a boil. Then, drain and rinse the bitter melon under cold water and set aside to drain thoroughly.

Rinse the black beans in several changes of cold water and drain. In a small bowl, mash the black beans and garlic with the back of a wooden spoon until it resembles a paste.

Heat a flat-bottomed wok or skillet over high heat until hot but not smoking. Add oil, bitter melon, black bean paste, corn starch, ginger, rice wine, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar and pepper. Stir fry for one-to-two minutes. Serve immediately. Enjoy!

Coffee, Tea…Cats and Dogs!

It has rained A LOT in Charleston this summer. In fact, I think the only week without rain was in June, fortunately when our son was at Scout camp, living in a canvas tent by the marsh for six nights. Come to think of it, it was downright reasonable that week, dry, sunny, and warm (read: not hot or humid, aka paradise). Of course, that’s when we headed into the mountains, where it was warmer and more humid. Otherwise, Mother Nature unleashes her wrath upon us. Every day. Simply peruse the posts by @chswx and you’ll get my drift.

I like rain. I recall fondly as a child visiting places, along the equator, like Hong Kong, where each afternoon one would retreat back to the hotel as the heavens emptied onto the bustling streets, as if to provide a wash and rinse cycle in preparation for the nightfall and all of the life it would bring.

Weather is habit-forming. Without thinking, I now bring my trusty raincoat everywhere I go, in anticipation. When I glance out of the window, I expect to see a line of threatening clouds getting ready to get busy. The low rumbling of thunder no longer perks my ears. Like in the tropics.

Courtesy @houseofbullock

Courtesy @ABWilliams1