Gullah Geechee culture, red beans and rice, and a new cookbook by Emily Meggett

About three years ago, my daughter found my birth people. On my paternal side, my birth grandfather migrated from Louisiana. I didn’t get to know him nor my mother as both died at a young age. But during one of the get-togethers where my birth sister and cousins shared reminisces of family history and lore, one of the cousins said she was a “geechee woman.”

Truth be told, I never did untangle who she was referring to but I loved that there might be a tie to the Gullah Geechee people (who this  Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor website says “traditionally resided in the coastal areas and the sea islands of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida but no Louisiana). Reading an old forum post, it turns out that people in Louisiana will “use /Geechee/ and /Black Frenchman/ or /Blak Franchman/ (Loosey-ana dialect) interchangeably” but are not related to the Sea Island Gullah people.

The Gullah Geechee people of the Sea Islands of South Carolina and Georgia have a history that spans centuries — to a time well before the establishment of a United States of America. They came over as enslaved members of West African tribes and eventually set up residence in the Lowcountry. Because of their physical separation from the rest of the South and an almost instinctual commitment to preserving their roots, their culture lives on, and indeed thrives, in people like Meggett.

How to make red rice, a Lowcountry classic with deep roots, Washington Post,  G. Daniela Galarza

So I guess that doesn’t explain my affinity for red beans and rice. I bet Popeye’s does though (she admits with some embarrassment). And my daughter is going to find zero ancestral ties to the Sea Island Gullah people much less its 89-year old matriarch, Emily Meggett.

Recently, I made red beans and rice from scratch. I used a Red Beans and Rice seasoning mix that I found at Food 4 Less, real red beans (well, that’s what the package also from Food 4 Less said), andouille sausage, and ample vegetables that make up the New Orleans’ “holy trinity” or celery, yellow onion, and bell pepper. It was fine, though I always felt like it isn’t authentic unless I serve it over Carolina rice not regular white rice.

The Washington Post recipe that is “adapted” from  Emily Meggett’s “Gullah Geechee Home Cooking: Recipes from the Matriarch of Edisto Island” and includes photographs by Clay Williams uses white rice. The article’s author also brings up “brown rice,” though she didn’t try that (which honestly sounds like heresy to my ears).

You can read the article which goes into Gullah Geechee history a bit here @ The Washington Post (hopefully, you won’t find yourself beyond a paywall).

Click on the link to buy Emily Meggett’s book @ Bookshop (or you know where 😉 LOL

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