Albertha Grant’s cooking philosophy was a simple one: If someone tells you they’re hungry, you feed them. This idea echoes throughout Charleston’s food traditions—modest, humble beginnings, stretching a pot as far as it can go. The culinary history is deeply connected to the Gullah culture, to rice plantations, to the sea, and to women. These are the stories of three women who contributed to the fierce glow of the city’s renowned culinary reputation: Martha Lou Gadsden, Charlotte Jenkins, and the late Albertha Grant (as told by her children). In their restaurants, the stove mirrors home: A few simmering pots turn into a mighty feast. Recipes are committed to memory, to the air. The act of serving up a plate is one of ambition and love.
The women interviewed here are not cooking for the glory of it all; they are cooking to continue a family tradition, to earn an honest living, to mend community. Cooking is independence. Fixing a plate is an act of love, a quiet promise that no matter how bad things get, there is always this stove, this simmering pot, this ability to stretch a dish from one household into the rest of the neighborhood.
Interviews and photographs by Sara Wood.