Monday, February 17, 2014

A Few Words about Charleston

Charleston is a great city for food. Darla and I confirmed this basic truth during last week’s Annual Conference of the Society for Cross-Cultural Research. In fact, the conference unfolded slowly and haltingly due to an untimely ice storm that hit South Carolina. 


Not only did the storm prevent about half of the conference participants from showing up at all, it delayed our arrival by one day. Icy roads and bridges in the Carolinas forced us to stop for a spell in Georgia. We consoled ourselves with a self-indulgent meal at Savannah’s Olde Pink House: crispy pressed duck, scallops, and BLT salad. But I digress.

                           The Olde Pink House

Charleston is home to FIG (Food Is Good), The Hominy Grill, Five Loaves and Jestine’s, to name just a few of its prime destinations. We tried them all and, though all were good, I have to say, Jestine’s chicken and rice soup followed by blueberry peach cobbler took first prize in my opinion. 

                                  The Hominy Grill

We also had the interesting experience in Jestine’s of being seated at a table next to that of our congressman, John Mica, and his wife, Pat. I had a few pleasant words with Mr. Mica, who seemed to suspect (rightly) that I shared almost none of his political ideals when I told him we were from Rollins College. He was, nonetheless, gracious and even a little jokey. I thanked him for helping my wife procure her passport for a trip to Europe a few years ago (which his office had, in fact, done). Then, when I introduced him to Darla, he said, “Oh, this is your wife who we helped? [Pause] Or was that your other wife?”


At the conference itself, I heard some interesting presentations, including one by Professor Hani Henry of Egypt on the justifications for sexual harassment offered by male offenders in Cairo. I gave a talk on slang and swearwords which allowed me to toss around shockingly obscene words and phrases with intellectual abandon. Seemed to go over fairly well.

Charleston is famous for being the site where the first shots of the Civil War were fired. On my last visit to that city, I took the Fort Sumter tour. The guide described the United States as being under attack by the Confederates in 1861. I’m pretty sure that a true Confederate sympathizer would never use that terminology. The Lost Cause mentality sees the war not as a result of traitorous rebels taking up arms against the United States, but as a mere matter of squabbling between northern and southern states - the latter defending themselves against the aggression of the former.

There is no shortage of Rebel sympathizers in Charleston where the Confederate Museum, maintained by the Daughters of the Confederacy, stands as a proud monument. I took the time to visit the museum which is fairly small and is chock full of Civil War paraphernalia. I can’t say the displays are very thoughtfully laid out, but they make up in quantity what they lack in organization: swords, uniforms, letters, diaries, Civil War-era baby clothes, regimental flags, and on and on. No pictures were allowed, so I can provide no images to back up my impression. But to get an idea of what the museum looked like, just picture the closing scene of Citizen Kane where all of Charles Foster Kane’s worldly possessions are arrayed in a cluttered warehouse, and you’ll get the idea.

                         The Confederate Museum

Besides the great restaurants and the Civil War symbols, Charleston also features some charming, old neighborhoods. In one such setting stands the 1837 B&B where we stayed, a place we happily recommend.

                   1837 B&B on Wentworth Street

And finally, allow me to humbly refer you to one of my favorite Charleston landmarks. Check it out.