Saturday, 3 April 2010

Doing the Charleston

The Charleston dance started out with African Americans in the South, before making its way up to Harlem and then going global with the flappers.
Here’s an old how-to video we found on Youtube.

We didn’t do any dancing in Charleston, South Carolina. Rather, we ate. And walked. It’s a great town for both.

Hyman’s Seafood was the venue for today’s Southern eat-a-thon, which we had learned to schedule for the afternoon in order to give us at least seven hours to digest.

This place served us one of the best meals we had on our entire trip. We had boiled peanuts, hush puppies, shrimp on buttered grits, coleslaw, fried green tomatoes, grilled fish, fried fish, french fries, sweet potato.

Eli Hyman, one of the family-owned restaurant’s current heads, stopped by our table not once but twice to check that everything was OK. So many famous people make the pilgrimage to Hyman’s that each table has at least one brass plaque bearing the name of a celebrity who ate at that very table. We ate where Neil Armstrong had been.

This place does shameless but amazing marketing. In exchange for wearing a sticker that says something like ‘I love Hymans’ around town, customers get entered in a contest to win a free meal (they apparently have staff in all corners of Charleston, waiting to discover winners). We were happy to oblige, but didn’t win. Sophia’s fish-n-chips came on a special Hyman’s Frisbee. I bought Hyman’s grits to make at home from the adjoining gift shop.

We then stumbled outside, where we spent an hour or two wandering around yet another Southern port town.

Set on a peninsula between the Ashley and Cooper rivers, Charleston was founded by the English in 1670 and soon was a shipping center for deerskin, cotton and indigo.

It features huge, beautiful houses whose narrow side faces the street. Many boast elaborate side porches stretching up each of their three, four or five stories. Most porches face southeast, to allow optimum shade and breeze during the city’s famously hot summers. This was important, since people often had to sleep outside to stay cool.

Some 100 miles apart, Charleston and Savannah make an easy Southern historic city pairing. Both claim various things, like having the oldest Jewish temple, or having been the South’s most tolerant town. Either way, they sure are a study in Southern beauty and grace.

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