The history of the Gullah and Geechee people stretches back centuries, when enslaved members of this community were historically isolated from the rest of the South because of their location on the Sea Islands of coastal South Carolina and Georgia. Today, this Lowcountry community represents the most direct living link to the traditional culture, language, and foodways of their West African ancestors.
Gullah Geechee Home Cooking, written by Emily Meggett, the matriarch of Edisto Island, is the preeminent Gullah cookbook. At 89 years old, and with more than 50 grandchildren and great-grandchildren, Meggett is a respected elder in the Gullah community of South Carolina.
She has lived on the island all her life, and even at her age, still cooks for hundreds of people out of her hallowed home kitchen. Her house is a place of pilgrimage for anyone with an interest in Gullah Geechee food. Meggett’s Gullah food is rich and flavourful, though it is also often lighter and more seasonal than other types of Southern cooking.
Heirloom rice, fresh-caught seafood, local game, and vegetables are key to her recipes for regional delicacies like fried oysters, collard greens, and stone-ground grits. This cookbook includes not only delicious and accessible recipes, but also snippets of the Meggett family history on Edisto Island, which stretches back into the 19th century. Rich in both flavour and history, Meggett’s Gullah Geechee Home Cooking is a testament to the syncretism of West African and American cultures that makes her home of Edisto Island so unique.
Makes: 2 loaves
1 cup (2 sticks/225 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 large eggs
2 cups (400 g) sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract
3 cups (375 g) self-rising flour
3 very ripe bananas, mashed (2 ½ cups/600 g)
½ cup (60 g) black walnuts or pecans, chopped
Preheat the oven to 350°F (170°C). Grease and flour two 5 by 9-inch (12.5 by 23 cm) loaf pans, or one 10-inch (25 cm) Bundt pan.
In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter, eggs, and sugar with an electric mixer. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and the flour.
Add the bananas and beat well. Stir in the walnuts. Divide the batter between the prepared pans.
Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour. To test the bread for doneness, touch the top of the bread lightly. If the bread “springs back”, or bounces a bit, it is ready. A skewer inserted in the center should also come out clean. Let cool for 5 minutes, then loosen the edges and turn out onto a wire rack to cool.
Recipe reprinted with permission from Abrams Books.