Awendaw, like pilau and rice pie, is a dish specifically Lowcountry, named for an Indian settlement north of Charleston where both native American and African traditions survive to this day. Lucille Grant, one of Charleston’s most celebrated cooks, was born and raised the daughter of a fisherman in Awendaw. They grew okra and caught shrimp, then strung the heads of the shrimp and the okra pods—for use in soups—in the attic of their house, where they quickly dried under the tin roof. The technique is West African. Between Awendaw and Charleston, the Mount Pleasant basket weavers still make rice fanner baskets from marsh grasses the way they have been made for centuries.

<i>Charleston Receipts</i> Warns Never call it “Hominy Grits” Or you will give Charlestonians fits! When it comes from the mill, it’s “grist”; After you cook it well, I wist, You serve “hominy”! Do not skimp; Serve butter with it and lots of shrimp.

I offer no improvements to Sarah Rutledge’s recipe for “Owendaw Corn Bread,” which she published in The Carolina Housewife in 1847. This is our classic spoon bread.

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Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 large eggs, very lightly beaten
  • 2 cups hot hominy (cooked grits)
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup cornmeal

Method

Preheat the oven to 375°. In a mixing bowl, add the butter and beaten eggs to the hominy and mix well. Gradually stir in the milk, then the cornmeal. Pour the batter into a -quart soufflé dish or a deep baking pan, allowing room for the Awendaw to rise. Bake for about 45 minutes or until the top begins to brown. Miss Rutledge noted, “The batter should be of the consistency of a rich boiled custard. ... It has the appearance, when cooked, of a baked batter pudding, and when rich, and well mixed, it has almost the delicacy of a baked custard.”

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