The last day of the festival is typically reserved for the events we’re most proud of- annual traditions and historical dinners grace our Sundays full of pride and love for the Lowcountry. For our twelfth year, we’ll be at the illustrious Middleton Place for “Of Rice + Rum” to learn from their specialists and a few of our own (Glenn Roberts of Anson Mills) about the centuries-old story of rice in South Carolina. Presented by Mount Gay Rum, those dishes with a backstory will be highlighted by the oldest rum in the world from the island of Barbados. Join us for an event you won’t soon forget!
Keep scrolling to learn about our favorite grain’s origins at Middleton Place and what makes this ingredient so special. Much of what follows is excerpted from the book, Beyond the Fields – Slavery at Middleton Place:
Jamal Hall, a historic interpreter at Middleton Place, demonstrates the process by which grains of rice were prepared for market. Rice was placed in a mortar and “beaten” or pounded with the square end of a pestle to remove the husk from the grain. Fanner baskets to separate the rice from the bran were the final step before the grain was packed into barrels, made by skilled slave coopers, for shipment to English ports.
At Middleton Place, the interpretation of rice cultivation has evolved from the display of somewhat romantic images by Alice Ravenel Huger Smith on display in the Mill to a demonstration rice field planted annually with a small crop of the famous Carolina Gold grain.
Rice cultivation, although introduced in the 1690s, did not provide a significant cash crop for planters until the 1700s. As the rice industry grew, so too did the need for more laborers to work the rice fields, especially workers experienced in cultivating the grain. That meant the importation of increasing numbers of slaves from the western coast of Africa, an area stretching from what is now Senegal to Sierra Leone and Liberia. In this region the inhabitants had been growing and consuming rice for centuries.
On Africa’s Atlantic Rice Coast, rice, along with seafood, was the major source of nourishment. In their clay cooking pots, coastal Africans cooked rice in various ways. One very special dish combined rice, spices, seafood or sometimes meat. These gumbos or pilafs (also spelled pillau or perloo), as we now know them, were introduced into this country by slaves and became staple dishes on southern tables.
If you’re craving more, don’t wait any longer- purchase your pass to Middleton Place now!
Programing at Middleton Place includes a number of annual events specific to rice culture. On April 22nd and 23rd (subject to weather conditions), visitors will may join a costumed historic interpreter in planting Carolina Gold Rice – the crop that defined the Low Country. Presentations will also be given on the cultivation, processing and cultural impact of rice in South Carolina during the 18th and 19th centuries. Several months later in August or September, depending upon the weather and growing season, the rice field will be harvested and hands-on activities such as threshing, pounding and fanning the rice will be demonstrated. For more information, visit www.middletonplace.org