Contributed by Michiel Perry of Black Southern Belle
Photos by Chantilly Lace Photography
Hallmarks of the Gullah Geechee community are their penchant for Southern hospitality and Lowcountry cuisine. As a South Carolina Belle, Southern Bred, Soul Infused is not just an expression; it’s a way of life. Preserving my Gullah heritage is vital to me, which is why I share my experiences and those of others with a Southern connection on Black Southern Belle. That is the spirit of Gullah culture, sharing to preserve history, especially during the holidays.
Community, family, and food are at the heart of Gullah holiday traditions. Our ancestors brought their culture rich in African influence with them, including gifting fruits, candy, and homemade meals to their visiting neighbors at holiday time. Today, the Gullah community continues to bring people together during the holidays to enjoy fellowship and soulful generosity.
I’m passionate about incorporating my heritage into every aspect of the holidays with traditions passed on to me, which I will pass to my two children. Among those traditions are the Lowcountry dishes I grew up indulging in and learning to cook. Heritage recipes can tell stories and share memories of the past. Most Gullah dishes include shellfish, game, rice, and root vegetables, ingredients grown and cultivated in South Carolina and Georgia’s coastal areas. Growing rice or fishing and crabbing are how many Gullah people fed and supported their families. These ingredients continue to play a significant role in Lowcountry cuisine. For me, a holiday meal isn’t complete without rice with collard greens, especially when those collard greens are grown on the family farm by my dad.
Many chefs are infusing their food with Gullah and Lowcountry influences, including Oyster Perloo and Shrimp & Grits from What’s Gina Cooking or Carolima’s Lowcountry Cuisine’s Okra Soup with Shrimp. Delicious desserts, including Sweet Potato Bread Pudding and 14K Karat Cake by Carolima’s Lowcountry Cuisine or hummingbird cakes are popular options.
Rice being a vital ingredient, other dishes enjoyed around the holidays include Red Rice with Sausage and Sautéed Shrimp and Rice.
There is no better way to enjoy homemade cooking than surrounded by friends and family. It feels like home when you are making soulful eats that others can enjoy. I often look at my artwork depicting Gullah women cooking in the kitchen. I imagine those smells and sounds surrounding me might have been similar for my Gullah ancestors as well. I grew up being surrounded by a large family — each of them bringing a particular dish, with a twist on traditional recipes taught throughout the generations.
We often celebrated the holiday with meals enjoyed outdoors, surrounded by the nature of the Lowcountry. The Southern hospitality extended to those in the community manifested into community-wide holiday gatherings, delivered meals to those in need, and just those extra gifts of soulful kindness. These are the holiday experiences that keep the Gullah heritage thriving. These are the memories I want to share with my children and friends.