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Friday, October 14, 2011

Lessons from a Charleston Rice Steamer

When I first moved to Charleston, I had no idea what to expect! The folks in the submarine community told us that we would hate it. So when his detailer asked him where he wanted to go for his next tour of duty, my ex-husband simply told him, "Anywhere but Charleston". And true to the US Navy's style, they sent him to Charleston to serve on a ballistic missile submarine for the next several years.

In the Navy Base Relocation Office, I saw a sign that I found mystifying at the time. "Welcome to Charleston! Set your Clocks Back 20 Years". Since that moment, I have seen dozens of examples that shouted "Aha! Set your clock back 20 years!" But it is also a big part of why I have decided to stick & stay. I have raised my family here & have no plans to move. It is a charming, wonderful city with enough of the perks of a big city without the drawbacks.

Fortunately I learned a long time ago that happiness isn't found in a place, but rather it is a condition of the heart. Prior to our move to Charleston, we hadn't lived together for 18 months while he was at sea. We arrived in the middle of February in 1983 following my mothers funeral. I found so many things about 'Dear Charleston' to be fascinating. By the time that I got things settled & was ready to get out & explore our new home, the glorious azaleas were screaming in colors I had never seen! The blooming Confederate Jasmine emitted an intoxicating perfume! The riotous colors & fragrance was positively balm for my soul at that crossroads of my young life. It was pure bliss to be reunited with my husband in a seeming paradise! I was indeed smitten!

I pause to take a commercial break here....if you love the colors & gardens, Charleston is in her glory for the last 2 weeks of March & the 1st 2 weeks of April. It is unforgettable!

I volunteered at Birthright of Charleston to continue the pro-life work I had done in Stillwater, OK. I met some lovely friends who were 'Charleston Ladies' through & through! One in particular loved to entertain & invited us to her downtown home where she had grown up. My Aunt Loretta & Uncle Harold had come to visit us & Miss Margaret entertained us with Charleston charm I had never imagined! She set a lovely table of china, silverware, crystal & starched linens. I recall having the best baked shad & rice. It was a delightful spread!

She spoke of using her "Charleston Rice Steamer" & I was fascinated. Miss Margaret said these were legendary & that they were coveted. They were generational blessings that were included in wills!! Well, I thought, "how nice for them....that will never be a part of my heritage'. My low opinions have determined many things for my life. But that is changing! Watch how this unfolds.

Fast forward a few years to a chapter of my life where I was a cook for our Catholic Bishop & a weekend relief chef for the retired sisters at the convent nearby. I thoroughly enjoyed this & knew that my being there was a gift from the hand of God Himself. I love to cook, & entertaining is a joy for me! I love to make delicious fun food & serve it to those who appreciate the gift. So, in true Southern tradition, both kitchens were equipped with "Charleston Rice Steamers". I made some amazing perfect fluffy rice dishes in those steamers that received accolades & praises from the Bishop, sisters & their esteemed guests.

I recall thinking that "I will never have something this wonderful in my kitchen. So I will just make do with what I have." 'Stinking thinking' to be sure, but it is how I was conditioned. I am over that nonsense now, but I want to tell you how much my Father loves me!!

Yesterday, my daughter Emily told me she left something on my doorstep. I wasn't home at the time & was very curious! When I drove up it was dark last night. I didn't see anything obvious, but just figured it might have blown away or something. A bit later, my next-door neighbor rang the bell & said he picked up this gift-wrapped package for me because he didn't want it to be swiped or to get wet.

It was beautifully wrapped in a delightful floral print & I was very curious. I called Emily & she said go ahead & open it. I wanted to wait for her to come over to unwrap it. My birthday is coming up, but not for another week. I thought, "This might be the only gift I get, so I better save it!" <---More of that negative self-talk. I now have learned to tell that voice, "your opinion doesn't matter anymore. You don't have a vote, so sit down & shut up!!"

Now if you have followed my blog, then you know that I recently inherited some new cookware. The "Paula Deen" pots & pans have been sitting on my counter & I was wondering where to put them. So this morning I got an email from the local 'freecycle' group with a request for some pots & pans for a home for those in recovery. I immediately thought, now I know what to do with my old ones. Except for one thing...I had a steamer set that I really liked. The two pots nested inside each other & I use it frequently. So I hesitated to make a decision. I did send a reply to the request stating that I did have a set to donate.

Emily knew exactly where to get one of the original Charleston Rice Steamers & she had it gift wrapped for me. For her, this represented a big sacrifice & I recognized what an act of love it was coming from her. Such a surprise & greatly appreciated. Now I can donate the whole set to the 'Recovery Home' because I have one of the finest steamers available!

I have learned to live with what I have & set my goals so that I can achieve my dreams a little at a time. I dwell in my prayer life these days on the magnificent, tremendous love my Father has for me. I know that it is His delight to lavish me with not only my needs, but also my deepest desires. It's not just a piece of metal with a purpose. It is so much more. I plan to use it on Sunday to make a Charleston 'Shrimp & Rice Perlo' for my son, Evans birthday celebration. (In the Lowcountry of SC, rice dishes are called 'perlo' instead of pilaf) This will be the 1st of many... I know that my kids appreciate the skill involved in preparing my famous feasts. The effort that goes in to every dish is priceless~ Every plate that comes from my kitchen is served with an extra helping of joyful love. You sure can't buy that in any 5-star restaurant let alone a drive-thru dive! ***This I know!