Author Pat Branning
My adventure into the world of writing and publishing has led to so many new friends who have warmed my heart like a bear hug and nourished my imagination. You, my readers, have reminded me what is best about living in and loving the South and being Southern. A chat with any one of you is as restorative as a sunset over the salt marsh of the May River in all its golden splendor. You might say I am a Southerner by choice. Although I was born in the South of Southern parents, I grew up in the north before throwing all caution to the wind and entering the University of Georgia. After graduation I started my broadcasting adventure at WSB, Atlanta, Georgia where I hosted daily programs on the arts, food and entertainment. The call letters stand for “Welcome South Brother” and it was there I learned to love all things Southern. It wasn’t until I married my dear Southern husband, Cloide,that I moved to Beaufort, S.C. in the heart of South Carolina’s Lowcountry. There is a stretch of road on Lady’s Island, just across the old Beaufort swing bridge, that makes its way along a meandering river, through miles of salt marsh and under the shadows of towering live oaks with branches laden with moss. Small white clapboard churches and rickety produce stands dot the landscape. The Broomfield Road is intriguing and appears mysterious in the moonlight with its old shacks, family farms, baseball fields and acres of woodland forest with tangled trees and alligator ponds. This is the road my husband and I took so many years ago, when we left Atlanta and arrived in this region I have since called home.
This place unleashed a creative force within me that later in life resulted in these highly acclaimed publications. Stories were everywhere – jumping out at me at unexpected times and places. They grabbed hold of me until I had to write themdown. Growing up in middle-class Pennsylvania in the 50’s and 60’s, I never could have imagined that my life would bring me to this place. Nor could I have imagined that a large part of my career would be focused on writing about it. Much later, after my children were all grown, we lived in North Carolina. But while living there, a force kept pulling me back to the coast. I began compiling and re- writing the stories I had tucked away in my memory for many years. Then there were all the recipes from the lady’s who lived along Bay Street in ante-bellum homes and on plantations that stretched up toward Charleston. These were strong women who knew how to put their best foot forward when it came time to entertain. It occurred to me that these recipes were part of the Lowcountry’s heritage and should be preserved. Therefore, a little spiral bound copy of “Shrimp, Collards andGrits” was born in 2009. Long-time Beaufort artist, Nancy Rhett, created a painting of our former home for the cover piece. I bravely took one thousand copies to St. Helena’s Episcopal Church in Beaufort, and placed them under the stairwell to be sold at their annual church bazaar. A portion of the proceeds went to the Women of the Church for missions.Never did I think we would nearly sell them all that very day.With this success and the encouragement of the women of thechurch, I decided to create the Tricentennial Edition of“Shrimp, Collards and Grits” a hardbound, 144 page bookillustrated by my favorite Southern artists, to celebrate Beaufort, South Carolina’s 300th anniversary. It was an instant success. South Carolina’s Lowcountry is a place of endless surprises. And the public response to Shrimp, Collards and Grits was one of those incredible, unexpected and truly amazing surprises. Orders for books came pouring in and my son, Andrew, came to me and said I needed help. He was right. On the heels of that success, we launched our own publishing company. Not only do we now publish our own books, but those of some of the most renowned artists in Charleston. Recently we have taken on projects from overseas as the business continues to grow. None of this would have been possible without you and your own special love for this region, a place that evokes a sense of history and timelessness rooted in love and memory- a place that echoes on in the hearts of all who have experienced it. This collection of memoirs ultimately is about our shared connections to one another and to our common past and our shared hopes for the future.
Thank you for being a part of it.
– Pat Branning