Martha Lou Gadsden, Soul-Food Matriarch, Dies at 91avril 4, 2021
“The ingredients, dishes and Black skillet kitchen technique was pure Gullah Geechee home cooking,” said David S. Shields, an English professor at the University of South Carolina and a food historian.
(The Gullah Geechee people are descendants of West Africans who were enslaved along the coast from North Carolina to North Florida and whose cooks created the peanut stews, okra-laced purloos and seafood that would come to define Low Country cuisine.)
Mrs. Gadsden always made sure rice and baked macaroni were available as side dishes, along with beans and greens she cooked in a long-simmering Southern style. Hers was one of the rare Charleston restaurants that took on the work to prepare chitterlings. People would drive from miles away to secure an order.
As Charleston’s tourist trade grew and new restaurants began to push out more traditional cooking, chefs like Sean Brock would make a point to urge visitors and journalists to take a seat at the handful of tables inside the pink building, and to eat Mrs. Gadsden’s food as a way to understand the importance of her style of Gullah Geechee cooking to the region’s culinary underpinnings.
It was not a place to be in a hurry. All her meat, with the exception of ribs and smothered dishes, was cooked to order — including her fried chicken, which was always the best-selling item on the menu.
Her secret was her seasoning, which she would mix up in large pickle jars, Ms. Taylor said.
Mrs. Gadsden always knew how she wanted things to taste. She was not afraid to tell her children, some of whom would eventually do much of the cooking, when something didn’t taste good.
“If it wasn’t done her way, my mom would show you right to the door,” her daughter Lillie Mae Gadsden said. Even toward the end of her life, when children and grandchildren were doing most of the cooking, she insisted on making the bread pudding and the cornbread, which began with a box of Jiffy mix.