Editor’s note: Candice, the woman behind the Charleston Food Writer blog, is releasing her first book, “Provisions to Plate: A Charleston Seasonal Collective,” this month. In excerpts from the introduction, she shares the story behind the book.
By Candice Townsend
… I am an eater, a food lover, an interested and curious soul who enjoys trying new things, appreciates the time and care it takes farmers to grow food, and I’m in awe of the composure of those that turn it into an amazing plate. I am a small-town girl who grew up gardening and visiting the farmers market with my grandparents. I savor my childhood memories of blueberry picking on hot summer days in Michigan….
When I was 21 years old, I was recruited to move to Charleston for work, so I decided to spread my wings, embrace a new adventure and accept the chance to relocate and experience what I assumed to be just a few-year stint on the list of places I intended on living. What I didn’t expect was to fall in love with Spartina marsh grass, enjoy the smell of pluff mud, the ability to dip my toes in the ocean on a weekly basis, to gain an appreciation for wrought-iron gates, and to eventually call this place: HOME.
I accidentally began a food blog a few years ago and truth be told, I had never before read a blog and had no idea what I was doing. I was bored, looking for a new creative outlet and after having several friends (who happened to be chefs) recommend I pursue it, I decided to give it a whirl. I should backtrack for just a minute: Working at a high-end hair salon downtown in the heart of the restaurant scene, after long days standing on my feet for 10 to 12 hours with only enough time to sneak a protein bar between clients during the day, I would typically embrace the opportunity to find a seat in the corner of whatever restaurant was within walking distance of the salon and slip in, order a small plate of something warm and yummy, grab a glass of wine while flipping through a magazine and decompress. Much of the time when I was out to eat, I had no idea how to pronounce the menu items, and even less of a clue what they were. So sometimes I would ask, and sometimes I would just point to the menu and say, “I’ll try that, please.” I’m sure more than once there was a server eye-rolling me behind my back and thinking: “She’s such an amateur.” Yep, I was. But I owned it. I didn’t let it stop me from trying new things….
When my friends Kieran Kennedy (now DiMaio) and Joe DiMaio, who were both chefs, suggested I write a food blog, I thought: “Why not?” After all…I had nothing to lose. I figured that no one other than my mother would read it. Imagine how surprised I was that it actually gained a substantial following and I was all of the sudden called a social media ‘influencer.’ I’m still shocked at how quickly it took off and that people wanted to read it….ironically, I still don’t think my mother ever has!
…I knew that I wanted to share positive things in life, specifically through a food lens. This included things that I was trying, doing, experiencing and found interesting. I shared things about my home gardening, cooking attempts (which were mostly failures), personal gatherings around food, and write-ups about cool new spots that were opening up. Through this, I found my favorite thing: behind-the-scenes details and stories from those that make it happen. It might be understanding a recipe with a chef, how to properly plant a home garden in our climate, or even learning the science behind soil prep and proper planting times and seasons. There were no rules, no guidelines, it was purely for the joy of something fun and self-fulfillment. It was an outlet that became a hobby, which ignited a passion and turned into my profession. I was learning all of the stuff I was interested in and excited about, straight from the pros, and then getting to share with people that were equally excited about the same. I loved hanging out with the chefs, farmers, artisans and asking them questions and hearing their personal stories. It captivated me.
…The journey took me deep into the fields, the oyster beds at low tide, and the kitchens of these talented people. The deeper I got involved, the more that I learned, and the muddier my boots got.
“Provisions to Plate: A Charleston Seasonal Collective,” is a celebration of the Lowcountry’s abundantly rich food scene through a seasonal perspective and is expressed through an array of photo spreads, words, Q&A interviews with 20 local farmers, fishermen and chefs. The book features more than 35 recipes made with local proteins and produce being sourced from each of our unique seasons.
Candice Herriott spent a year working closely with six farms, four fishing companies and 10 chefs, bakers and a mixologist to create this book that shares the journey your food takes from the farm or fishery to the final stage of plating. She wrote and photographed the entire book, which she hopes will offer a spotlight on the hard-working and passionate people who raise, grow, harvest and make food that is nationally celebrated and also bring awareness to the importance of sourcing from local producers.