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James Simons hosts Gullah Geechee luncheon in celebration of Black History Month

James Simons Montessori School hosted their second annual Gullah-inspired lunch Wednesday, February 26 to celebrate Black History Month and local culture. 

Teachers planned a dinner-theatre style experience with live musicians, drummers, and storytellers presenting during lunch. 

  • This year's menu was:
  • Sausage and Chicken Perlo
  • Okra and Tomato Soup
  • Charleston Red Rice
  • South Carolina grown Collard Greens with rutabagas
  • Traditional Bread Pudding
  • Assorted Fresh Fruit
  • Fruit-infused Water Stations

According to James Simons teacher and Gullah dinner-theatre coordinator Anastasia Ketchen, although there are direct connections to African dishes Gullah Geechee recipes were adapted to the available resources on this coast. 


“There were many seeds, plants and other vital parts of Gullah Geechee culture traveled across the water with us during the Atlantic Slave trade,” said Ketchen. “Peanuts, okra, rice, yams, peas, hot peppers, sesame seeds, sorghum, and watermelon are some of the foods brought across the sea to America by the Gullah Geechee's enslaved ancestors. Many Gullah Geechee dishes you will find are one pot recipes. This is for two main reasons. The first reason is combing ingredients into one dish made communal eating (full family, tribe) easier and the second during slavery most dishes were created from the left over foods of slave masters. Our ancestors were very resourceful and thrived in the most desolate conditions.” 

Red Rice

This is a tomato based rice commonly known as jollof from the West African region. Jollof is a one pot dish from countries including Gambia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Mali, Togo and more. 

Okra soup

Is another one pot dish. The vegetable okra has existed in African culture for a long time. Like much of African culture, Okra was exploited during the atlantic slave trade. It is a dish made with other vegetables including corn, lima beans and green beans. It is tomato based and usually served with rice. This dish most times also includes meat. Here in the south and in Creole communities ,such as Louisiana, that meat  is usually shrimp and a sausage. 

Sausage and Chicken Perlo

One of many things African slaves cultivated here on this coast was rice. South Carolina became one of the leading producers of rice. Like many Gullah Geechee dishes this too is a one pot meat and rice dish that most times includes okra as well. 

Bread pudding

This is a dish commonly known as poor man's food. It uses leftover bread to avoid wasting food. Ingredients are combined to create this nice warm and tasty treat.


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