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September 2008

Chef's Table:
Thanksgiving at Edisto
Written By: 
Jeannie Harrell
Photographs By: 
Terry Kuzniar

In the spirit of long Lowcountry summers spent on Edisto Island as a girl, Charleston native Elizabeth Boineau invites family and friends to gather on the marshes of their childhood haunt


Meet Elizabeth Boineau, one of those enviable, naturally talented hostesses who can throw together a gourmet lunch in 15 minutes flat. It’s no wonder, then, that her family flocks to Elizabeth’s house for Thanksgiving. But it isn’t just the draw of savory fare that brings relatives and friends alike to her front door. Since putting the finishing touches on her woodsy, marsh-front retreat south of Charleston, it has as much to do with the nostalgia that comes with where her front door happens to be.

“My family spent summer after glorious summer out at Edisto,” recalls Elizabeth, owner of a local marketing and public relations firm, of the days she and her family (with friends in tow) played on the beaches and explored the region’s waterways aboard their boat, The Island Queen. The family’s summer home sold when Elizabeth was 20, but she was recently inspired to spend time on the island again when her firm began work on a project for the Sewee Preserve, a protected stretch of pristine coastline north of Mount Pleasant, reaching up into the Santee River Delta. “The natural landscape of this acreage really reminded me of our days at the beach,” says Elizabeth. 

She commissioned architect Sandy Byers and longtime Edisto pal Fisher Walter to design and build, respectively, a Craftsman-style Napa Valley farmhouse (inspired by a home she’d spotted in Town & Country), with board-and batten siding and casement windows. Given Elizabeth’s penchant for entertaining, the interior was designed with an open floor plan, with particular attention given to the kitchen.

“I was showing the house plans to a close friend, and he took one look at them and said, ‘Elizabeth, I don’t think your architect has ever watched you cook. With the way you take up counter space, you need to double the size of that kitchen.’” She took his advice and sacrificed one door to the dining porch for an expanded cabinet and countertop area and has never regretted it. “He was right—I use every inch of it,” admits Elizabeth. 

But the Columbia native came by her foodie inclinations long before adulthood. “I remember inventing a cake recipe when I was five, and it actually worked!” she laughs. “Plus, Mom is a wonderful cook—she taught all of us,” Elizabeth says of Dotsy, the family’s matriarch, who served as the curator for the Confederate Museum for more than a decade. “She raised us to be independent and resilient, and knowing how to cook was a big part of that.”

With many of her lessons happily passed along, Dotsy arrives for Thanksgiving dinner with just a couple of mainstays—a walnut chutney cheese ball and coconut pecan pie—to ensure the occasion begins and ends on the right notes. Meanwhile, Elizabeth and brother Trippett season and dress the turkey and tend to the oyster pie, while niece Emily assembles a spinach and goat cheese salad. Trippett’s wife, Maggie, readies a sweet potato casserole; close pals Kim and Rick Benson arrive armed with an Italian torte for pre-dinner nibbles, which, according to Elizabeth, “is always a huge hit. No gathering of ours is complete without it.” The now-famous torte is just one of many longstanding traditions for this group.

From Elizabeth’s come-one, come-all approach to playing hostess to the family’s holiday migration back to Edisto, gatherings here arrive with more time-honored routines than can fit around a table. “I’ve always said Edisto is a state of mind,” smiles Elizabeth. “Coming back, it’s nice to see that some things never change.”

 

Menu: 
Italian Torte with Pesto & Toasted Walnuts 

Orange- & Herb Butter- Roasted Turkey

Lightly Scalloped Oyster Pie

Sweet Potato Casserole

Spinach & Goat Cheese Salad

Carolina Gold Rice Stuffing with Wild Mushrooms

Coconut Pecan Pie




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