Gullah matriarch of Edisto Island releases first cookbook, though she’s never used one

When “Ms. Emily” Meggett, 89, answered the phone at her sea island residence, she had to put this journalist on hold for a moment. 

That’s because her neighbor was dropping off a cooler of fresh fish on her front porch. Meggett gets food all over the island for free — butterbeans and okra from the King’s Farm Market, crab and shrimp from Flowers Sea Food, sweet potatoes and squash from George & Pink’s. 

“I always bring my wallet, and they say put that away,” said Meggett with a laugh. 


The irony is that she’s never used one herself. The recipes just come from memory, from making meals her whole life from the ingredients provided by the surrounding land and sea. 

“Gullah Geechee Home Cooking: Recipes from the Matriarch of Edisto Island” was published at the end of April and includes not only 123 recipes, but also Meggett’s own story and Gullah history.  

“Cooking teaches, cooking heals, cooking loves,” she wrote in its pages. 


Meggett was taught to cook by her grandmother and would make big batches of tomato casserole, lima beans, and shrimp and gravy for the whole family, the church and neighbors, too.

It gave her such a joy when she saw how much people in the community appreciated the act of kindness and enjoyed the fruits of her labor. 

“That gave me a love for it,” said Meggett. “I learned to cook with my brain, my hands and my heart.” 

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