Remembering Verta Mae

I was saddened to learn of Verta Mae Grovenor’s passing over the weekend. I wrote this post a year ago recalling the time my wife and I got to meet her at a Southern Foodways event at McCrady’s.

She was a Space Goddess!


I met a lady named Vertamae Smart- Grosvenor once at a nice restaurant in a Charleston alley. My wife and I were attending a Southern Foodways Alliance event- one of those gigs where they ply you with local goodies and screen a Joe York documentary.
Vertamae grew up in rural Hampton County, SC. Her parents moved to Philadelphia when she was 8. By the time she was 19, she lit out for Europe and spent time kicking around the continent. She wrote about it and in 1970 published Vibration Cooking: or, The Travel Notes of a Geechee Girl. In my estimation, this is one of the books of the Southern culinary / literary canon that you simply must own and know intimately. Throw a rock in a southern kitchen and it’ll hit someone who’s been touched by her work- John Martin Taylor, The Lee Bros, Linton Hopkins, Sean Brock, Kevin Mitchell, BJ Dennis, Me.
In between bites of benne – brown oyster stew, Buckshot Restaurant‘s squirrel gravy and shots of Coast Brewery (with whom, in all transparency, we are doing a supper with at Old Village Post House and Inn on 10/14), I spied Vertamae across the long room, a towering and stately griot. My wife and I walked over to meet her.

“It’s my understanding,” I said,” that back in the day you spent some time playing with Sun Ra in his famous Arkestra. What did you do in the band?”
She sighed and looked away, looked through me, through time and space. For a moment, I saw the rings of Saturn in her far off eyes. Then she came back, snapped to and straightened with a grace of royalty.
Check the trailer for the documentary film in the works by Julie Dash here.
Keep it tight, and have a great service – FP

Leave a Reply