"If you’re interested in Lowcountry foods, a large chunk comes from the marshes. From a real estate perspective it’s junk land, but from a conservation perspective, it’s gold." - Matt Lee
Matt and Ted Lee – brothers and cookbook authors – are spending this Fall in New York City, but their hearts belong to Charleston, South Carolina. Born and raised in the lowcountry, their homesickness for all things Charleston was the inception for The Lee Bros. Boiled Peanuts Catalog, a mail-order catalog that provides all the comforts of home to other southerners who craved the food that so defines the south.
“It was the middle of a February snowstorm in New York and I thought, 'Why, in New York City of all places, can you not find boiled peanuts?'” says Matt. “We had this idea of bringing a little piece of home all the way to New York – of cheating geography – and it worked.”
The Boiled Peanuts Catalog “aggregated lost southern souls around the country via the catalog,” says Matt.
It turns out a lot of people wanted a little piece of home.
And why shouldn’t they? Charleston is a tourist haven, known for its beautiful beaches, Spanish-moss-draped oaks and friendly people.
Matt and Ted say certain images bring them back to Charleston when they can’t be there physically—including those of the local beaches, Ted’s favorite natural place while growing up.
And the marshes off the coast are Matt's favorite.
“They look one-dimensional, but they’re really so diverse. And if you’re interested in lowcountry foods, a large chunk comes from the marshes. From a real estate perspective it’s junk land, but from a conservation perspective, it’s gold."
If it sounds like the Lee Brothers love where they’re from, it’s because they do. Their newest cookbook – their third – will continue to focus on the beauty and deliciousness of Charleston-inspired food, when it is published in 2013.
“Our business is all about passion,” says Ted. “It started from a passionate place and from the material that we were given: the food culture of the lowcountry. The stories that Charleston tourists are told really only skim the surface of what this area has to offer, and so we’re helping to tell that story from the perspective of people who have had a chance to miss it.”
“We love telling stories about foods that connect to place. For example,” says Matt, “If you’re not from South Carolina, do you know how delicious – and strange – boiled peanuts are?
And as it relates to the natural world, the Lee Brothers are doing it right. They’re big advocates of eating seasonally and say that the more seasonal food people eat, the more benefits local communities will reap. Like fresher produce, for example, because it was picked only a day before. Or less oil use because the fruit wasn’t shipped from, say, Chile. And a healthier economic community because the local farmer got paid.
“People say that eating seasonally is expensive, but it doesn’t have to be,” says Ted. ”As you long as you have some great recipes, and an adventurous palate, you’re good to go!”October 26, 2011
Megan Sheehan is a web writer and producer for The Nature Conservancy