On our first full day in Beaufort, South Carolina, we began by breaking fast yesterday at the Parris Island Marine Corps Exchange food court and finished with a house warming supper at Pat Conroy’s new home. (Yes, the same Pat Conroy who wrote Beach Music, Prince of Tides, etc.) And there was more in between.
My Marine food court breakfast burrito was decent but not worth writing much about. The setting, however, was interesting. Really fun people watching (which, after eating, is one of my favorite things to do). All around us sat Marines sporting their signature fatigues and high-and-tight buzz cuts, munching breakfast sandwiches and downing energy drinks and coffee. No doubt the potent beverages were helping these drill sergeants and other base staff to “make marines,” just like they proclaim on a big sign over the base’s main drag.
Lunch was at a cute downtown restaurant called Wren that an art gallery owner recommended. The decor was absolutely charming. Wrought iron and tin, and burlap, wood and basket-weave elements the color of driftwood give the eatery a natural nautical feel, but not the typical, slightly tacky anchor-and-sailor theme you see in other places.
I ordered a great white ale (looked like a pale hefeweizen but much lighter in body and taste) and the Mediterranean Salad — lettuce mix, spiced lamb, tomatoes, red onion, pepperoncini, kalamata olives, feta cheese and greek dressing. Nothing spectacular — the ingredient that drew me was the lamb, of course. I didn’t know what to expect — maybe chunks of lamb, or ground. But it was slices like you see on gyro sandwiches and it was absolutely delicious.
Dinner was a potluck of sorts provided by friends of Pat and Sandra Conroy’s to celebrate their purchase of a fairly unassuming second home. Not a mansion by any stretch of the imagination. Just a comfortable house with a small side wing that is “Pat’s,” with a library for his 1,000-plus book collection, a den with fireplace and a very small but cozy writing room that overlooks the water.
The back yard and view are what’s spectacular — huge live oaks dripping with Spanish moss, marsh grass and water over which the sun sets. (I think the body of water is part of Port Royal bay — I still don’t quite have my bearings here.) A swing hung from a tree, a hammock and a nice dock with outdoor seating complete the backyard paradise.
Dinner was a simple affair: booze (celebratory champagne, homemade eggnog with bourbon, and wine), mugs of Brunswick stew, mini corn muffins and cookies.
It was a pretty low-key evening — not at all what you might expect of a housewarming for a best-selling author and his novel-writing wife.
How did we come to be there? Pat, another guest named John and my cousin Scott all attended the (in)famous Citadel together. And oddly enough, all three are writers. (Scott and John are attorneys by day, writers in their spare time.)
Since the housewarming was a late-afternoon affair and ended early, mom and I lingered at Scott and Susan’s house over cheese and crackers, more eggnog and Scotch.
Ours was a unique celebration of the winter solstice in South Carolina’s low country. I wonder what today will hold?