Suzanne Pollack and Lee Manigault are the duo behind the Charleston Academy of Domestic Pursuits. The ladies, known as The Deans, host classes and events that cover everything from beer brewing to making your own edible gifts and packaging. Even with the growing number of world-class restaurants in Charleston, turning one’s home into a themed eatery is a South Carolina pastime. After producing our May/June Wander story on Charleston, AFAR wondered whether our notions about what a proper Charleston bash meant might be a little outdated. So we ran the following ideas past The Deans to see if we knew how to do it right.
AFAR: If it’s not fried, don’t eat it.
THE DEANS: The modern culinary arts have finally reached Charleston shores. No longer does going out mean being accosted by macaroni cheese, Jell-o molds and fried chicken. The legions of fried foods persist because that’s what ya’ll expect when you visit Charleston. But The Deans can assure you that in our kitchens we braise, poach, sauté and even sous vide if needed.
Restaurants like Husk, Macintosh, and Fig are part of the locavore movement that is breaking the fried-food stereotype in Charleston. Only fresh produce and meat from South Carolina and neighboring states is used to make dishes such as mustard-crusted grey triggerfish and confit duck leg with glazed beets. Marion Square farmers market is a popular haunt for residents on Saturdays from April to December.
AFAR: Manners matter—Yes ma’am, yes sir.
THE DEANS: If there comes a time when good manners are no longer in vogue, we hope we are in our graves long before. Manners exist so we don’t offend one another when we go out in public. “Yes ma’am” and “yes sir” are only the frosting. The Deans use their dining room table as a classroom for our children, where manners and etiquette can be taught and reinforced on a daily basis. A quick tip: always leave the blade of your knife toward the plate and your napkin on the seat.
AFAR: Southern hospitality is key—strangers welcome.
How else can the wheels of society turn if we don’t expand our social network on a regular basis? If The Deans take a shine to someone, that person can be assured of an invitation to one of our houses shortly.
One Charleston party staple is an oyster roast. It’s a cold weather affair where pounds of mollusks are steamed on sheet metal over a coal fire. A wet towel is thrown over the oysters to create the steam. Once cooked, guests stand around outdoor tables and shuck the seafood—discarding the empty shells in a center pit. We guarantee you’ll make plenty of new friends by throwing one of these.
AFAR: On time means strolling in fifteen minutes late.
Not in Charleston. Not ever. Six o’clock means six o’clock, not 6:15, not 6:30. This is not a generational divide. Events in Charleston start at the appointed time.
AFAR: Collared shirts for the guys, dresses to the ankles for the girls.
It is common for men to wear blazers for dinner parties, but there is no firm dress code. Fashion trends are always changing and Charlestonians keep up with the times. In the South, even men know how to dress to the nines. Places like the Carolina Yacht Club host annual black tie events that are men-only affairs. Don’t worry ladies, we enjoy exclusive get-togethers too.
AFAR: No evites. Paper only.
Absolutely! Our favorite place is RSVP Shoppe on Broad Street. Not only are paper invitations a must, so are paper thank you notes. All notes are handwritten, with recipients names underlined in the bottom corner. Did we mention the cards are always dropped off and never mailed?
For more information about what The Deans are up to at the Academy, visit charlestonacademyofdomesticpursuits.com.