For most of the 1980s and ’90s, our grandmother, Elizabeth Maxwell, rented a tiny brick house hidden behind a grander home on Meeting Street in Charleston, South Carolina. Her stocky dwelling had served in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as the separate kitchen house for the large stucco mansion directly in front of it—detached, so that the occasional hearth or chimney fire wouldn’t engulf the entire property. The place was perfectly suited to our Gran, partly because of its size—she’d been widowed since 1971—but more so because she was a passionate cook and an ardent recipe collector and she loved to entertain.Share
In 1997, Gran’s landlady and friend, Elizabeth Young, who lived in the big house, became a widow too, and for several years the two of them were very much in demand on the South-of-Broad reception, wedding, and cocktail circuit, attending a party—if not two, and often three—most nights. Heels clacking, pocketbooks swinging, they’d set out around 6 p.m. in Mrs. Young’s black Taurus, always parked in front of the wrought-iron gate, for a leisurely evening of open bars, cheese bites, finger sandwiches, and shrimp every which way.
People would casually remark—We don’t know where they get the energy! At their age!