Saturday, December 16, 2017
Cooking

An engagement ring and a tomato pie in Charleston

I remember exactly when Danny and I met: Oct. 1, 2010. We were newspaper interns sharing a breaking news beat and an address, each renting a room in a house with another woman and a cat.

One night, walking on Bayshore Boulevard after dinner, he almost kissed me.

On a trip to Ikea, he almost kissed me.

Until finally, one day, he did. By Thanksgiving, we were together.

By February, I said I love you. By spring, we had keys to our first apartment. And by this time next year, we'll be married.

Two weeks ago on a weekend trip to Charleston, S.C., Danny proposed! I said yes, of course.

We went to Charleston to get engaged, but we were also there to eat well. The biscuits, crawfish, shrimp and grits, benne wafers, the pork — I love it all. Have you heard of tomato pie? It's a Southern dish and it's a big thing in Charleston. I have wanted to make tomato pie for some time now. Picture pie crust cradling fresh tomato slices, herbs, cheese, and, yes, mayo. This is a Southern recipe after all. More old-fashioned tomato pies slather the tomatoes with a top layer of mayonnaise and cheese, but I couldn't resist letting the tomatoes take center stage. It looked too pretty so I tucked the mayo and cheese mostly underneath. I know it's not high time for tomatoes just yet, but I couldn't wait. Summer feels like it's here.

I can't wait any longer for tomatoes. For July. For pool days and a new pair of sandals. For the slowdown of time and fierce sunshine that seems to become part of me.

I can't wait for a wedding in Miami.

That weekend in Charleston was perfect, and I want to return every April to be reminded of those magical days and being in love in a city that now feels as if it's somehow ours. A certain spot off of Queen Street certainly feels like it belongs to us.

We went back to the same spot the next morning to take pictures and it was even more lovely during the day. A few people were setting up a pop-up brunch. It turns out this alley has many names (Dueler's Alley, Philadelphia Alley, Cow Alley) and is rumored to be haunted. It has history. And I love knowing that now it shares some of our history, too.

Ileana Morales is a writer who cooks in a small apartment kitchen in Tampa with fiance Danny Valentine, an education reporter for the Tampa Bay Times. For more of their kitchen adventures, visit Ileana's blog, alittlesaffron.com. She can be reached at [email protected]

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