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Don't tell Matt Lee that Charleston is a "foodie" town. He'll quickly tell you it's a food town, pure and simple.
"Charleston is so unique as a food culture," said Lee, one half of the James Beard Award-winning brother team of cookbook writers. As children, Matt and Ted Lee moved to Charleston with their parents into a warbler-yellow townhouse – built in 1784 – on Rainbow Row, the city's famous stretch of pastel-painted houses on East Bay Street.
The duo's latest cookbook, "The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen," highlights the city's cuisine with narrative and recipes that will resonate with both food lovers and cultural explorers.
The two will make appearances in Greenville and Spartanburg later this month.
Their Greenville appearance will be on March 20 for Fiction Addiction's "Book Your Lunch" program. A $65 ticket will buy lunch at The Lazy Goat, a copy of the book, a question-and-answer session with the Lee Bros. and a book signing.
The Lee Bros. will be in Spartanburg on March 21 for a Literary Lunch sponsored by the Hub City Writers Project. For $60, ticket holders will get a three-course tasting menu prepared by the chefs at Cribbs Kitchen, a signed copy of the book and a meet-and-greet with the authors. A $90 VIP ticket will include all that, early entry, a specially prepared additional course and premier seating with the Lee Bros. during lunch.
"The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen" highlights some of the foods and cooks that say "Charleston," Matt Lee said in a telephone interview. "Charleston's home cooking life is so distinct. It is such a rich place for raw materials."
From loquat Manhattans to Huguenot torte to shrimp and grits, the recipes feature ingredients that have been used by Charleston cooks for centuries.
The book also tells the larger story of Charleston's home cooks and food eccentrics that have made the town such a compelling place to cook.
And there's boiled peanuts, the distinctively Southern delicacy that started the Lee brothers' ascent to fame.
They were living in New York City and homesick, Matt Lee said. They missed the foods they ate in Charleston, including boiled peanuts. They bought some raw peanuts and cooked them in their apartment. Their boiled peanuts made the New York Times and they began selling them through their "The Lee Bros. Boiled Peanuts Catalogue."
Matt Lee said the brothers researched the new cookbook for two years.
"We turned up some great stories," he said. "We could do five more volumes."
The Lee Bros. won the James Beard award for Cookbook of the Year in 2007 for "The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook." They are contributing editors for Travel + Leisure magazine and contributors on the Cooking Channel's "Unique Eats."