VertaMae Smart-Grovesnor claimed her Gullah heritage when others were running away from it. She fashioned herself a food anthropologist before Southern and African American Studies were widespread. She combined organic and traditional intellectualism, told great stories, produced documentaries, and fed us righteous food to boot!
Dear Reader, I want to thank you for stopping by. Now, I have to confess something: I don’t know where to start, where to go in the body of this blog post, and how to end it. So, if you want to take your leave, Reader, I understand. If you take a notion, stick around and sit with me for a spell.
And there is a perfectly good reason why I cannot start, stretch out, and end this essay: the woman who is the topic of my essay. There is a majesty to VertaMae Smart Grovesnor. America saw her for years on PBS as a television chef. I came to her through a picture in the Norton Anthology of African American Literature v.2, 3rd edition. There was a picture of her with other Black women writers, and the picture read, “Toni Morrison and Her Writing Circle.”
Now, I downloaded this from somebody’s Pinterest account. But this picture is included in the anthology. I looked at that picture for a full five minutes. It contained all of the women writers whose work I have come to love, know, and teach. However, there was one woman writer, standing in a patterned jacket to the left, who I had never heard of and could not say that I had read any. I read the picture’s of her writing. Her name was included in the caption and I looked for her in the anthology, but she was not there. Well, anybody who knows Morrison knows that she did not pal around with light-weights. This woman, VertaMae Smart-Grovesnor, according to the caption, must have been a dynamic storyteller and writer. I looked her up and saw this beautiful picture.
I cannot remember what website contained this picture, but I remember staring it for a while. It’s beautiful. I discovered that this Black woman of Geechee/Gullah roots had a show on PBS for decades and I never saw it or heard of her. Then, there were pictures of Julie Dash, the…