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The Soul Food Expo dished up some fine grub

Collards, limas, and pulled pork was had by all

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By the fourth ticket, we were already stuffed, but we had five more tickets to go and twice as many samples to be eaten.

If good food was the measure, then the first Lowcountry Soul Food Expo was a rousing success. Vendors had steaming pans full of classic soul food delights like fried whiting, okra soup, macaroni and cheese, and collards. Oh, the collards. Hot Pot Soul Food had a meaty pan of braised greens that were hard not to slurp up in a hurry.

A few tables over, Chef Frisco from Cajun Kountry Kitchen was handing out samples of gator sausages and serving up big plates of gumbo, red beans and rice, and etouffee. Mmm. Makes me drool just thinking about it.

Craves Soul Food, whose Regina Saunders was the principal organizer of the event, had lots to try, including an unforgettable sweet bread pudding.

Despite being completely stuffed, we soldiered on and got some perfectly seasoned lima beans and rice along with some fried pork chop and fried fish from the lovely ladies at the Bertha's Kitchen table. And then at Joe's Catering Table we asked for a small bite of the pulled pork, but they piled the sample cup sky-high — and we gobbled down every last bite. We also couldn't pass up a classic okra soup that made our mouths sing in happiness. But we finally ended the madness with a perfect bite of sweet potato cake from the fine folks at First Avenue.

The afternoon was a nice, laid-back celebration of the Lowcountry's soul food standard-bearers. And if you didn't go, you missed out on a heck of a deal. For $6 at the door, you got to eat and eat and eat until you couldn't eat no more. And you got to taste for yourself, once again, what makes the South so special. It's yams and iced tea so sweet they'll make your teeth rot, but it's also the people behind the food, who cook it with the love of their grandmothers, utilizing the traditions that have been handed down for generations. I can't wait until next year. Until then, I guess I'll have to head up to Bertha's to get me some more of those limas.

The first event took over the Village Hall in Park Circle for a lip-smacking taste of Charleston's soul.

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