Raejean Beattie and her daughter, Eva Winans Camp, didn’t plan to write a cookbook any more than Beattie and her husband, Frank, intended to become the owners of Hopsewee Plantation.
But somehow Beattie and Camp, along with Lori Key, managed to collect some of the best-loved recipes from Hopsewee’s kitchen, package them up in chapters that include starters, main courses, soups, desserts and methods, and then sell signed and numbered copies of “Hopsewee Cooking” through the plantation’s website.
“Several years ago we did a first version,” Beattie said while she rolled and cut out pimento cheese biscuits in the River Oak Cottage Tea Room kitchen. “I just printed them out and sold, oh, probably at least 500 of them. You know, print it out on paper, a little bit of history. It was a temporary thing until we could get some pictures.”
In May, Beattie got serious. She teamed with Key for the design and photographs and turned to a group of friends on Facebook to test the recipes.
Through it all, Beattie, her staff and a widening circle of friends and family adhered to her philosophy, “yeah, I can do that.”
In a way, that’s how the River Oak Cottage was transformed from an office to a restaurant, tea room and increasingly popular site for weddings and other special events.
“Some friends suggested that we have a tea, and I said, ‘Yeah, I can do that,’” Beattie said. “I had about six weeks to obsess about it, buying the tea pots, the cups and saucers, the linens.”
Beattie's teapots now include dozens if not hundreds that she has picked up on her travels or through the internet. She sells her own brand of tea as well as the pots.
For the most part, Beattie smiles through it all and adapts.
“I never thought I would be doing this,” she said, taking out another pan of savories to serve her guests.
She cooks, she waits tables, she serves as hostess, she takes reservations and she even serves as a tour guide.
“About the only thing I don’t do is mow the lawn,” she said.
She doesn’t do it alone though. Camp has helped with the book, taking time from her own restaurant in Dayton, Tennessee. Sarah Lee Washington, among others, handles a lot of the cooking duties, and friends and family members have all contributed to the cookbook.
Frank and Raejean Beattie were in Scotland while friends tested many of the recipes that appear in the hard-bound cookbook that made its debut in November.
“They tested the recipes and made comments that we worked on when we got back,” Beattie said.
The book is more than a cookbook. It showcases Hopsewee’s lush grounds and stately – and not so stately – buildings, a reminder for people who've visited the plantation house and tea cottage, and a lure for those who have not yet made the trip.
Key did the photographs and book design, but Raejean, Frank, Camp and the Hopsewee staff signed off on each recipe and photo before the book went to print.
Built circa 1740, Hopsewee Plantation was one of the South's major rice plantations and the birthplace of Thomas Lynch Jr., one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.
Today, Hopsewee is host to nearly 10,000 visitors a year and the River Oak Cottage offers a full lunch menu and tea from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays from February through November.
The cookbook can be ordered online at https://hopsewee.com/cookbook.html. Hopsewee Plantation is located at 494 Hopsewee Rd., Georgetown. For more information, call 843-546-7891.