Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Woman Behind the Golden Eggs

Celeste Albers is an iconic figure in the Lowcountry farming community. Her Sea Island Eggs are coveted by Charleston restaurants, and at the GO, we are lucky to serve them.

Cracking one open reveals a yolk as golden as a sunset. They literally make our bearnaise, deviled eggs, and desserts. During the heat of summer when the hens simply refuse to lay enough, we enter a time of mourning. We substitute other high-quality, farm-fresh eggs, but the bearnaise turns a pale yellow, more reminiscent of the washed-out midday sun than its evening splendor.

So who is the woman behind the golden eggs? Celeste’s roots lie in the Lowcountry. Her grandfather shrimped in Bulls Bay and ran a country store on Highway 17 near Awendaw. However, her father left farming to earn an accounting degree and wound up working for DuPont in Delaware. She remembers that he hated his job, and he eventually ended up back in Awendaw, farming the family land.

In 1993, Celeste moved down with her baby daughter, Erin, and joined him. She began selling their produce at the fledgling Charleston Farmers Market. There she met George Albers, who was selling his own produce. Celeste remembers that George used to stop by her booth, buy some of her wild blackberries, and chat for a while.

“It was the blackberries that did it,” says Celeste. “George stole me away from my dad, and before you knew it we had one booth instead of two.”

Together, they have navigated the rough terrain of making a living off the land. They have grown vegetables, shrimped, and finally raised chickens and cows. None of it has proven easy, especially since they lease rather than own their property -- negating any meager security you might expect a farmer to have. Furthermore, they physically labor every day of the year.

But Celeste maintains that she would rather this than a lifetime of working a job she hates. These days they do seem to have found their niche: focusing on their egg and raw milk production. And among those in the know, their product has achieved a cult-like following.

At the GO, we regularly receive phone calls from avid Celeste fans wanting to reserve their eggs and milk, and I truly understand their reverence. When the eggs become scarce, I reserve them for use only in our bread pudding, and with each of the 40 eggs I crack, I give thanks to Celeste.

1 comment:

  1. I saw this on Facebook, and I'm proud to say Celeste is my cousin. I live far away, and I'll never forget one day a few years ago when I visited and went with Celeste on her delivery rounds. It completely astonished me how the chefs to whom we delivered rhapsodized about her eggs and (then) produce...one even made me sit right down, right then, and try a dish he made using what we had just brought. That experience really made me appreciate locally grown agriculture, and the relationships formed in the process.