The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen cookbook ($35) is all about hidden surprises, much like the city around which it's based.
The recipes, taken à la carte, are delicious and inventive, illustrated with florid photography. But it doesn't take long before you realize that they are but breadcrumbs leading you to a series of delightful discoveries about a quirky place and its people.
Ted and Matt Lee have done their homework, plucking jewels from Charleston's rich culinary history and placing them in contemporary context: An aside about the misconception of pork's presence in the South (it only became a fixture on Charleston tables in the late 20th century) is dosed with instructions for preparing a gorgeous fresh ham, which, they suggest, should be purchased at one of the city's by-appointment-only butcher shops.
Citrus desserts are laced with pranksterish danger, as the Lees reveal a propensity among Charlestonians for pilfering fruit from their neighbors' backyards.
Even collard greens, which we thought had no mystery left in them, become a shared secret. The brothers reveal an invention called the collard sandwich, in which day-old cooked greens are piled atop bread with mayonnaise and cheddar cheese, then broiled. The simple genius of it felt like finding a $100 bill in last year's winter coat.