25 years of utter joy

Posted on July 28, 2018 in Archives

July 28, 2018: Celebrating 25 years with Mikel Lane Herrington, my truly better half.

Paula Adams, Adele Maddry, and Susan Highfield at a pre-concert cocktail party in my courtyard at 30 Pinckney Street in Charleston, May 31. 1993.

This is where it all began. My friend Adele was visiting from New York, coming to town for the Spoleto Festival, which Gian Carlo Menotti had dubbed “The Festival of Joy” that year — joyous for him, probably, because he had rid the festival of his detractors and adversaries, and because the unfinished one-act opera of the 83-year-old impresario was premiering. I hired a bartender and invited all the single men I could find to the party, including Mikel.

I didn’t really know Mikel. We had met at the gym. He had recently returned from Sussex, where he had gone for post-graduate studies (he already had degrees from Yale and Columbia), so I asked him if he were single, and invited him. Adele was single at the time and she asked me to have a party for her. Everyone had theater tickets of one kind or another, so I invited a few dozen of Charleston’s most interesting folks to come over for cocktails before the shows. My first book had come out the year before and I was busy working on my second. My sister Sue (in photo, above) was running my shop. My longtime friends Tommy and Paula had moved to town. Life was good, but I had no idea just how good it was about to become. Everyone had a lot to drink. This photo of me pretty much nails the mood. I was just drunk enough to be bold enough to ask Mikel for a date, not knowing if he were gay or bisexual or if he could possibly be attracted to me.

Mikel with Jim and Anne Olsen in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. January, 1994.

It took two months, and help from his best friends, Anne and Jim Olsen (who were moving to Mexico shortly thereafter), but I got my first date on July 28, 1993, 25 years ago today. We’ve been together ever since. We got to know each other over the next six months and decided in January that we would begin living together. We went to see Anne and Jim in Mexico and celebrated our newfound love. We sought out folk art in Mexico City, went to see the monarch butterflies in Michoacán, and I drank homemade mezcals with Diana Kennedy, the “Empress of Mexican Cuisine,” at her home in the mountains.

Mikel began working with the Corporation for National and Community Service in 1997, and I closed my bookstore in 1999. As he moved up the ladder at CNCS, we expanded our folk art collection, our community of friends, and his job aspirations. We gardened and traveled. We spent Sunday boating with friends. I wrote three more cookbooks and a novel and a self-help book (the latter two still unpublished).  In 2004 we moved to Washington. I wrote another (unpublished) novel. We met more friends, and we continued to garden and travel. France, Italy, Barbados, New York, Canada, Mexico, Florida, England…. The world was calling us. I had lived in Italy, France, and the Caribbean; Mikel had lived in Bélize, China, and Indonesia. In 2011 he became a Country Director for the Peace Corps. Our first post was in Bulgaria, which he had to close; our second post was in China. Our lives have been filled with unimaginable excitements and a few challenges, but never have we argued. Every day has been a blessing. Most of our meals we have eaten together. I figure I have cooked about 10,000 meals for us. That would be about one/day for 25 years. Any dish in my last three cookbooks we have eaten, and more than once. There are 100s of dishes on this blog from the last 10 years that we eaten. But this blog today isn’t about food, but about the joy of love. In 2010 we were legally married in Washington. Here are some photos thought I would share. They are in no particular order.

At a “Chic n Cozy” party in Sofia, Bulgaria; 2012.

At Villa DunWell with Chuck and the dogs, c. 2010.

at Gilson’s, late 90s?

Eating caramel cake in celebration of my 60th birthday at Ponte Vedra, Florida; 2009.

At the home of Maurice and Liliana Dumas in Washington, with Michel Dumas, c. 2010.

With Keith Strickland and Ella Grace Downs backstage at a B52s concert in Baltimore.

Christmas at Richard Little’s house with Dana and Ella Grace Downs, Richard, Tom Czinger, and Pantaloon

Our last day in our house in DC, after the estate sale, 2011.

At the Georgia Guidestones near Elberton, Georgia, with Dr Ted Keller and Pantaloon.

At Mariana’s house in Kyustendil, Bulgaria, with Dixie and Andy and Vicky.



At Café Max in Paris, 2002.

dinner at home with friends Mijke, Arvind, Yang, and Loubna; Chengdu, China, 2014

Clowning around in Kirstenbosch Gardens in South Africa, 2012.

In Acaya, Puglia, with Ayles, 2012

In Charleston with Pantaloon, c. 2003

In Colorado one Christmas, c. 2000.

In Ireland with Ted Keller and Clay Shackelford

In Hawaii, 2016.

With the Dumas clan and Shannon Paretsky at our home in Washington

With Lord David Evans in New York on the night of our wedding

Our wedding day, April 2, 2010.

at the Justice of the Peace in Washington, just married!

Mikel at the Monarch Preserve in Michocan, Mexico, 1994.

Y2K with Gilson Capilouto; Edisto Beach.

On Mary Edna Fraser’s dock with Dana and Labanna

At Barulè, near Rossiglione, high above Genoa, with Gianni Martini and Paola Rosina.

At Villa DunWell on the Eastern Shore of Maryland with Chuck and Bruce and Ellen and Faith and Max and Pantaloon

In Baltimore with Dana and Ella Grace

In Toulouse

In Woodstock with Philip and Scott and Simba and Dean and Kate and Melvin

Deep-frying ducks with Bob Waggoner in Charleston.

Mikel with Mrs. Obama

Me cracking up with Questria

a reunion in Savannah

In Pop’s pool with Pantaloon,Socastee, SC

In Provence

impromptu dinner party in Sofia, Bulgaria

at Folly Beach

In Sofia with Valentina and Mila and friends

Eating at an odd little antiques/food shop we liked in Chengdu

In Africa with Angelina

In Africa with Mitko

In Bulgaria with Michel and Roman and Rado

In the China Peace Corps office on Mikel’s birthday

In DC with Jennifer

In Genoa at Ester’s.

With Sue in Sofia

Frying fish at a celebration for Anne and Jim’s anniversary; Florida 2003.

In Greece

In Washington

Love among the ruins in Ireland

In Leshten, an amazing village in Bulgaria with Tracy and Dilyana and Grisha.

In NYC for Christo’s Gates with lotsa friends — Kate and Monica, Clay and Keller, Dana and Leigh and Ella Grace and Amanda, Mark and Tomas, Tekla, Ted, Clay, and Cakeboy.

In Florida with margaritas

In San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. We were getting ready to live together. January, 1994.

In Koh Lanta, Thailand

In Toulon with Gianni and Paola at the Florence Henri exhibition

at home in Bulgaria with some of the Peace Corps staff

In Ireland

eating Turkish food in Bulgaria with Jenn and Questria

on Charleston Harbor

Portrait of me at home in Charleston by Peter Frank Edwards for Charleston Magazine, 2003.

Y2K with Scot Hinson at Edisto Beach

Pouring Champagne for Mary Edna Fraser on James Island. Photo by David Malosh

In Bulgaria with Dana

With Tsiika Tacheva at her home in Chiprovsti, Bulgaria, with the beautiful tapestry we bought from her.

Me with Madeleine Kamman at Pinckney Street Café in Charleston

Wherever we go, margaritas! This is in our kitchen in Bulgaria

With Brigitte Arndt in Summerville, SC

Mikel with great nephews Jake and Thomas

With Barbie at Christmas

Partying on Pinckney Street, mid-90s, with Robin Shuler and Mary Edna Fraser.

Iranian dinner with Kelsey and Abtin

With Judy in Barbados

On Dun Cove with Nancy and Sue

Margaritas with Mary Edna and John in Sofia

Obama hug

with friends from Syria and Korea in China

Rainy safari in Africa

in Transylvania

With Terry McNally on the Eastern Shore

Oyster roast with Mary Edna. Photo by David Malosh

Shrimping for Vogue magazine. Mikel and I had just gotten together. 1993.

With Tracy in Chengdu

Mikel with Obamas

with Ann and Larry in Provence

with Sue at Villa DunWell

with Chuck and Bruce at Villa DunWell

In South Africa. Two hats.

With Deb at Pink House, Edisto Beach

With cousins and brother Mike

With Dixie, recently