French Fry Research

The 2017 ENG 397 Food Research Team has spent the semester studying opinions of french fries across Elon’s campus. The following results are based on a survey of 116 Elon students of varying genders, ages, and geographies.


We found that brand loyalty and reputation, both at fast-food and sit down restaurants, was of moderate significance to an individual’s overall opinion of a specific french fry. On a scale of 1-5, one being not at all important and five being extremely important, brand loyalty and reputation received an average importance of 2.9.


Aside from brand, our survey found that several other aspects of french fries matter to an individual’s overall opinion of them. These include: crispiness vs. softness (on a scale of 1-5, 1 being very crispy and 5 being very soft, our respondents had an average score of 2.2) and shape (ie: curly fry, waffle fry, shoestring, steak fry, etc).


Whe then asked for opinions of the following fast-food french fries: Bojangles, Cookout, Chick-Fil-A, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Burger King. East establishment’s french fries were rated on a scale of 1-5, one being the worst and 5 being the best. Overwhelmingly, our results indicate that Chick-Fil-A is the most popular fast-food restaurant among Elon students (average rating of 4.0). This came as a surprise to us, as most of the survey respondents are not from the south, and therefore were not raised on Chick-Fil-A french fries. While the following cannot be said with confidence, we do believe that the shape of Chick-Fil-A’s fries, waffle fries, plays into the french fries’ popularity. As aforementioned, 88.8% of survey respondents noted that the shape of the french fry does affect their overall opinion of it. Chick-Fil-A is the only fast-food restaurant on our list that offers french fries that deviate from the traditional shape, which could account for its popularity over the other fast-food choices.


Our survey also set out to gather data about french fries from sit down establishments. When asked if they prefered french fries from sit-down establishments versus fast-food restaurants, a near even split occurred in the data: 51.3% of respondents prefer sit-down french fries, while 48.7% prefer fast-food. We further asked our respondents to list the name of their favorite sit-down restaurant to order fast food fries from. While answered varied–Hop’s Burger Bar, Red Robin, etc.–the majority of respondents said that The Root in Elon, NC was there favorite sit-down restaurant for french fries. While this finding is interesting, we are aware of the possible bias, because The Root is located on Elon’s campus. Respondents might have thought that they needed to list a restaurant on campus, or some might eat most frequently at The Root because they don’t have a car to travel to other restaurants.

The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific

By Nicole Galante

Author: J. Maarten Troost

Title: The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific

Publisher: Broadway Books

Publication Date: June 8, 2004

Length: 272 Pages

Price: $10.20 on Amazon




A lighthearted tale of extreme wanderlust, The Sex Lives of Cannibals chronicles the adventures of Maarten Troost and his fiancé as they abandon their cushy lives in DC for the remote atoll of Tarawa in the equatorial pacific. To accurately envision the scale of Tarawa, think of the smallest and most remote land you can imagine—and then cut the remoteness and the land area in half, and then in half again. This is Tarawa: just over 100 square miles, the largest atoll in the Kiribati (pronounced “Kiri-bas”) Islands, smack dab in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, along the equator.


Straight out of grad school and in search of adventure, Maarten and his fiancé Sylvia quit their jobs in Washington, DC upon Sylvia’s hiring by an international nonprofit. They were shortly thereafter sent to Tarawa, the adventure they’d been hoping for. Maarten, well, he planned to come along for the ride, relax, and maybe write a novel; and come along for the ride he did, but relaxation and writing? Not so much. Tarawa was anything but what he expected. It turns out that the equator is, well, hot. So hot, in fact, hat Maarten has a difficult time remember what it feels like to not be drenched in sweat.. The cultural differences between him and Sylvia and the I-Kiribati were steep. Maarten explains that he could get on board with drinking at all hours of the day, but defecating in the water for everyone to see was a hard no. Other things were less easy to pick and choose: Maarten and Sylvia ate fish for nearly every meal, because apparently, as he found out, shipping resources to a small atoll in the middle of the South Pacific is harder than it seems; they listened La Macarena on a two-year endless loop, because just like the food, there was little musical variety; and they learned to live in close proximity with bugs, and stopped blinking over picking ants out of their food. They wanted adventure, and adventure they surely encountered.


Despite these challenges, Maarten and Sylvia stuck it out in Tarawa for nearly two years. Through his insightful and comical narrative, Maarten paints a picture of his life in a new home—albeit, a strange home—that taught him about friendship, culture, and community.


Review and Reflection:


Travel writing can sometimes be dry, too factual and tedious to get through. As a reader, these are the very characteristics that turn me off of most travel writing; so, needless to say, I expected a lot from The Sex Lives of Cannibals when I began reading… and I was certainly not disappointed. Troost’s narrative is witty, charismatic, and funny. Side splittingly funny, to be precise. The very setting of Tarawa can seem depressing to most at first glance. Not only is it small, but it is also heavily polluted and depleted of important resources. It is so small and overlooked that most historians and readers only associate Tarawa with a bloody battle from World War II (“Battle of Tarawa – World War II”). Despite these characteristics that would make most, myself admittedly included, run as far from Tarawa as possible, Troost embraces that which is unfamiliar to him with humor. It makes for a lighthearted book that is easy for all to enjoy. Even if you can’t relate directly with life on Tarawa, you can relate with Troost’s clever humor.


Readers should not mistake the overwhelming humor of Troost’s narrative for a lack of depth. I learned as much as I laughed while reading The Sex Lives of Cannibals. Each chapter in this book addresses a different aspect of life in Tarawa. This includes the nation’s history, the ways of its people, and important political and human rights issues that currently plague the people of Tarawa and beyond. Consequently, insight into Sylvia’s work with the I-Kiribati government reveals the complexities of foreign policy and problem solving. I’d venture to say that the majority of Americans don’t know the first thing about life in the South Pacific. I couldn’t imagine a more animated way to learn than through narratives like Troost’s.


Many customer reviews of The Sex Lives of Cannibals accuse Troost of being too funny, too all over the place ( They assert that his humor is overbearing. Some even go as far as to criticize Troost of appropriating a culture by using the I-Kiribati as the punchline of his jokes. Furthermore, each chapter is interconnected in a loose way. While the book never felt disjointed to me, some reviewers felt like the overall narrative lacked a common thread, and an overall point.


After an in depth read of The Sex Lives of Cannibals, I choose to take these criticisms with a grain of salt. In fact, I argue that they are too narrow, and analyzing Troost’s thoughtful narrative through such a scope limits the important themes to be gained.


Beyond the humor lies a deep appreciation for the I-Kiribati culture. Troost’s adventure into the South Pacific began quickly, and he dove in headfirst. It is for this reason, I believe, that the overall contents of the book can be interpreted as disjointed; however, the nature of good travel writing is usually spontaneous. The spontaneity of Troost’s journey to Tarawa allows for a narrative free of most ethnocentrism. While he does come to the atoll expecting one thing and receives another, the narrative never takes a negative turn for the worst—not even when Maarten gets fed up with his neighbors defecating in the ocean. It is this “pure” line of inquiry that shows how appreciative Troost is of the people and culture that adopt him. Humor aside, the narrative its and intentions are genuine.


Not only does The Sex Lives of Cannibals introduce readers to the spontaneous nature of traveling and an appreciation for those who are different, but it also echoes with important messages of community and friendship. Maarten explains how interdependent the I-Kiribati society is, so much so that is throws Americans like me for a loop. A prime example of this is the bubiti system, the practice of declaring that you would like to have something that belongs to someone else, and that someone else is obligated to give you what they desire. Similarly in Tarawa, boundaries are often ignored, resources are shared, and the overall atmosphere is low stress with little competition. None of this is familiar to Maarten at first, but over the course of his two years he learns to appreciate this new way of doing things. Along the way, he even makes friends in the most unlikely of places. Cultural differences mean little to Maarten or the people of I-Kiribati, who are always welcoming, despite the little they have to share.


The story of Maarten and Sylvia Troost is by no means common. Furthermore, the culture of the I-Kiribati is guaranteed to be unfamiliar to most who choose to read this book. Despite these two facts, there is so much to learn, so much to gain, and so much to relate to in The Sex Lives of Cannibals. It’s more than a funny book, or a series of anecdotes: it is a valuable narrative about an interesting group of people, and all the oddities that happen when wanderlust casts you adrift in the equatorial pacific.


References: Staff. “Battle of Tarawa.”, A&E Television Networks, 2009,

“The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific Paperback – June 8,



Tracks Essay Review

By Laura Dunbar

Tracks: A Woman’s Solo Trek Across 1,700 Miles of Australian Outback, written by Robyn Davidson and originally published in 1980 by Vintage, is 288 pages and can be purchased for $15.95 at Barnes and Noble.


Tracks tells the journey of Robyn Davidson, a 27-year-old woman who travels across the Australian desert to the sea with just four camels and her dog. Davidson starts her trip with little money and little plans, simply taking a train and arriving in Alice Springs. While there, she instantly takes notice of the treatment of Aboriginal people, saying, “The blacks were unequivocally the enemy,” an observation that she sees more and more after embarking on her trip, and a cultural aspect that she thoroughly explores throughout the entirety of the book.


In order to cross the desert with camels, Davidson first needs to learn about and acquire camels of her own, which leads her to Kurt, owner of a camel farm. Though Kurt treats Davidson horribly and eventually drives her away, he teaches her a lot about camels and instills in her an undying love for the animals, whose company Davidson soon learns she prefers to that of people. Davidson eventually acquires her own camel and trains them to accompany her on the trip. She gains funding from National Geographic, with which comes the presence of a photographer, Rick, who meets up with Davidson multiple times throughout her trip, despite her dismay.


Davidson goes on a portion of her trip walking alongside Eddie, an old Aboriginal man, whom she grows a strong friendship with. Along her travels with Eddie, she finds herself shedding her old European ways, and becoming a different kind of person. She becomes so intimately connected with the land, with the Australian country, that she is able to feel things on a gut level, is able to decipher relationships between everyone and everything. The person she was before the trip soon becomes the enemy.


Finally, with the help of Rick and others, Davidson reaches the end of her trip at Carnarvon—the sea. She and her camels are mesmerized, and spend the final week of the trip on that beach, celebrating in its waters. She was devastated to see her trip end, and experienced immense culture shock at her arrival home, and then to the United States. She fears that the mentality she gained on her trip will never return, and feels almost separate now from the woman she was then. She ends her book, however, by saying, “Camel trips. . . do not begin or end, they merely change form” (261).


 Larger Cultural Implications

Something interesting about Davidson as a narrator is that she is not inherently likeable. She does not have a specific reason to be going on the trip, and it left me wondering who, in their right mind, would choose to trek across so many miles completely alone. Her aloneness throughout the book almost made her unrelatable, as she repeatedly talks about the fact that she prefers being alone than being with others and that she prefers the company of animals to humans. Through the process of reading her journey, however, I realized that her difference to myself is part of what made the book so fascinating, as I was able to learn about a concept so foreign to myself. She also gains likeability in her conversations about deeper, cultural implications, and was able to make me really examine the culture that she explored.


Throughout her book, Davidson does a great deal of cultural examination. Davidson thoroughly explains the way that the Aborigines are treated in Australian society. They are constantly put down and society makes it impossible for them to rise back up, as their lands are taken away and their education is not prioritized. When Davidson originally went on the trip, a goal of hers was to somehow change this view of Aborigines, to prove that their culture is important and interesting and should be well appreciated, but found herself unable to immerse into that culture. On page 167, Davidson says, “No white person can fully enter Aboriginal reality and the more you learn, the more you’re aware of that vast gap of knowledge and understanding.” Despite her inability to completely penetrate the Aboriginal culture, Davidson was still enlightened multiple times throughout the trip by what these people were like. The people that she met, like her companion Eddie, did not fit the standards that had them so low on the Australian totem pole. She says of him, “And I wondered as we walked along, how the word ‘primitive’ with all its subtle and nasty connotations ever got to be associated with people like this” (164). Davidson hoped that by sharing stories like this, by explaining the ways of the Aborigines, she could somehow change the negative perception of them.


Davidson thinks that her efforts to change Aboriginal treatment were unsuccessful, but I disagree. I was a reader that went into this book with little to no knowledge of the treatment of Aboriginals in Australia, yet found myself shocked with some of the stories she told of their past and present. If I ever were to travel to Australia, I would abandon the notions of belittlement of these people because of the image that Davidson created of them in her book. If she was able to form my mind in this way, I’m sure that other readers were affected as well.


Just as her depiction of Aboriginal culture informed my life, Davidson allowed it to inform hers as well. She says towards the end of her trip, “And once again I compared European society with Aboriginal. The one so archetypally paranoid, grasping, destructive, the other so sane. I didn’t want ever to leave this desert. I knew that I would forget” (202). Davidson obtains a fear so relatable to all who have traveled before and after her, one that I relate to myself. After spending a semester abroad in Italy, I became starkly aware of the differences in my own culture and the one that I was now living in. I adopted a new way of being, as one does when traveling. I remember that fear on the plane back to America that I would lose this new self, that I, like Davidson, would forget. It is a fear, however, that is unavoidable, for both myself and for Davidson.


Davidson’s book explores another large implication in the perception of women, which becomes clear to her in Alice Springs. She says, on page 18, “One does not have to delve too deeply to discover why some of the world’s angriest feminists breathed crisp blue Australian air during their formative years, before packing their kangaroo-skin bags and scurrying over to London or New York or any place where the antipodean machismo would fade gently from their battle-scarred consciousnesses like some grisly nightmare at dawn.” In Alice Springs, Davidson learns of an unparalleled misogyny, and attempts to fight the image of women with her trip.


Davidson feels, however, that her trip did the opposite. She wanted to prove to women that they really could do anything, but found herself branded as someone who could do things that others could not. Davidson explores the treatment of girls and how they are made to believe that they cannot do everything, that fear must ground their every action. Though she worries that she failed to combat this idea, I disagree. After reading her book, I think she made it clear that fear should not control choices. As a woman myself, I am aware of the inherent fear that is bred into girls at a young age that inhibits them from achieving certain goals. I believe Davidson’s trip was inspiring, and Tracks definitely has further implications for women at large.



Inquiry and Research Methods

Davidson employed methods of active research. In the entire first section of the book, she is learning how to work with and train camels. She learns a lot in this process, and even comes face to face with real, life threatening fears during it, like when her own camel, Dookie, became wild and almost killed her. Davidson’s methods challenged my typical mindset of research and inquiry, which typically were limited to sitting behind a computer screen and looking up information. Davidson was able to learn so much simply by going out, by putting herself into a new culture, by traveling.


Davidson asked many research questions regarding the treatment of blacks in Australia. She included a lot of background information in her book about Aboriginal people’s past and how their treatment today affects the lives that they live. She wondered why this was, and though she knew that she did not agree with their poor treatment, she did ask the question of what these people were really like. Davidson’s method of answering this question was by going out and traveling through Aboriginal towns, meeting Aboriginal people, and learning all about their culture. As I discussed previously, she answered these questions successfully by making making Aboriginal friends and understanding their culture in a deep, although still separate, way. She did not take a broad route in answering her research questions. By relating her findings to specific people that she met, Davidson was able to relate the Aboriginal people to her readers. I felt as if I really knew these people that she came across, and felt as if they were ma

king an impact on my own life as well as Davidson’s. She successfully got across to readers why the treatment of those people was so misplaced, so wrong.


Davidson also teaches readers a lot about camels. Though she anthropomorphizes them, she is able to get the audience to truly appreciate the animals, to fall in love with these animals in the same way that she has. Before reading Tracks, I understood camels as giant, smelly, spitting creatures. After the book, however, I see how they can be loved as pets, as companions, as massive, majestic creatures who command respect. The camels truly felt like developed characters as in a novel in Davidson’s book, and she was able to create a bond between them and her readers.



Personal Research

Prior to reading Tracks, I had a very limited understanding of Australia and its culture. Although that was part of the reason I chose the book—to learn about a culture completely foreign to me—it did make some of my reading challenging. When I think of Australia, I think of developed places that are similar to the United States, like Brisbane or Sydney. This culture was not, however, what Davidson was exploring. I had to do a lot of research pertaining to the Aboriginal people of Australia and the towns in which they live. I looked up a lot about where Davidson traveled and how those places differ from the other parts of Australia, although Davidson provided a much fuller picture of these people through her first hand accounts.


Davidson was funded by National Geographic, so I also looked up the article that was written about her and the multiple pictures that were taken of her. I was fascinated looking at the pictures, seeing real life versions of what Davidson spoke of in her book. It is interesting to note, however, that Davidson claims these pictures do not communicate the true story, do not seem representative of her trip in the way that she sees and remembers it. I do believe that after reading her book, I was able to cultivate an informed idea of what went on behind the pictures, so that they meant more to me than they may have to someone who did not read her book. I think this underlines just how personal of an experience travel really is, and that it is extremely difficult to capture one’s feelings during their travel.


Tracks has also been made into a critically acclaimed film, and though I haven’t seen it yet, I am greatly looking forward to it!

Possibly the World’s Greatest: A Review of The Almost Nearly Perfect People

By Andrew Scott

In the digital globalized age, the Scandinavian secret has gotten out. The once stereotyped quiet and content peoples of the North have come to fame as having crafted a Huxley-esque utopia of socialist framework, fishing trade, and Volvos. The region has emerged as a leader in global happiness, education, and equality for decades now and the rest of the world is starting to catch on to this success. Each country can easily pick a headline declaring their people “The Happiest on Earth,” or their cities “The Greatest City in Europe” with something to the effect of the Scandinavians are doing something right that the rest of us can’t comprehend.  However, the paradise imagined of the natural North has had a rocky history. The economic pressure, wartime strife, and recent surge of immigration have all created chinks in the Nordic armor.  Danes, Swedes, Norwegians, Finns, and Icelanders may all carry some distant Viking related genes, but they are hardly as unified as the picture painted by modern media displays. Travel writer, Michael Booth, seeks to find out what makes the Scandinavians reliably continue to tick like a grandfather clock in his 2014 book The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia.


About the Author


Michael Booth is a British journalist, traveler, and food writer who has been employed by such renowned outlets as Conde Nast Traveler and Independent on Sunday. His 2010 book, “Sushi and Beyond: What the Japanese Know About Cooking” was a critical success and began the partnership with Picador Publishing continued into this travelogue. Having over a decade’s experience in Scandinavia, Booth’s wife and children are all Danish, as well as endless travels across the region. Booth’s interpretation of the region comes from a place of respect for the culture, love of the people, and undeniably skeptical about the policies and “utopic” essence of the systems. In a series of research based chronicles of his travels across the region, the author dives deep into the crux of each nationality without forgetting how they all intertwine.




One of the immediate takeaways from Booth’s discoveries is that the Scandinavian’s have resounding differences from country to country. Often this region is given blanket descriptions: blonde, tall, and pop music sensations. Or Vikings, love for German engineering, and bushy beards. While the Scandinavian countries don’t have the blatant descriptors of their people like their fellow Europeans the Italians, French, and English, they do have subtle intricacies that differentiate themselves in a variety of ways. Detecting the differences amongst the region can be a much more difficult process; however, the differences are there, underneath layer after layer of winter-weather clothing and reserved contented protection. To begin, each country has their own discrete characteristics: Norway is blessed with oil revenue that will last for lifetimes, Denmark has the happiest and patriotic people on Earth, Icelandic people are so few and far between that they are easily only separated by one or two degrees, the Finns have an identity crisis between Swedish and Russian roots as well as a crippling anti-depressant dependency, and the Swedes are some of the most focused people on equality that manners are almost completely thrown out. Each country has a unique relationship to one another across the history of Europe spanning centuries, a fact that doesn’t allow generations to pass without remembering the tumultuous relations of the past.




The differences between the peoples of Scandinavia are listed in detail within the context of “The Almost Nearly Perfect People;” however, I believe that one of the chief and unique components of this text is it’s skeptical and insightful look at the problems that have plagued the region. The first thing that most people think of when they read or hear about Scandinavia is the socialist political format that has been attributed to creating some of the most equal nations in the world. It is also attributed to the outrageous tax scheme that many see as a sacrifice for the greater good of society. If your health insurance, education, and (in an overwhelmingly high percentage of cases) your job is all paid for by your taxes, one has an incentive to pay. Particularly in the cases of Denmark and Sweden, the taxing and political system has seen both great success and failure. Both economies have flourished and tanked. The people are constantly being told that they system will fail; yet, they continue to produce such high ratings and success. Some skeptics will notice that pirating, credit, and other solutions to the tax problems have all been implemented by the people creating a potential issue for the future. All this being said, the one key feature of the Scandinavian identity is their contentedness and acceptance of what is fair which allows for a taxing system like this not to run into issue with class.

Another issue that has crept into the limelight in recent years is their immigration policy and racist political movements. Much like in America, an alt right political group has gained some traction running on a platform that discriminates heavily against the Muslim and Middle Eastern immigrants that are flooding into the countries. These groups believe that their culture is in danger and that they will lose their jobs, resulting in some hate speech that isn’t what the stereotyped normal is for the Scandinavian region. Some of the countries are dealing with this problem in better ways than others. Sweden’s government run media has blocked any representation from these parties in a truly Orwellian decision. The countries denial of the issue has resulted in a much more flawed and hampered socialization of the immigrants coming into the country. On the other end of the spectrum, Denmark has allowed for these alt right ideas to make it into the media (like the United States), but the immigration and integration process has been proven to be much smoother. These countries that for centuries were undesirable living locations, home to only the few homogenous groups, are now having to deal with the flood of other cultures. This will be the true test for the success of Scandinavian utopia.




            Booth calls out Scandinavia for all of its faults, all of the flaws in their system; yet, he still believes that they are the world’s greatest chance to save us all from collapse. Not just because of their environmental policies, but their heart, resilience, and cooperation. Booth in a comedic end to his research states that he hopes the Nordic United Nations or some sort of partnership doesn’t eventually happen because he fears that they would easily crush the rest of us. The Scandinavians are a rare breed of people: industrious, compassionate, content, and equals. They have built a stable societal foundation for the generations to come, nations that are focused on the humanity in these frozen tundra. Booth’s comedic expose on the ins-and-outs of the people provided for a natural immersion in the culture of a people that he struggled to understand; however, by the end of the project he had a great fondness for the people and a deeper respect. I have come to a greater appreciation of the people through this reading experience, and to supplement it I began to learn Danish. Booth is the perfect author for me personally. His sarcastic and skeptical tone throughout the travel research matched my opinion going into this subject matter. The viral Facebook memes of the Scandinavian countryside utopia had to be too good to be true, they must be strictly click-bait for the gullible progressive. While some of these elements are certainly dramatized; the superiority, equality, and prestige of the region is the chief epitome of Western culture, but certainly not without sacrificing some purity. These places hold the globe’s attention now for great reason, they have so many groundbreaking societal experiments going on. With all the success that has come their way, they still seem like they could use the help of others, some ideas from nations that are slightly different. Almost nearly perfect, but certainly as close as one might get.

Smoking in the Foothills Festival

By Jenny Kane

Right as we arrived in downtown Lenoir at around 11:30am on that Saturday, October 21st, we could already here the sound of live music playing and people crowding around the small area. Most of the shops on the strip were closed apart from a coffee shop and a restaurant that were located side-to-side. The entire festival was only two blocks long, but it was entirely lined with barbecue vendors, craft vendors, and information tents. Right at the center of the festival was a stage tucked into a patio with a live band playing folk and blue grass tunes. Entire extended families were filing in to get seats on the grass and the smoky aroma of barbecue filled the entire event.  


Eager to try some of Lenoir’s famous barbecue, I went up to the tent that had the most trophies in front of it. We found out that on top of the festival was both a barbecue competition and a poker tournament, and restaurants, vendors, and poker players actually come from across the nation to compete in this festival. That would also explain the large crowd of bikers with their affiliated gang jackets, as they made up the majority of the crowd that surrounded the poker tent.


However, I was slightly disappointed that there were only two barbecue tents from North Carolina, and only one of those two was actually from the City of Lenoir. Nonetheless, I was already hungry, so I hopped in line at the most decorated tent, knowing well what I was going to order. I asked for a half a rack of ribs and the woman kindly responded that they took cash only. I immediately panicked as I hadn’t been able to reach an ATM yet and was out of cash. What shocked me the most was when the woman told me she would give me the ribs and I could come back and pay here that day once I got to an ATM. Luckily, my friend Claire had a ten-dollar bill and took care of it for me, but I was extremely appreciative of the respect and honor that woman gave to me, knowing that if it came down to it, I would of course come back with the cash. My next question to her was where they were from. She said she and her mobile restaurant partners had driven all the way from Ohio to be at this event and were on their way to several others afterwards.


Digging into the first rib, I was immediately in barbecue heaven. It was like nothing I had ever tasted before. The glaze was thinner than I had expected but had the perfect blend of acidity and sweetness that every good barbecue should have. The base was clearly tomato, also something I had never experienced before. Finally, the pork melted right off the bone, and I finished all six ribs and made sure to lick my fingers after and tell the vendor how much I loved them.


After sitting and watching the band play while eating my ribs, we decided to walk around a little more to get a sense of what other vendors there were. We had been to a few festivals and farmer’s markets already on our journey and were happy to see that this festival had all local soap, candle, and craft vendors—nothing too commercial. Everyone we talked to was extremely kind and friendly, and it was amazing to see how many outreach groups were there spreading their information and trying to reach out to the community. Overall, this was the most comfortable I felt on our entire trip, as there wasn’t a moment that I felt like we didn’t fit in or felt like tourists.

Right Place, Right Time: Lake Lure has a lot to Offer

By Claire Gaskill

        Along the winding road of Highway 64 lies Lake Lure. This small town is known for its parks, historic landmarks, and, as denoted by its name, winding lake. Lake Lure is not vast in size, with a population just shy of 2,000 people, but it’s landmarks cannot be missed during a journey down Highway 64. When traveling from the west, you will first stumble upon the grand entrance to Chimney Rock State Park. A quick turn in will lead you through a tree lined climb up to the state park entrance. The road, which is surprisingly wide enough to fit two-way traffic, is a difficult drive. However, the clearing at the top that houses the Chimney Rock entrance is a welcome surprise. The entrance is home to a guardhouse that must be passed through before being admitted into the park. While waiting in line to speak with the park guard, the view is incredible. You can see Chimney Rock and the hike up along with a beautiful blue sky and autumn leaves if you, like us, visit on a clear October morning. Be advised, however, that admission into the park is not without cost. At a rate of $13 per adult and $6 per child, tickets to this unique experience can be purchased both online and at the park entrance gate. This seemingly steep admission cost caught us by surprise. As a result, we turned around and braved the treacherous drive once over to see what else Lake Lure had to offer.

            Suffering from car sickness from the windy drive along Highway 64, the Lake Lure Beach and Water Park was a welcome sight. This park was not only beautiful, but it was free.  A small information building sat just beyond the parking lot as the first stop in the park before venturing beyond to find basketball courts and grassy fields, each leading to Lake Lure. Sitting down a hill, the lake, which is the namesake for the town, can easily be confused for a river. Its narrow and winding path is home to docks and boats, and its shoreline is fairly undeveloped beyond a smattering of houses. The public access to the lake’s beach is free of charge and full of outdoor resources. We were not alone on our early Saturday morning visit: a pick-up game was taking place with children on the basketball court, locals were walking along the lake, and families were enjoying a picnic breakfast on the park picnic tables. That being said, just driving through, there was not much to do at the lake beyond enjoy the much need fresh air to settle sick stomachs. After an enjoyable walk, we once again piled into the car in search of our next destination.

            Lucky for us, the next destination was right across the street. Upon pulling out of the beach parking lot, we were shocked to see what appeared to be a village of tents, especially so early on Saturday morning when the rest of the town appeared to still be sleeping and store fronts were closed. We were eager to park and see what all the excitement was about. To our thrill, we had lined our trip up perfectly with the bi yearly Lake Lure Arts and Crafts Festival. The festival happens each year for two days during a weekend in October and for three days during Memorial Day weekend. For more information on the fair, read For Lovers of Crafts and Good Times by other student visitors that also experienced the Festival. As fans of soaps and candles, we were beyond impressed by the offerings of this festival.  With rows and rows of vendors as well as a few food trucks, the over 60 artisans presented their homemade creations under white tents.  Their work ranged from fairly expensive pottery to more unique homemade dolls and children’s toys.

We were first attracted to the candles at the Fresh Scent Soy Candles booth. The Spains, an outgoing and friendly husband and wife duo that run the business, educated us on their products, associated benefits, and the creation process. As we smelled all of their unique candle flavors, they were thrilled to share a detailed account of what differentiates their product from candles sourced from stores. Each soy candle is sold in a glass, mason-like jar and priced at $10. We were so impressed by the candles and their maker that we collectively purchased two. After walking around and fully immersing ourselves in all the festival had to offer, our final stop was Bully Bites. Attracted to their tent by their bulldog mascot, this homemade, all natural dog treat vendor was a great end to our visit. After chatting with the baker, we learned that although these dog treats rival their store-bought competitors, they are very different. They are fresh, meaning they either need to be refrigerated or frozen, and contain ingredients that contend with human food. Creating these treats is an effort to make dogs healthier; only wholesome ingredients are used and preservatives are omitted for a high-quality product. Excited by the healthy differences in these dog treats, we bought two unique $10 bags to bring back to our pups. As we paid with our credit cards, we were surprised by the connectivity of such a remote event. Although it took a second to load the Square app due to minimal internet service, it was fairly common to accept credit cards at the festival.

After a successful stop and multiple purchases, we headed back towards the car. Fulfilled by our time in Lake Lure, we were excited to get back on the road.

Fly Away at the Carolina BalloonFest

By Claire Gaskill

            It’s not every day you see one hot air balloon. At the Carolina BalloonFest, however, you can see handfuls of these helium filled flying baskets. This event entertains families with over 50 balloons the third full weekend each October. Located at the Statesville Regional Airport in Statesville, North Carolina, this festival is grand to say the least; it attracts locals, visitors, and sponsors for a three-day event by holding a variety of scheduled activities centered around hot air balloons and families. That being said, timing arrival to the festival with the scheduled events is essential and preplanning is a requirement to truly maximize the experience.

            Tickets can be purchased online, and it is important to do so in advance. We learned the hard way that the event times will sell out, especially during balloon lightings and lift off. Therefore, a pre-purchased ticket well in advance will ensure you get the most out of your experience. We were disappointed to have missed the Evening Glow Window event (where the balloons are lit up during dusk) due to tickets being sold out. Furthermore, the balloon launch occurs only twice a day at most (weather conditions can alter the schedule), so if that sight is one you are seeking, planning attendance during the short window where balloons take flight is essential. However, do not fret if you cannot arrive during your ideal time. The festival has a variety of activities and a packed schedule. No matter your arrival time, you will find something exciting to fill your festival visit.

            When we arrived at the festival at 10am on Sunday morning, we were by no means the first ones there. The crowd, seemingly early risers, was vast and parking was already a hike from the event itself. Multiple entrance gates and parking lots funneled into the open field at the airport that housed the event. The informal setting was contained by a radius of sponsor tents along the near side and vendor tents (which included food and crafts) along the far side. In addition to the variety of tents, the perimeter also included an alcohol section, featuring booths from local wineries and breweries, and an area for children with bouncy houses and other carnival games. Inside the circle of tents and vendors, the festival was fairly bare. There were two balloon activities and a stage for the performers who were scheduled to join later in the day. A colorful carpet of picnic blankets also covered the dewy grass where parents sat watching their kids play in the open field. Immediately, we were drawn to a tent selling fudge and candied apples. After laughing with the friendly vendor about the lack of fresh fudge around Elon, we decided on a flavor and continued exploring.

            Beyond wondering through the maze of vendors, visitors also had the opportunity to wait in one of the two lengthy lines to spend $5 for a chance to go for a small lift in a tethered hot air balloon. Given this was the only way to truly experience riding in one of the balloons at the festival beyond scheduling a pricey and limited private flight, the line was extremely long. We decided to save the time and money and skip that opportunity.  There was also an additional hot air balloon that visitors could pay for the opportunity to take a picture inside.

            Since we were trying to save our money after paying for the admissions ticket, we were surprised by the lack of activities available to us through the ticket purchase. The number of sponsors in comparison to vendors and the additional cost of many of the attractions was a surprise. We did, however, have the free opportunity to watch a hot air balloon be set up.  This process allowed us to see how the balloon goes from being rolled up in the back of a truck to taking flight. That was a really interesting and unique experience; it was the highlight of the festival for us!

            As we pulled out of the parking lot and drove down the narrow dirt road exiting the airport, we reflected back on the experience a little disappointed by the lack of opportunities a general admissions ticket furnishes. If we were to do it again, we would really consider the schedule of events before going. We felt that it was not worth visiting if there was not an event you were really interested in happening. For future trips, we decided the best way to maximize the experience is to purchase a ticket well in advance for a time period when the balloons are scheduled to take flight. After coming to these conclusions, we were back on the road to our next destination.

Taylorsville’s 38th Annual Apple Festival

By Micaela Soucy

The town of Taylorsville is nestled between two major North Carolina cities, Winston-Salem and Charlotte. It lies just off of Highway 64 at the cross section of Highway 90 and Highway 16. Driving into town we passed many commercial shops and restaurants crowded together. This gave the impression of a town influenced by financial gain instead of a town dedicated to its locals and the mom and pop shops that come with such a town.


However, the amount of people attending the Taylorsville Apple Festival that day gave a completely different impression. The website for the festival claims “the Taylorsville Apple Festival is held on the third Saturday of October and draws thousands of visitors to enjoy the day of entertainment, food and fun!” One thing they got right was the number of attendees the event draws in. Walking through the streets of downtown Taylorsville felt like pushing my way to the front of the crowd at a concert, a never-ending struggle against bodies also pushing in all directions.  


This festival has been around since 1988, which makes this year’s the 29th annual festival. Each year approximately 35,000 attendees pack the downtown streets lined with booths and food carts. Three stages are set up throughout the town also, featuring youth performers, gospel performers and more. Crowds stand or seat themselves in front of these stages to enjoy the music with family and friends. A big grassy area houses the Kid’s Korner, which features blow up slides with lines of kids and a decent sized petting farm with goats, ponies and even a camel.


Venturing up and down the streets, we were highly disappointed with the items and food that we saw. The table booths displayed repetitive articles of jewelry, clothing and art. A lot of it didn’t even look like it had been handmade. We were expecting booths that would feature items one would see at a craft fair, but it wasn’t the case. As for the food. Being an apple festival we imagined there being different types of foods made with apples. Candy apples, apple pie, apple sauce, apple cobbler. We also thought there would be tons of different kinds of apples to purchase. However, the only things we saw were apple cider and one small tent selling a few types of apples. The majority of the food stands sold fair food: fried dough, nachos, pretzels, cotton candy, etc.


We had arrived to the festival at around 2:00 p.m. and despite having a semi-big lunch we were craving something to fill our stomachs. As we passed food stand by food stand and only saw fair food, we came to the realization we weren’t going to find anything better. We had to eat something they were selling. As we passed one food truck the same word slipped out of all our mouths at the same time: “Dapples…”


Our minds immediately went to the assignment we had in class where we had to write about a time we tried a new, weird food. Upon approaching the truck, we were greeted by a friendly young woman. “What’s a dapple?” we asked.


“A dapple is an apple ring fried in donut batter.”


That was all she needed to say. We were convinced. Even knowing I have a gluten allergy, I still wanted to eat a dapple. The three of us eagerly received the cardboard tray full of fried apple rings sprinkled in powdered sugar.


My first bite into the fluffy exterior was like heaven to my taste buds, especially since I haven’t eaten anything containing gluten for quite some time. However, as soon as my tongue touched the apple slice, it was immediately revolted. It was hot and slimy and seemed like the apple taste had been cooked right out of it. The texture was the weird part though because it contrasted too much with the doughnut dough.


Upon completing the dapples we realized our stomachs weren’t agreeing with the fried apple slices. Unfortunately, it was a day full of disappointments. I think this stemmed from the fact that our expectations were vastly different from reality. Had we done more research we might have known what we were getting ourselves into.


Despite my unenthusiastic assessment of the Taylorsville Apple Festival, the other attendees appeared to enjoy their time there. I don’t encourage readers to think that my experience is necessarily going to be their experience. Events like this are all what each individual makes of it. I do encourage readers to visit and explore the festival to experience it on their own.

Never Blue

By Jenny Kane

Hendersonville is a lively town home to a variety of shops and restaurants that line the downtown streets. Arriving on a beautiful Friday afternoon in October, we were able to witness the hustle and bustle of the throng of tourists and locals as they sat out sipping drinks at cafes or browsed the shelves in the locally owned shops. Smiling faces greeted us everywhere we went, providing a warm sense of welcome.


The streets of Hendersonville at night are much emptier than during the daytime hours. However, the people that once populated the streets are now seated in the various restaurants enjoying a delicious and filling dinner. With the amount of options available in the town it’s amazing anyone is able to come to a decision. There are restaurants for those craving a quick bite in a casual setting, for those hoping for a longer meal with multiple courses, and for those looking for something in between.


Jenny and I spent our night at the bar of Never Blue, a restaurant known for their offerings of tapas that feature a variety of cuisines from around the world. And honestly, I don’t think there is enough buzz surrounding this place. We ordered an assortment of tapas so that we could experience the many tastes they claim to offer. We started with the hummus plate that came with fried naan bread, carrots, celery and house pickles, and the chili-garlic shrimp, which consisted of mini shrimp swimming in a spicy-sweet house-made chili garlic sauce. The hummus, while still good, was nothing special and tasted like something I could have picked up from the grocery store. The shrimp, however. Oh, the shrimp! Now I’m a huge shrimp person as it is, but the sauce was just the right amount of spicy and sweet and had the perfect mixture of chili and garlic. It was my favorite dish of the entire trip.


From there we ordered separate dishes based on our own interests. Jenny got the beans and rice and the tuna poke. I got the eggplant fries and an al pastor taco. The eggplant fries were nothing like what I expected them to be, but that was probably because I was expecting something similar to a real French fry. The consistency, however, was very different. These fries were much softer and mushier, which left a weird texture in my mouth, almost like baby food. And you definitely have to enjoy the taste of eggplant in order to enjoy these fries. The taco, which had pork and onions and a pineapple salsa on a corn tortilla, was another one of my favorites from the weekend. I am a huge fan of incorporating pineapple into as many dishes as possible (yes, this means I like pineapple on pizza), so the fact that this ingredient was a factor in the taste just made it all the better.


The friendly atmosphere of Never Blue only added to the feast we enjoyed that night. Sitting at the bar allowed us to converse with other restaurant patrons, something that helped us gain valuable knowledge about not only Hendersonville, but also some of the other towns on our itinerary. But out of all the places we traveled to that weekend, our experience at Never Blue is the one that I value the most. My stomach will eventually lead me back to Hendersonville and the exquisite cuisine at Never Blue.

1841 Café Review

By Jenny Kane

1841 Café is one of the many restaurants and shops nestled along Main Street in Lenoir, North Carolina. Lining the sidewalk in front of the entrance there lies a makeshift deck with tables and umbrellas for the lucky few who get to dine and enjoy the outdoors. The interior offers much more room with multiple dining rooms and a long bar. Unfortunately, we timed our visit to line up with that of the BBQ festival in town, so we ate in a nearly empty restaurant. Despite this, the exceedingly animated hostess was able to fill the café with an air of hospitality and kindness unlike any other restaurant.


There seemed to be a theme among employees at the café as our server was almost as outgoing and sociable as the hostess. She reminded me of a young grandma feeding her grandchildren. When the entire table ordered salads because of our previous 24 hours of heavy eating, she exclaimed, “I hope you’re saving room for dessert!” We were sorry to disappoint her.


My plate consisted of a bed of spring mix with tomatoes and cucumbers topped with chicken salad and dressed in a delicious raspberry vinaigrette. Simple but delightful, I enjoyed this dish very much as a light lunch. The portion size, though huge, was enough so that I could eat until I was just full. The chicken salad was what piqued my interest when I was looking at the menu and it did not disappoint. I’ve always heard that the key to a good chicken salad is to put just enough mayonnaise so that the ingredients are covered, but not so much that the ingredients are drowning. 1841 Café must have heard this secret as well, because their chicken salad was perfectly dressed in the right amount of mayonnaise. The addition of the raspberry vinaigrette added a touch of sweetness that made my mouth tingle.


To add another taste to my palate, I ordered sweet potato fries with a spicy mayonnaise on the side. It’s hard to mess up fries so it’s no surprise the café did an excellent job with those as well. They were cooked just how I liked them, still soft, but a bit crispy as well. The spicy mayo added a heat to fries that I’ve never experienced before. My stomach left content.


Though Lenoir is a small town with not much to show except for the annual BBQ festival, I could find myself traveling back down just to bask in the friendliness of the town and its locals. Working at a restaurant is no easy task, yet the staff contributes such a positive presence that it’s hard not to respond equally as affable. For anyone traveling through the Lenoir area needing a bite to eat, I suggest stopping at 1841 Café.