Made in the USA, Yeeha!: A Discussion with Kim Provost of Brevard, NC

By Casey Brown and Margaret Bryant, 2013

Not many children will lie and claim they are Native Americans. When Kim Provost, owner and founder of Hunters and Gatherers in Brevard, NC, was about six years old, her grandmother gave her a piece of Native American jewelry with the signature turquoise stone. That sparked her fascination with Native American culture, especially its artifacts like jewelry and artwork. Now, her appreciation, love, and fascination with the culture and art have translated in her professional life and in her store.

When we arrived in Brevard, we promised each other we would stop at any store that looked interesting. We wanted the authentic small town experience on our last day in the mountains. But at first, we hadn’t had that great of luck. As we wandered down the road, we came across a mariachi guitar player named Bobby who was sitting outside of a sandwich shop. While talking to us, he mentioned he would be performing outside of his friend’s store to support her political campaign. He was referring to Hunters and Gatherers, the little hole in the wall shop, nestled amongst iconic small town stores like Brevard’s Celestial Mountain Music and the White Squirrel Shoppe. The sign proudly declared that it was a “Made in the USA” established. Intrigued, we decided to check it out.

When we entered, it felt as if we had just crossed over the threshold into crafty wonderland. Shelves and tables overflowed with trinkets, pottery, and tiki candles made from Heineken bottles while handmade leather goods, like belts and shoulder bags, hung thoughtfully from hooks and racks lining the walls of various sections of the store. We wandered through narrow hallways, a result of all of the items packed closely together, careful not to knock anything out of place. The rich leathers and vibrant turquoise jewelry accents the rest of the items nicely.

When Kim first opened the store eight years ago, she had to settle on only a portion of her inventory fitting the image of the store, while the rest was what she considered as cutesy. She explained that “cute” items got her off the ground, though it wasn’t ideal. She clarified that she is not a purist. We would define her more as homegrown. In the shop’s first few years, she had to hunt down artists and crafters, which was tiresome in addition to running and working at the store. Now, they come to her.

Currently, there are close to forty local artists and crafters and over one hundred additional artists across the country. Most made in the USA stores are currently online and although Hunters and Gatherers has a website, Kim is proud of the fact that they operate in house. After speaking with her for little over an hour, and being shown around the store, it is clear that the store is a beautiful reflection of its creator.

For Kim, the store is not only an extension of her personality, but it has also been a place where those close to her could gain artistic recognition. One of those people is her mother. A longtime painter, she had hundreds of different sized paintings of wolves, horses, flowers and other natural settings, all lying around the house. With Hunters and Gatherers, Kim has offered her mother a place to hang her work and since then, her mother has had many of her pieces sold.

“I don’t think [pieces] are worth buying when they’re on their own,” Kim said, referring to the more enlightened art purchasing experience a person can have when they can see a full collection of an artist’s work. This is why Kim sets up separate nooks for each artist in various parts of her store. Her mother’s section takes up half the length of the store’s back wall.

Kim Provost grew up in Detroit, MI and attended Michigan State University. Throughout her life, she planned on pursuing a variety of careers. Originally, she was going to be an attorney, but then Kim changed her mind. She wanted to be a forest park ranger. So, she switched her major to Natural Resources and Outdoor Education and after graduation, she searched for jobs in Alaska and fell in love with the outdoors, eventually becoming an outdoor educator.

However, in 1988, she asked her boss if she could attend an outdoor education conference in North Carolina. Her boss was hesitant, knowing how easy it is to fall in love with North Carolina landscape and the quaint Southern lifestyle. Kim assured him that this would never happen. She went to the conference and when she returned, she put her letter of resignation on her boss’ desk. She was moving to North Carolina.

After talking to Kim for close to an hour, she gave a personalized tour of Hunters and Gatherers. Each section of the store had a story worth telling. Kim showed us the leather cowboy boots, belts and other accessories that she had just shown at a rodeo. They attend every year. Towards the end of our tour, a mild-mannered friend of Kim’s came into the store. As it turns out, she is one of the featured artisans at Hunters and Gatherers. Her craft is making jams and she spoke very highly and proudly of Kim and her work. It was clear to us what a special impact Kim’s dream has had on the community of Brevard.

Now, after nearly 25 years working and living in Brevard, Kim is running for Brevard City Council. She wears her candidate pin broadly. For her, running for office was the obvious next step to give back to the small town that has given her so much.

“It’s my time to step up and serve my community,” Kim said. “I’ve been able to have my dreams come true, and I want to keep Brevard a cool place.”

Four Stories From Brevard: A Travelogue by Nicole Esplin, Casey Brown, Margaret Bryant, and Hillary Dooley

Searching for a Souvenir

By Nicole Esplin, 2013

I’m still a child at heart.  When I was younger, I was a die-hard souvenir collector and although I don’t have an organized stash anymore, if you look around my room you’ll notice mementos from trips scattered about.  There’s a starfish necklace from St. Thomas, my name on a piece of rice from Virginia, skiing medals from Colorado and a candle from Asheville.  Naturally, I started panicking when I realized we were already at our last stop in Brevard and all I had to bring home was some honey and pumpkin bread, which would likely not make it past Hickory on the ride back to Elon.

After eating a quick lunch and browsing a few stores, the itch for something real and truly special from this trip set in.  I began scouring the stores and asking the owners about their businesses, hoping for some kind of story to go with my souvenir.  I wasn’t looking for an airport t-shirt.  Anyone can pick up a “Washington D.C.” t-shirt at the airport on their way home.  I was looking for something to remember Brevard with.

Ten years ago, I would have happily settled for one of the stuffed white squirrels in the tourist-filled “White Squirrel Shop,” but I veered towards the smaller stores, still looking for that inspiration to buy something for more than its monetary value. Brevard reminds me of a smaller Asheville; less quirky but more homey and community focused.  I wandered into a little hippie shop that sold local fine arts, crafts, jewelry and other trinkets.  The sign out front said “Local Color,” and I felt like I was at home.  A tall man with long brown hair and a hawaiian-style shirt stood behind the register and welcomed me, offering his assistance.  He opened the shop 4 years ago after moving to Brevard to escape the “urban sprawl.”  His name is Paul, and his wife’s name is Pauline.  Here’s my story.

As I browsed the store, Paul described exactly how he ended up in Brevard at this little shop.

“I’ve lived in Brevard for 18 years,” Paul said.  “I grew up outside Chicago and it was pretty busy.  I moved to Raleigh in ’86 and lived there for 3 years before moving to Pittsboro, right near [Jordan] lake.”

Paul stayed in Pittsboro until the town announced that they would make Highway 64 a 4-lane expressway right past his home.  So, Paul did what any righteous North Carolinian would do and drove down Highway 64 until he found the right town to settle in.

“I didn’t want to see Pittsboro change from the highway,” Paul said.  “I fell in love with Brevard right away.”

Shortly after moving to Brevard, Paul met his wife, Pauline, who was working at another store down the street from Local Color.  After Paul lost his job in the building supply industry, he decided to help Pauline open her own shop, which is now Local Color.

“There’s about 100 artists and 70 are from the area,” Paul said.  “We have a mixture of some resale areas and some new items from the area. “

I found my souvenir tucked in a corner.  It’s a simple wooden plaque with a sailboat and the words “You can’t change the wind, but you can adjust the sails,” painted on.  The painting spoke to me, and it matched the colors of my room. But more so Paul’s story spoke to me, and I knew that this store was where I was going to buy my trip memento.  Not because I couldn’t find anything else I liked more at the next store, but because of Paul’s association with Highway 64 and his free spirit to uproot his home and move somewhere simpler.  The mountains are a simple place, a place where people move to get away from the congestion of city life in central N.C. while maintaining close friendships with community members.  I couldn’t help but smile as we walked back to the car and I felt my wooden plaque weighing down my purse.  I had found a souvenir that was more than just an artist’s work.  The journey had given me insight into the town of Brevard itself.


The Meaning of Community

By Casey Brown, 2013

I know what it’s like to have a community you’re proud of. I was raised in the Boston area, which instills pride in its residents from birth. We’re proud of our rich history, of our distinct culture, our sports teams. We stand by and defend our way of life, much like the patriots did when we were still under English rule. But I don’t think I’ve realized how deeply pride can move you until my visit to Brevard.

When Mags and I ate at the Phoenix restaurant, it was all about celebrating what’s local. They proudly boast that 90% of their menu comes from local farmers and markets. The other 10% is seafood from the coast. The walls are coated in art from local artists and they are all for sale. Bobby, the mariachi guitarist we met in downtown Brevard, was proud to be in the town. He was an avid supporter for his friend Kim Provost’s upcoming city council campaign and while he was moving to Chicago, he couldn’t wait to return to his town in Brevard. Kim Provost, the owner of Hunters and Gatherers, has used her store to promote American-made products. She supports her community and now is giving back to it by running for office.

In Brevard, the people are proud of their little city. But more than that, they are willing to preserve it. Their pride motivates them to do something more productive, to give back to the city that has given them a life, a family, a home. It’s an admirable sense of purpose the people of Brevard seem to feel about their community.

Leaving Brevard after witnessing this affection for home, it made me really think about my future. I want to move to Los Angeles after graduation, but spending time in the mountains made me really rethink that decision. Did I really want to move to a city where I’d become a faceless member of a community so vast, you’d never really be recognized? It’s sort of a depressing thought. I’m still not sure what I’ll do when I have to leave into the real world, but my time in Brevard showed me how important it is to find a community you’re proud of and that if you’re truly proud of a community, you’ll do what you can to give back to it.


Reclaiming My Carolina Roots

By Margaret Bryant, 2013

I am a North Carolina girl. I may not have the sweet southern drawl, with subtle annunciations with which I say sticky, drawn out colloquial phrases that drip slowly like honey. I certainly don’t have a whole lot of southern pride because history and politics below the Mason Dixon line are almost always messy, but nonetheless, I am from the South. I have struggled with North Carolina over the years, often wondering what life would have been like if my Northern and polite, moderately opinionated parents had raised me and my older sister somewhere else. My mother is from New England and my father is from Virginia. After the Highway 64 project and our trip through the mountains, I have been gratefully reminded of why I love the place I have been reluctant to call home for so many years. Growing up, I spent a few weeks of summer at a co-ed summer camp near Brevard. It had been so many years since I have been to that part of North Carolina and I was excited to be back again at such a beautiful time of year.

On the third and final day of our mountain adventure, we planned to pass through Brevard on our way back to Elon. We had a few places as planned stops, but generally, the day had been blocked off as time to explore. We split into groups of two, as we had done many times over the past two days, in order to cover more ground. Casey and I wandered down the main street, in hopes of finding somewhere or someone interesting. We ate at The Phoenix, a local farm-to-table restaurant. During our time in the sleepy town, as most places in the mountains are on a Sunday afternoon, I began to notice a thread that tied place to place on our trip. There is this sense of gratitude at the very core of the local people. After lunch, we explored on foot, stopping in a few shops that looked interesting.

There was a table set up outside the Celestial Mountain Music Store, with a piece of paper with “FREE” scribbled on it in big, block letters. Inside the boxes were vinyl records, exploring a variety of genres. Everything from Christmas Carols to Claude Debussy were covered in dust and stacked carelessly. I dug through the boxes, a few couples passing by, peeking in for a minute or two before continuing on their way. To find records like the ones outside the music store for free is rare. Not only are they considered collectibles at this point, but every apathetic hipster in fake glasses and clothes straight out of Nylon Magazine live for these finds. I took two to add to my family’s collection at home. Not long after, we came across a guitarist from Mariachi group named Bobby. Originally from Mexico, he now splits his time between Chicago and Brevard, he told us a little bit about his life, but mostly emphasized why he loved North Carolina. He talked about how the people care and support one another. To put it in greeting card words, they are all about the local love.

Not long after, we ended up talking with and interviewing Kim Provost, the owner of a store that exclusively sells art and other hand-made items. Everything comes from somewhere in the United States, nothing is mass-produced or a product of a sweatshop assembly line. Hunters and Gatherers, like The Phoenix, supports local, a movement that is not as common as it should be. Kim is also running for city council. When I asked her why she wants to be involved with the politics, she told me something that will probably stay with me for a long time. In her “twenty-four year love affair” (as she calls it), Brevard has treated her well. She has been able to be a prominent member of the community, and the town has taken care of her and her family. She says that now it is time for her to give back and show her gratitude.

I was surprised again and again during our trip by how much successful individuals care for the people who got them where they are now. The endless gratitude that people like Kim and Bobby express is infectious and it reminded me in a humbling way of how I am so lucky to call this state my home. There is a sense of loving humility in Brevard that you just can’t find in a big city. After seeing it so up close, I hope I can take that with me as I travel and explore, eventually returning to the place I am now thankful to call home.


How Chocolate Can Change Your Life

By Hillary Dooley, 2013

Brevard is one of those small mountain towns where you can spend hours exploring and run into people with the most unique stories, and although everyone has a different story about what brought them to Brevard or what has been keeping them there, there is always one thing in common: passion. You can almost feel the passion float through the town as it rustles with the leaves.

One of these people runs a chocolate shop down a small street in the center of Brevard. It sits in the perfect location, right across from the Square Root. After I had finished my lunch there, I ventured across the street to the chocolate shop to satisfy my sweet tooth and take some dessert for the road.

Upon walking in, it is a quiet shop. No one was there to greet us, but we could hear a bustling in the back kitchen area. Pretty soon, a 71-year old man named George walked out ready to take our order. This was the complete opposite of whom I had expected to own a chocolate shop. I was imagining a young mother in her early 30s pursuing her passion and making some money on the side for her three children. But Brevard is unique, and who says a 71-year old man can’t make chocolate?

I stared at all the chocolates, wondering what to get. There was everything imaginable from all kinds of truffles to chocolate covered Oreos and graham crackers, nut clusters, bark, and much more. I spotted several chocolate covered Twinkies in the corner. A smile was painted on each, and a sign reading, “We’re so happy to be back!!!” accompanied them. I decided against the Twinkies, but I taste tested a few truffles and got an assortment of milk chocolate treats.

As we were checking out, we began to talk to George to see how he came about running this place. He said he didn’t set out to make chocolate, but that it accidentally fell upon him. He told us how he used to be a real estate developer and how he gave the building we were standing in to his daughter. She began a restaurant there with her husband. Before long, business was booming, and they had no life. So, they sold the business and kept the building. Next thing George knew, a man and woman walked in from down the street, asking if the building was open for business. They said, “Well, the Lord talked to us and told us to open a business.” When he asked what kind of business, they answered a chocolate shop. And that’s how the chocolate shop came to be.

However, George wasn’t supposed to be the one operating the business. It turns out a week before opening, the Lord told the man and woman to go elsewhere, and George had no choice but to open a few chocolate books and get started himself. He chuckled as he explained to us that it took him a couple months to learn and that he “turned a lot ‘a brown chocolate white” in the process. That was eight years ago, and since then George has been so successful he has been shipping chocolates across the globe to Belgium, Finland, Spain, Japan, Jerusalem, Guatemala, and Germany.

We thanked George for his time and delicious chocolates, and on our way out, he had one piece of advice for us: “You can do anything you set your mind to, but don’t ever trust a Christian.” But after all, George wouldn’t be successful doing what he has come to love if he hadn’t trusted a Christian.

Mayor of Murphy Profile: Bill Hughes

By Hillary Dooley and Nicole Esplin, 2013

Bill HughesThere’s something about Bill Hughes. Something that makes you want to tell his story.

Traveling gets a person used to meeting new personalities every day, as we search for a new story to entice readers to read our bylines.  But with Bill, there was something more about him.  Something that you can’t plan to find readily. Bill Hughes is a modern-day living legend; the kind of man that will never die in Murphy. He’s the kind of man you can imagine enshrined as a statue, casting his brass gaze over Main Street.  Bill’s a man whose impact will be around long after he passes from his beloved town- his self-proclaimed goal. “The town of Murphy had been good to me,” Mayor Bill Hughes said. “It has allowed me to be moderately prosperous.  I was thinking of ways that I might pay it back.”

Hughes was born in Murphy, N.C. in 1938, and grew up with his mother and grandfather, who worked on the L&N Railroad.  Hughes’ first fond memories of Murphy lead back to the L&N railroad depot. One of his most memorable experiences happened when he was 6 years old. Inspired by the new story of the American Hobo, he climbed onto an L&N Railroad boxcar and headed for Atlanta. “I was just a wanderlust boy,” Hughes said.  “I rushed and jumped onto the boxcar.  When the train stopped and I got out, I thought we were in Atlanta.” What Billy Hughes thought was Atlanta turned out to be Culberson- the next stop over from Murphy. Billy was soon spotted by a man who worked with his grandfather, and was promptly taken home. “My grandfather was called and I still remember him coming in his 1937 Chevy to the depot,” Hughes said.  “That was the longest ride home of my life.”

The L&N depot in Murphy closed down in 1974, and Hughes has been working to get the railroad reinstated.  His passion for the industry is apparent in his cluttered office, filled with historic railroad mechanisms. “We’ve got switch locks, we’ve got telegraph tees, we’ve got this adding machine, and my grandfather had this first computer right here, which he bought used in 1911.” Hughes pulled a few more trinkets out from the bookshelf behind his leather desk chair and carefully brought them over for our benefit. As Hughes explained crossties, switch locks, ½ fare punches and date nails, I couldn’t help but let my eyes drift from the items to Hughes’ face.  None of this railroad memorabilia was new to Hughes, but his face was filled with nostalgia and awe. We imagined that Hughes had been making the same awe-struck, excited expression since he was introduced to these objects as a boy down at the depot.

Bill continued on the long story of his life in Murphy, punctuated with milestones and his favorite memories.  Bill’s face lit up as he recalled the first time he met his wife of 53 years. “When I married Barbara, she was majorette, main cheerleader, voted most attractive in the senior class, homecoming queen and the prettiest girl in town,” Bill said.  Bill laughed and continued, “I don’t know yet how I swiped her; I guess it was my irresistible charm and intelligence.” Everyone listening laughed with Bill and smiled as Barbara, sitting next to Bill, blushed. “Bill is three years older than I am, so I didn’t know him at first,” Barbara said.  “We met outside the drug store.”

As Bill continued describing his high school years in a typical small town during the 1950’s, we felt the real-world slip away and imagined walking down the street to the old Henn theatre, where Bill worked as a teenager. “The days of the ’55 and ‘56 Chevys, the ’57 Plymoths and Pontiacs. In the afternoon, all the kids went to Parkers drug store.  You’d hang around at the drug store, play records and we would drink Cokes and so on like that.  Occasionally, you’d do a little dancing and some sort,” Hughes said. “That’s it.  You cruise up and down the street.  If you get a date you know you cruise; we had drive-ins where you drive up, they put the creole on, all that.  A kind of life that’s gone now, but it was a lot of fun while it was happening.” We closed our eyes and imagined a life with no cell phones, no last minute plans to meet after school, and an assured trust on a Friday that everyone would be at the drugstore to celebrate the end of the week.

“At night, we’d pull our cars in, we’d hang out there, we’d turn one of the car radios on to WLAC Nashville, and we’d listen to John Richburg‘s Rock ‘N Roll Show all night long,” Hughes said. “He’d play Little Richard, Fatts Domino, the Cadillacs.  We’d sit there and listen to the radio and there was a never-ending debate about which car was the best.  I’ve seen kids almost come to blows about which car was the best, but that was the ‘50s.  And it was a great time to be a kid.  Some of the fondest memories go back there.” After Bill graduated in 1956, the majority of his class left Murphy while he stayed behind to attend college in order to become a teacher.  Bill became a teacher when he was 20 years old, and taught 6th and 7th graders at the White Church Elementary School seven miles down the road from Murphy. When the position of principal was vacated, Bill submitted himself for consideration.

“When I applied to the job I got it and I was 25 years old,” Hughes said.  “I was the youngest principal in the state for the size of the school.  I loved the job, we got right into it, I made a lot of friends. The people in the community, knew me, and they trusted me.” Bill’s accomplishments in his 33 years as principal reach beyond those of his predecessors; his school system was the first in the county’s history to receive state accreditation, and he organized the first Pre-K and Kindergarten classes in the county. Hughes also developed a mold for the beginning three years of primary school- teachers attend to children more individually for these years by allowing the children to dictate the pace of their education. This program still exists at the school.

Bill attributes much of his success as principal to the teachers he worked with. “When I walked in to school the first day, the staff came in. I spotted 6 teachers who had taught me in the grades,” Hughes said. “They were working for me, but I realized that was not going to work; I was still going to be working for them, because I wasn’t Mr. Hughes, I was still Billy. They just simply took me under their wing and I attribute my success there because they took care of me the first 5 years I was principal, just like I was one of their students.” Bill’s career as a principal continued for 33 years until he retired in 1997. After working as police commissioner on Murphy’s town council for 10 years, Bill decided it was time to completely repay his town. It was no surprise when Bill was elected mayor; nor has it been during each of his four reelections. “I’m full-time mayor,” Bill said.  “I’m here all the time.  I get here at 8 o’clock, I leave at 5.  I’ve always had what I call an open door policy.  That door you see there stays open all the time.  You don’t need an appointment to see me, you just walk in.”

Bill oversees all of the town’s departments, including the library, the fire and police forces, and the water works.  He credits Murphy’s continued success to the collaboration the town council members and volunteers who came together to make Murphy a town that is like no other and a town that provides for its citizens. Bill’s smile became bigger as he began to describe the talent of the citizens in Murphy. “Whether it be jewelry making, wood working, anything along that line; weaving, cloth, the whole bit- you name it.  Painting of all kinds, watercolor, it gave all of these folks an opportunity to come out and to present their wears on this occasion.  And we found there was a tremendous amount of talent and a big art colony here that just had not had an opportunity to be exposed, and it is now, and it’s really, really fantastic, some of the talents we have here.” Every Friday night these talents are on display at the Art Walk, an event that has replaced drive-Ins and “cruising” for Bill and Barbara.  On Saturday morning, instead of sleeping in after a night on the town, Bill and Barbara walk down to the Farmers Market in downtown Murphy.

The town is currently working on developing a 10-mile mountain bicycle trail and improving its Riverwalk trail, which Bill feels strengthens the feeling of serenity and awe in Murphy. He says, “You know, water has a tranquil effect on people, and as you walk along, especially in the fall, and you can see the reflection of colors into the water, it’s almost spiritual.” He pointed to his desk and as he picked up stack after stack of paper it became clear that the 75-year old mayor still has plans for Murphy to preserve the magic of Murphy and ensure that its citizens prosper. Bill has a 10 year plan for every aspect of city operation, explaining that “you’ve gotta know where you’re going, you can’t be haphazard anymore.”

“I wanted to be of service,” Bill said.  “I wanted to pay the debt back to the community. And when you walk away, if you can say you’re leaving more behind than you took with you, then you’ve accomplished that.” At the end of the day, Bill has led a life that has impacted the town and people of Murphy. With two successful daughters and a wife who works alongside him, Bill can look out across the town and know he’s left something behind.  Driving home, Bill looks at the old oak trees lining his driveway. They grow together in an arch, and the sunlight shines through the branches. He says, “the spirits seem happy here.” If he’s right, it’s because they’re happy seeing Mayor Bill Hughes of Murphy returning home safe and sound.

NC Mountains Travelogue: Nicole

By Nicole Esplin, 2013

Day 1:
Like most journeys, the beginning of our three-day jaunt to the western-most part of North Carolina started with a trip to the ATM and a later-than-expected departure time.  Eventually, we were on the road and heading to Murphy, N.C. to work our way back towards our final destination, Brevard, N.C.  The trip rolled smoothly on the four-lane U.S. 40, and we quickly reached a smaller highway 64 leading into Murphy.  About an hour outside of Murphy, we were listening to music and talking about our lives, catching up with each other in the car.  We were gossiping about boys and TV stars when we suddenly skidded to a halt with the rest of the traffic.  Ahead, there were two ambulances, a police car, and a fire truck.  Immediately, we all sighed.  We were hungry, tired, and ready for our real adventure to start in Murphy.  Eventually, we became worried as the helicopter hovered above and we heard EMS people talking down the road.  Thankfully, there was a curve in the road, and we weren’t able to see any of the live action of EMS workers helping injured people, but the car went silent and I think we all said our own prayer of hope to the people involved in the crash.  The traffic started moving again, and Taylor Swift sang “Long Live” on the iPod plugged in.  Even Taylor Swift, who had been singing about boys throwing rocks at her window only moments before, was solemn in the sight of the accident.  We passed a completely flipped over motorcycle and I gave homage to our fellow traveler.  While I believe motorcycles are dangerous and terrifying, as a road cyclist, I understand the feeling you get rushing down a beautiful road with the wind in your face.  Long live, the mountains we moved. Long live, to all our fellow travelers out there.

6:32 p.m.
We finally arrived in Murphy and after grabbing a free cookie from the concierge (thank God for Hampton Inns), we asked for the clerk’s favorite local restaurant and headed out to the local restaurant and tiki bar, Doyle’s. Because of the mild temperature, we decided to sit outside and take in the personality of the bar.  A sign on the side of the bar read, “protect the manatees” and paddleboats hung in the rafters. Around the room, large bamboo candles and fish bowl flower terrariums were marked “for sale.” When I opened the menu and spotted the key lime pie margaritas, I couldn’t stop thinking how this local bar believes it is 950 miles southwest in the southernmost part of the U.S.  I decided against a “marg” and chose the Green Man Brewing Company IPA, which was surprisingly easy to drink, despite its dark appearance (which was intimidating for a pale-ale loving girl). The waitress suggested we try the fried green tomatoes, made with fresh tomatoes and basil from the Doyle’s garden. I love caprese, but I’ve always been wary of fried tomatoes. Fortunately, I was impressed by the texture and taste of the tomatoes.  Balsamic vinegar was drizzled over the tomatoes, which helped balance the thin layer of fried batter.  For the main course, I ordered “N.C. style” barbeque sliders.  Like every other North Carolina native, I feel I am a BBQ connoisseur. So as I waited for my meal, I played a little game with myself, betting whether they would serve a more eastern-style vinegary sauce or a BBQ sandwich with western-style ketchup based sauce. To my surprise, the sliders were like nothing I had ever tasted before.  The sliders tasted very heavily of vinegar, which yielded an incredibly strong aftertaste. I’ve been all over North Carolina and tried all types of barbecue, but nothing compares to these sliders.  Thankfully, I had a nice brew to wash them down with, and the sweet potato fries that came with them made the dish even better (once you go sweet potato, you can’t go back).

Day 2
6:30 a.m.
After waking up early to check out the town on foot, I was slightly disappointed that the sun still hadn’t come up.  I waited until 7 a.m. to head out, and started down the long, downhill road into town.  Immediately, I realized I would have to try twice as hard on the way home to run up the gradual climb that I was descending from the hotel.  As I followed the road, an all-encompassing fog surrounded my arms and legs.  There’s something about running in fog that is different than anything else.  Fog is kind of like a blanket, and I’ll search out fog, just to have that feeling that you’re touching a cloud that had decided to come down from the sky and give Earth a try.  Maybe it was the altitude, or maybe I had been slipped some mountain moonshine in my sleep, but my run down the road in the fog was one of the most blissful runs of my life. I came across a nice park where I took a detour for two miles along a river path. We found out later it was a project put in action by the Mayor’s wife, Barbara.  The River Walk wound down the river, stopping at historic points along the way.  The town of Murphy was once filled with Native Americans, and it was great learning about the history while enjoying a run along a beautiful mountain stream.  When I returned to the main road, I continued in to town and did a quick block around town before heading back.  I returned to the hotel with 10 new sunrise pictures on my phone and a quickly beating heart.  I experienced an Indian summer in the middle of Cherokee country, and while I would’ve probably preferred a nice cool, fall mountain morning, the weather seemed more than appropriate.

9:00 a.m.
After showering, we drove through Murphy and headed towards the Tennessee border.  After checking out Murphy, I decided that the town was on the rise.  I would probably prefer to live in Murphy than one of the more touristy mountain towns, but Murphy definitely could use a little bit of a cleanup on the Eastern side.

11:30 a.m.
After stepping into Tennessee, we drove back and met with the Mayor of Murphy, who has been living there his entire life.  He came to Murphy with his mom and grandfather, who worked on the L&N Railroad.  The passion that the mayor had for the railroad was igniting.  I found myself wanting to ask more and more questions about the railroad, just to soak up some of his excitement and passion for the history of American transportation.  We had him spell out “ELON” in Morse Code, and enjoyed listening to his stories as a mayor, teacher, principal and railroad worker.  “The spirits seem happy here,” the Mayor said.

2:00 p.m.
After receiving a tip from the mayor about a fall festival at the John C. Campbell Folk School, we headed over to Brasstown to check out some local music and art. At the school, I walked up to a small group of people standing over a fire and found that they were roasting opossum and I asked if I could take a picture.
“Would you like to try some ‘possum?” a man in overalls asked.
“I’m sorry…what?” I responded.
“Some ‘possum…I’m roasting it,” The man in the overalls looked at me like I was crazy, not knowing what he was talking about.
“Ummm,” I didn’t know how to respond.  Yes, I wanted to try some ‘possum, but I wasn’t sure if I’d offend him if I grimaced, and I’m pretty new to this whole ‘possum thing.  The man wandered off before I was able to come to a decision, and a second man in jean overalls came up to me and patted me on the back, assuring me that it was ok. He believed that the first man was “cooking ‘coon,” not opossum.  I finally found my words and asked to try some, but I think the damage was already done, and I was never re-offered ‘possum or ‘coon (which I found out later were short for opossum and raccoon).

Further down the road, I walked by a man carving a wooden spoon with a little kid helping out, standing on a tall chair.
“How long have you been making spoons?” I asked the older man.
“’bout 26 minutes!” the little boy answered, before letting the older man respond.
Everyone laughed, and my spirits soared as I made my way towards the food tents.

I decided on some roasted corn and a Coke for lunch, and sat back to dream about what the John C. Campbell Folk School looks like at other times of the year.  The festival was held on beautiful trails, and resembled a regular town festival with a more hippie feel and part of me wanted to brush all the festival tents away so I could see what daily life was like at the school.

4:00 p.m.
After the festival, we traveled down 64 to the Deal Fruit Stand, which had the biggest sweet potatoes and some of the most unique apples I’ve ever seen.  Deal Farm is a small shack on the side of the highway, which you could almost miss, but when you walk in and see the produce, you know you’ve come to the right place for fresh, local food and friendly service.  The Grime varieties of apples date all the way back to the colonial period, and I still haven’t found out why the sweet potatoes were so big.  Joe Deal, the famer and co-owner of the stand, has grown up there his entire life.  His grandfather opened the farm, and he’s enjoyed work on one of four farms in his county.  I’ve grown up as a Whole Food grocery store-lover and I’ve been introduced into the organic lifestyle at Rodale, Inc., so I’ve heard the side of the local/organic/GMO story from the organic experts. I decided to find out some more about the other side of the debate; what did local farmers think about the organic movement, and organic obsessed companies such as Rodale?  Joe Deal let me pick his brain, and I gained insight on a more moderate view of the debate. “If you go out on the street and ask 10 people what organic means, 9 out of 10 of them are going to say, ‘Oh, it’s not having any pesticides put on the fruit.’  That is completely false.  They have this stigma that organic is better for you because it hasn’t been sprayed, but it has. It gives a conventional grower a black eye a lot of times because, if you’re buying from a local grower, a lot of times, you can come out here to the farm.  You can see the stuff growing and most of the time you can see my five kids running around out here and eatin’ apples or eatin’ tomatoes.  I’m not going to put nothing in them that I feel is going to harm them.  You can have a connection with your local grower.”

Joe Deal was one of the friendliest guys I’ve ever met, and if he’s letting his kids run around eating apples on his farm, it guarantees that I’ll buy myself a pack of non-organic apples.

4:00 p.m. on Saturday afternoon: we go from interviewing Joe Deal to having an ordeal about hotel rooms.

7:30 p.m.
After a not-so-impressive dinner at the Boiler Room, we went to the Dave Coulier comedy show and listened to laughs from the “Old Joey from Full House.”  I’ve never been a huge comedy fan, but I found myself laughing at all of Coulier’s jokes (which I won’t try to repeat here, since I am the worst at repeating jokes).  I wish I had a brother named Dave Coulier.

6:30 a.m.
Got up, went for a run on the treadmill (Franklin felt too sketchy to run outdoors), and listened to the news. We quickly got on the road in the morning and headed down Highway 64 through the Nantahala forest.  Waterfalls and tunnels of leaves lined the highway and we immediately turned on North Carolina-themed music: Carolina In My Mind led to Wagon Wheel, which was followed by an entire playlist of the Avett Brothers.  I brought my camera out and held my hands out the side of the car (and occasionally my head), and lived life as a travelling dog for the rest of the trip.  In Cashiers we stopped at the Farmers Market, which was essentially an upscale roadside market with a very welltrained and friendly golden retriever hanging out and entertaining customers.  I bought some pecan-raisin bread and apples, and enjoyed my purchases on the walk to the next stop, Buck’s Coffee Café.  Buck’s was a unique coffee shop that was connected to an “odds and ends” store, which had everything from cuff links made out of world-series winning baseballs to bottle openers made from golf clubs used by professional golfers.  The novelty shop was neatly cluttered—a description that only makes sense after you’ve stepped foot inside the shop.  Other odds and ends include soaps, chairs, tables made from stumps, jewelry, pottery, wine, coffee and tea.

When Jeff Met Jeff: Lenoir Downtown Farmer’s Market

By Jeff Flitter, 2013

Throughout my life, I have experienced many farmer’s markets. I have visited farmer’s markets so large that they have permanent fixtures or sections and markets so small that trucks drive up and set up tables. However, I have never seen a farmer’s market that was indoors before. When I arrived in the Lenoir Farmer’s Market, I met Jeff Crane and felt the need to ask him all about his life and the indoor farmer’s market he manages.

Jeff Crane is the co-market manager of the Lenoir Downtown Farmer’s Market and herb farmer. The farmer’s market is an indoor farmer’s market in Lenoir, NC specializing in local produce, crafts, and meats. Everything in the market is from the local community. They offer produce, herbs, paintings, word working, alpaca goods, and various other local products. All the products in the store are from about 20 to 30 miles away. The coffee is from local roasters, which means that the beans are not grown local, but they are roasted locally.

An indoor farmer’s market is not the typical choice, which makes the store stand out from others. “We could offer more stuff with an indoor market than outside,” Crane says. “It gives the farmers a few more days to sell.” Crane hopes to continue growing their stock, the number of farmers and artisans they partner with, and educational programming. Currently, Crane does educational events on herbs and where food comes from at elementary schools.

“North Carolina has a lot to offer,” says Crane. “People are getting more away from the interstate and into downtown.” He explains that more businesses are returning to the downtown areas and how more towns are trying to bring that small downtown feeling back. In regards to introducing the farmer’s market into Lenoir, he says “it all adds to downtown.” Crane describes how Lenoir has been revitalizing downtown for the last four years, but states that it is still behind Hickory in revitalizing. He is excited to see people get off the interstate and return to the small highways, claiming that Highway 64 “seems to be used more now.”

Crane grew up in Hickory, right down the road from Lenoir, and migrated to Lenoir later in life. Right out of high school, Crane began working in green houses and his interest in herbs grew. He began growing herbs ten years ago after talking to older farmers at farmer’s market. He began going into the woods to pick herbs and began to read more and more about them. He currently grows mushrooms, dry herbs, fresh herbs, and seventy-five different types of herbs. These herbs are sold fresh as well as in BBQ sauce and herbal teas. The farmer’s market is located at 905 West Avenue, Lenoir, NC 28645 and is closed on Sunday.

Review of Highway 64 Diner

By Mei Bess, 2013

The Highway Diner 64 is a quaint restaurant right off of Highway 64 (as one might guess) in Rocky Mount. Hearing the word ‘diner’ I expected the place to resemble the local-scum-bucket-Landford-Lunch-Box from Roseanne type of place.

My expectations were absolutely wrong. It had a 50s diner theme, fully equipped with a serving counter/bar and red pleather booths, surrounded by a silver exterior, that was possibly aluminum. It was decorated with bits and pieces of history from the ‘40s to present day. It contained old plaques, license plates, and signs that said Coca-Cola and other commercial items from previous decades. It appeared to be a popular place for customers, both locals and visitors. To no surprise, I later found out that it is known for its architecture.

Our server was very kind and welcoming. I also found out that they’re known for their friendly servers. I was still recovering from breakfast, so I decided not to order an entrée, but I ended up kicking myself for not ordering the chicken tenders like one of my group members. They looked as if they were perfectly cooked, with the right amount of crunch on the outside and juicy tenderness on the inside. Not to mention, the portions were huge; talk about getting your money’s worth. Usually, the sight of food repulses me when I’m full, but those chicken tenders were definitely an exception. Though still too full for an entrée, I had just enough stomach space to fit in some sort of dessert. Oddly enough, they did not have plain chocolate cake, but they did have apple pie, which is my personal favorite. I was excited to see this on the menu, for I’ve found that I now have to search to find apple pie at restaurants. I remember when I was younger every restaurant we went to had it.

The apple pie from Highway Diner 64 was served just right, warm with a couple of scoops of vanilla ice cream. The crust was perfectly crisp on the edges and soft on the inside. The apple filling tasted heavenly with the ice cream. There was nothing left on the plate by the time I finished. It was the perfect ending to a long trip, and it’s definitely a diner worth going back to. If nothing else, to get those chicken tenders.

Local Franklin Farmer Profile: Joe Deal

By Nicole Esplin and Hillary Dooley, 2013

Seven boxes of apples sit directly to the left of the entrance, and some of the largest sweet potatoes I have ever seen sit in a container in the center of the rustic open room with red paint and dirtied white walls. More wooden stands in the store were filled with peppers, beans, squash, onions, tomatoes, lettuce, field corn, and onions. In the back corner, a small sign directs customers out the door to the cornfields, which on this October day had just opened its seasonal corn maze. For $5, customers can live the life of a field mouse, scurrying around and getting lost in a sea of amber corn.

On this unusually hot October day Joe Deal, the primary owner of Deal Family Farm, sits in his cluttered corner office, rummaging through paperwork. A cashier stands behind the register, monitoring the produce. On any other day, Deal can be seen working in the fields out back or managing his field hands.  As a father, field hand, and manager, Joe Deal works to bring produce to Franklin, North Carolina and its surrounding towns.  He grew up farming with his parents and grandparents, who opened the Deal Family Farm in 1951. “My dad and I still farm together, so it’s my dad and myself now,” Deal said. “I’m third generation.”

When you think of a conventional farmer, Deal has it all.  His athletic frame, callused hands and flannel shirt fit the description.  His office emits a feeling of organized chaos, and pictures of his children provide evidence that Deal’s outside life is ever-present.  A whizzing fan blows outside air into the non-air conditioned office and an open file cabinet hints at the constant managerial tasks that must be kept up with.  Deal’s friendly, open personality seems necessary for the current state of the farming business.  He’s a firm believer in farming for the good of the entire population, and works hard to provide for his customers and keep his workers happy. “I currently have 13 field hands hired right now,” Deal said. “They’re basically starving to death where they live in Mexico, so they like working.  Most of them are family with the crew that I have that has been coming for 16 years.”

While working to provide for his family and keep his workers fed and healthy, Deal concentrates his farming ideals on creating the most good for all of society.  Deal doesn’t take the popular organic stance for all of his vegetables; he believes that farming so everyone has produce and food to eat is most reasonable. “If everything became organic, a lot of people would starve to death,” Deal said. “If you live somewhere that averages 10 inches of rain a year and you didn’t have all the bacteria and fungus problems that we have here at least in the mountains it may work, but we average 50-60 inches of rain per year here.  We get disease pressure.” And with a growing world population, Deal believes the only option for the future of farming is conventional farming. “If I tried to go completely organic, probably 1 out of 5 years, I would have a good crop.  Other years, we would have reduced yields, a lot more headache.”

Deal’s main crops are apples. The farm usually produces about 5,000 bushels on 9 acres, and they have 13 different varieties. The Deal apple grove is small, but it is the only one in the county. The Deal Family Farm is a local vendor for Ingles grocery store, and they also sell wholesale in Raleigh. Today, Deal is selling Grimes Golden, an older variety with natural blemishes and specks. He mentions how the powdery mildew on the apples doesn’t hurt the apple except for appearance, and again I’m reassured that I made the right decision stopping at this road-side stand and talking to Deal.

“You can see the [produce] growing and most of the time you can see my five kids running around out here and eatin’ apples or eatin’ tomatoes,” Deal said as I took the first bite of my Golden Grime.

Siler City Farmers Market

By Grace Elkus and Brynna Bantley, 2013

The Siler City Farmer’s Market is more than just a produce stand. It’s a community of local farmers and craftspeople, all eager to share their handcrafted products and personal stories with any passerby. Small though it may be, the farmers market is vital to the town of Siler City.

Many of the vendors are family-run businesses, including Lindley Farms Creamery. Casey Campbell, who was selling the creamery’s products at the farmer’s market, is the fourth generation of the farm, which has been around since the 1930s. Originally just a milk farm, the family opened up the creamery side two years ago in and now sells cheddar, mozzarella and cheddar cheeses, along with a variety of cheese spreads, seasonal ice creams, and their well-known and innovative fresh mozzarella cheesecakes. “It was an accident,” Campbell said of the cheesecakes. “We tried to make cheese and it flopped, so my mom put eggs and stuff in it and baked it. It came out really good.”

The process is now perfected. Fresh whole milk is taken from the farm’s 150 Guernsey and Holstein cows and is then pasteurized in the farm facility, which turns it into mozzarella cheese curds. The curds are mixed with a few ingredients, baked in the oven, and glazed with a “special” sour cream topping.

The creamery is owned by two sisters, Janice Lindley and Ann Campbell. The dairy and farming is managed by Lindley and her nephew, J.B., and the creamery is operated by Campbell and her daughter Casey.  Whether the business will continue to stay in the family, however, is up in the air. Casey said she isn’t sure whether she will take over the business, because although she feels confident with the creamery work, she is less familiar with her aunt’s side of the business. “I pull the cheese, and help pasteurize the milk, and then package and label everything,” she said. “But I really don’t know that much about the farming side.”

Campbell’s brother has already made a decision not to be involved in the family business, choosing to pursue a pharmaceutical career instead. He did, however, contribute to the slogan, ‘From Moo to You’. “He’s so uncreative, and when he said that, we were like, ‘actually, that’s pretty good!’” Campbell said.

Campbell’s favorite product is the pumpkin cheesecake, which is only sold in autumn. Other seasonal products include a Key Lime cheesecake in the spring and German Chocolate, Caramel, and Molasses cheesecakes for the winter holidays. The creamery, which is located in Snowcamp, is about a 15-minute drive from Siler City. Although none of the products are sold in grocery stores, they can be found at local farmers markets, and orders can be placed and picked up at the farm.

While we were chatting with Casey about our project and the reason for which we were interviewing her, she pointed in the direction of another tent and said, “That’s the guy you really want to talk to.”

So while Campbell brainstormed cheesecake flavors, we found Tom Mastej of Silk Hope Organic Produce sitting close by under his own tent, brainstorming something else entirely.

His tent was plush with various types, sizes, and colors of vegetables, many of which were tomatoes. “I just took three pounds of these tomatoes, put them in a five gallon pail, added two cups of honey and water, and six months from now I’m gonna have tomato wine,” he said. “And if I wait a year, it’ll be even better.” We found this innovative, crazy endeavor to perfectly reflect his personality.

Mastej, whose unofficial slogan is, ‘If it’s not fun, I don’t do it,’ has owned and operated Silk Hope for 12 years. Apart from two guys who he says ‘are a bastard to work for,’ Mastej runs the farm all by himself. Born and raised in New Jersey, he said he moved down to North Carolina “to live.”

“The city, you live there all your life, you’re there, you think it’s fine,” he explained. “But after you move away, you go up and visit and you’re driving along the Jersey Turnpike and you wonder, ya know, I need a gas mask, how did I live here?”

His desire for the slower, simpler pace of the south is evident. His reasons for moving down here seem to be rooted in this yearning for small town America, and anyone who understands this endeavor as financially motivated is poorly mistaken. “You ever hear the story of the farmer who became a millionaire?,” he asked. “He started with two million and now he’s got one? Well, it’s true.” But this sad fortune does not deter Mastej, nor does it dampen his spirits. He’s not in it for the money — it’s his passion for how food is grown, prepared, and consumed that keeps him in the business.

What’s more, his passion has given way to knowledge and advice. He advises everyone to eat their vegetables raw, to never eat anything that has been genetically modified, and, above all, don’t put anything in the microwave. “Might as well just kill yourself,” he said, “because that’s what you’re doing.”

So if microwaving is killing us, what’s curing us? Mastej has an answer to this as well: “Garlic spikes,” he said. “Nowadays, the ways the laws are, everything’s becoming so draconian that you’d be arrested for saying this and saying that. But I’m gonna tell you anyways. For thousands of years,” he said as he holds up long, thin green blades, “these have kept the doctors out of business.” He hands us each a piece to try and, after biting off a small taste, we would have warded away any vampires to say the least. Garlic spikes are the cuttings from garlic bulbs and can be used to season just about anything, including soups and stir-fry.

Manej is a charming, personable, and vibrant individual who exemplifies the character of all the vendors at the market. Their love of food, local goods, and conversing with people keeps them coming back every Saturday.


NC Mountains Travelogue: Hillary

By Hillary Dooley, 2013

I was eager to get on the road, leaving from Elon, NC in order to arrive in Murphy, NC before nightfall. The drive was going well as country music, mostly a combination of Taylor Swift and Alan Jackson, played in the background. It was only when we reached the mountains on the other side of Asheville that the drive got difficult. I was tired and hungry, as I am sure everyone else was, and we had just come to a dead stop on the highway. The cars in front of us weren’t moving, and for about 45 minutes, neither were we. I was annoyed and angry, but when I heard the helicopter overhead, I knew that something horrible must have happened. My anger and hunger subsided into a more anxious feeling, that feeling you get when you know something terrible is happening and you have no control over it. As we rounded the corner to view police cars, ambulances, and dozens of uniformed personnel directing traffic, I got even more worried. I said a silent prayer for everyone that was involved, especially the driver of the mangled and up-side-down motorcycle that lay on the side of the road. However, this anxious start to the trip faded away as we pulled into the Hampton Inn in Murphy. I was thrilled with all the complimentary food and the white fluffy comforters that engulfed my whole body. After a brief, but longer than we wanted dinner at Doyles, we all slipped into bed.

The next morning was full of more complimentary food, a visit with the Murphy Mayor; Bill Hughes is one of a kind and talking to him for over an hour about his time as Mayor and Principal and his love of the railroad on this Saturday morning was one of the highlights of my trip. We also made a stop at the Fall Festival in Brasstown, NC. Despite it being October, it was about 90 degrees out, but this didn’t stop us from browsing the tents with hand made soap, paintings, jewelry, fudge, scarves, jams, and more. After an enjoyable Italian sausage sandwich, I stopped by the small table of a vender named Gene Russell. He was selling jewelry, and I couldn’t let myself walk by. Russell is a retired from the Navy and found a new hobby in carving coins he collected while serving his country. He explained how it took him about two months to learn, but after that, he was in love with the art. As I looked at the gorgeous coins, one caught my eye. It was a heron carved from a Hungarian coin. Since I was a little girl and spent all my summers in Maine herons have always had a special place in my heart, so I decided to commemorate this trip and the Fall Festival in Brasstown by buying this coin that was attached to a chain to make a necklace.

After a successful morning with the Mayor of Murphy and a Festival in Brasstown, we began to make our way to Franklin with plans to stop at Deal Farm along the way to get apples. Our Deal Farm stop was probably one of my favorites. Joe Deal, the owner of the farm, was sitting in his office rustling through paperwork, and we shyly approached him. He talked to us for about half an hour about his farm, his family, and the variety of apples he grew. It was a refreshing experience, and I purchased some Old Fashion Lime Pickles to try. Unfortunately, I did not like these as much as I had liked Joe Deal, but I am not going to hold that against him. Ingredients included cucumbers, sugar, water, vinegar, cinnamon, cloves, and erythorbic acid to promote color. I think it was the overwhelming cinnamon smell and taste with my pickles was a little too much for me to handle.

We drove into Franklin and parked at our motel. It was one of those sketchy motels that you see on Lifetime movies right before someone goes missing, and as four college girls staying alone, we had a choice to make. I honestly didn’t feel comfortable there, but we had already paid the bill and where else would we go? It was about an hour of discussion, anxiety, intervals of silence, and long phone conversations with parents before we decided a move was necessary. Once again the Hampton Inn came to the rescue, and I now officially consider this chain to be my preferred hotel of choice. After a quick check-in and dinner at the Boiler Room, we walked into the Smoky Mountain Performing Arts Center to see Dave Coulier perform. Why he was in Franklin, NC, I cannot say, but I will say that he is hilarious.

On Sunday, we made our way back to Elon stopping along several Highway 64 towns along the way. We made a quick stop at Cashiers to enjoy the Cashiers Farmers Market with Riley the golden retriever who captured all of our hearts. We also fueled up with some delicious coffee at Bucks Coffee Shop, which wasn’t a normal coffee shop. I ordered my hot apple cider (which was better than any of the powder cider mixes or large jugs of cider I have had before because really tasted like an apple in liquid form) and scanned the room to find out why it was called Bucks—there were actually several deer heads mounted on the walls of this coffee shop. However, it brought a natural vibe to the place, and sitting in the leather seats with huge deer overhead was an experience that was calming and one I will never forget. The back of the shop was also an odds-and-ends store with furniture for sale, paintings, and even some jewelry.

This warm mug of cider held me over until lunch at the Square Root in Brevard, NC where I was reminded of how small the world really is when the man next to me said that he was born in the same hospital in Pennsylvania that I was. With great conversation and a delicious lunch in my stomach, I was more than happy to stop by the chocolate store across the street to buy chocolate covered Oreos and graham crackers. After spending an hour walking around Brevard, exploring craft and furniture stores and the local diner, we hopped in the car to make our way back to Elon.

The drive home was tiring, but as we shared our stories from the trip, I realized that the North Carolina Mountains is a beautiful area. The Highway 40 we were on didn’t even compare to the rolling hills, vast waterfalls, vibrant leaves, and dazzling lakes that Highway 64 has to offer. However, I learned more than just to appreciate the scenery. This was something I had expected as we set out, but what I didn’t expect was to meet so many intriguing individuals. From Bill Hughes to Gene Russell to Joe Deal, I had learned more about mountain life than I could have hoped for. Each encounter made me want to open up more and talk to more people about their lives in the unique mountain region of North Carolina. I can easily say that one weekend wasn’t enough, and I look forward to my next trip back.

International Festival of Raleigh

By Brynna Bantley, Grace Elkus, Anne Marie Glen, and Dustin Swope, 2013

Every year, Raleigh takes time to celebrate culture and diversity by hosting the International Festival of Raleigh. The annual festival aims to explore other cultures, their ways of living, and new perspectives of thinking about the world. For many attendees, it’s a night to celebrate one’s heritage and history and share it with the community they now call home. Additionally, it’s an opportunity for those who identify themselves as American first and foremost to gain an appreciation for just how ‘global’ their community is.

The night started out as a test of patience. Having arrived at the Raleigh Convention Center at 4:30 p.m., we assumed we would be first in line for the 5:00 opening of the festival. Instead, we found ourselves standing in a long line with no signs of motion.  We took this time to people watch, taking note of the various ages and ethnicities of attendees. Our first multi-cultural moment of the evening occurred when a very small Japanese boy bumped into one of our group members, and his grandmother took the opportunity to teach him to say “I’m sorry” in English.

For the true “outsider” — not from Raleigh, not from North Carolina, only knowing what is implied by news stories from the area and statements by political representatives — this was the perfect reality check. Clearly, Raleigh residents will turn out for a chance to step outside their comfort zone and share their culture humbly with others. And nothing on TV gave us reason to expect whole families who spoke Japanese as their first language lived in Raleigh. Until now, we had expected the international festival to be what one could learn from the Internet, put into action. Maybe this wouldn’t be the case, after all. Both these lessons lifted our spirits, and we hadn’t even entered the festival yet!

Forty minutes later, we had made our way in. Arriving on the second level, looking down over the festival, we were overwhelmed by the vast size of the event. Peering at our pamphlets, we learned that the large stage would soon host various dance groups and performers. The makeshift walls set up in the corner indicated cooking demos would be taking place. Long rows of white tents promised arts and crafts for sale from every country, and unicyclists and cameraman weaved their way through the crowds. But our first stop wasn’t the stage, or the crafts. It was the food.

Between the four of us, we covered a fair amount of ground. We tried the veggie platter from the Indian station, which consisted of rice, naan, paneer, gulab jamon, mango lassi, and channa masala. A visit to Kenya brought us spicy boiled spinach, while Afghanistan boasted turkey-and-cream-cheese samosas and Cambodia offered seafood summer rolls. A handful of decadent bean paste dumplings from China and Vietnam were all met with sighs of approval. We munched on sweet potato fries from Kenya while sipping bubble tea from Taiwan. We savored Stroopwafel from the Netherlands and red bean buns from Japan. Once we were full and satisfied, we noticed it was time for the cooking demo, so we made our way over.

As soon as we stepped into the demo, smells of garlic and ginger wafted over to us. We sat and watched as a local restaurant owner made ground pork and cabbage dumplings (recipe below). We learned how to peel ginger with a spoon, learned the pros and cons of steaming, frying, and sautéing dumplings, and were taught multiple techniques on how to seal the wrapper closed. The restaurant owner was adopted from Korea and raised in Detroit, so she said the Korean-inspired food at her restaurant brings together influences from Korea, Detroit and North Carolina. She also said she gives chefs room to be creative with seasonal ingredients, so the menu is constantly changing.

While the cooking demos were going on, there was music echoing through every corner of the hall. In the Biergarten area, where patrons could buy beers from parts of the globe from Ireland to Japan, the stage was first host to singer Ye Ning Feng, treating the audience with the unique sound of Chinese opera, and dazzling in her red silk performance dress. Following her melodic act was The Paco Band, a Spanish and nuevo flamenco ensemble who played a spirited set that left the listener wanting more.

The multiple stages were not the only places where global music could be heard. Even just wandering around, maybe getting a little lost in the many countries’ booths, one could hear the sounds of faraway lands, brought close together by the festival. In Japan’s booth, a woman expertly played the koto, a large string instrument played sitting up over it, like a piano. A large crowd was gathered around to watch and enjoy the soulful notes. Those of all ancestries gathered and appreciated the feelings evoked by the traditional instrument, unable to just walk by such beauty.

Not only did we leave the festival full of food, we left full of appreciation for the diversity present in Raleigh and for everyone who shared their culture with us throughout the night. Needless to say, it was well worth the wait.

“Happy Hug” dumplings:
Makes 45-50
1 lb. ground pork
2 tbs. chopped fresh ginger
1 tbs. freshly minced garlic
3 tsp. salt
1 ½ cups finely chopped cabbage
All-purpose flour
Hot water

1. Put the ground pork in a large bowl and add the ginger, garlic, 2 tsp. salt and cabbage. Using your hands, mix the ingredients together. Freeze the mixture if you are making the dumplings in advance.

2. For the wrapper, use 3 parts flour to 1 cup hot water. Mix the two together and 1 tsp salt. Knead the dough, then roll it out into a thin sheet. Use a pastry cutter or a biscuit cutter to cut out circles.

3. Take one wrapper and scoop a little less than 1 tbsp. of filling onto the middle. Fold up the sides and pinch the top closed, then pinch the sides together.

4. These can be steamed, fried, or pan-sauteed. For sauteing, heat a little bit of olive oil in a pan. When it is shimmering but not smoking, add the first round of dumplings. Cook one side, then flip. Dumplings are ready when the wrapper has turned a golden-brown color. They can be eaten plain, or can be added to soup with greens and scallions. For a sauce, mix together soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, garlic, and scallions. Enjoy!