Every Tuesday morning from the time I got my driver's license until the moment I left for college, I met a friend at 7 a.m. at The Coffee Pot. We ordered the same meal each time: French toast, sausage links, orange juice and a glass of water. A few months before we graduated from high school, owner and cook Carolyn Artis finally asked us an important, highly anticipated question: "Do you want your regular?" My friend and I clinked glasses of orange juice like tumblers of bourbon. We were in. It was a Smithfield rite of passage akin to a first taste of the town's salty, thin-sliced Johnston County Ham.
Students in public schools who want healthier food options will have to wait a little longer. On Nov. 11, Congress blocked proposals from the USDA to strengthen nutritional guidelines for school meals. The proposals were part of a spending bill introduced to Congress earlier this year, and would have been the first updates to school nutritional guidelines in 15 years.
The proposed changes would have:
• Limited starchy vegetables, such as white potatoes, corn, lima beans and green peas and potatoes to two servings a week. Currently, many schools serve French fries daily. Senators from potato-growing states such as Maine and Colorado, and groups including the National Potato Council, objected to the restrictions.
• Increased the amount of tomato paste that counts as a vegetable serving from 2 tablespoons to a half cup. Pizza slices with at least 2 tablespoons of tomato paste, under the current guidelines, are considered having a serving of vegetables.
• Limited the amount of sodium in school meals.
• Required half of all grains to come from whole grains.
Update: The Chapel HIll Town Council recessed its meeting at 11:30 p.m. Monday and opted to delay food trucks debate until Nov. 28.
The council plans to vote Jan. 23 on a draft ordinance change that would clear a path for food trucks. The town has been mulling the issue since September 2010.
Tonight the group wants to know if trailers should be allowed in addition to trucks, what size parking lots should be required, how to make sure tax revenue stays in town, who will enforce the rules and how much it will cost.
Update: The Hillsborough Town Board unanimously passed the food truck ordinance last night, The Daily Tar Heel is reporting. Potential vendors can apply beginning Jan. 1.
Hillsborough is considering allowing food trucks within its town limits, but you may not see the stoves on wheels in the heart of downtown.
The Hillsborough Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing on the issue tonight at 7 p.m. in the Town Barn, 101 E. Orange St.
Under the draft ordinance, the town could issue up to 10 active food permits; qualified applicants would receive the permits on a first-come, first-served basis.
However, most of downtown Hillsborough would be off-limits; under the proposal, no trucks would be allowed in the historic overlay zoning district: Churton Street from the Eno River north to Corbin Street, and from Nash Street east of Cameron Street to the town limits in the area north of St. Mary's Road.
Other proposed regulations include:
• Vendors could operate from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on private property with written permission from the property owners. The property could not be zoned for residential uses. Only one vendor would be allowed on a parcel at one time.
• There would be no customer seating at the food truck, which would be required to be at least 10 feet from the nearest building.
The proposed ordinance makes no change to how mobile vendors are allowed at special events like Hog Days or Last Fridays, and the hearing is not required for the ordinance to be enacted.
Read the ordinance at the town government website.
What sort of folks spend three days in back-to-back ag-focused workshops, lectures and tours? I ran into the usual suspects from last year’s conference held in Winston-Salem: organic farmers, chefs, policy analysts and agro-ecology professors. But this year, fittingly enough for our area, CFSA added a separate category to the list of Horticulture, Livestock and Soil workshops: Foodie.
As much as I may dislike that term, trendy buzzwords lead to smart marketing. Local foodies were out in full force, with a voracious mental appetite. (Full disclosure here: CFSA asked me to help moderate the Urban Durham Foodie Tour, which I accepted and had great fun in doing so.)
It came as no surprise, then, when a large group of food enthusiasts who care about how their grass-fed hamburger gets from steer to market to restaurant plate joined farmers on Saturday for a Farm-to-Restaurant workshop. More alluring, however, was panel's candidness.
Chef-owner Amy Tornquist of Durham’s Watts Grocery and Sage and Swift Catering, farmer Alex Hitt of Peregrine Farm and cheesemaker/ farmer Portia McKnight of Chapel Hill Creamery rounded out a panel moderated by nationally acclaimed Chapel Hill Lantern chef Andrea Reusing.
“We live in this crazy place as everyone’s foodiest hometown,” Reusing said, “but probably less than five percent of what we consume is grown here. A little of our notoriety is largely symbolic.”
She noted that an open chef/cook to consumer relationship can help address this issue. In a lively and, most times, comedic discussion that veered from buoyant to deadpan, the panel openly acknowledged their problems as chefs and farmers and dished out advice to farmers in the audience on how to market their product to restaurants.
On a recent afternoon at Durham’s Piedmont restaurant, I noticed a towering version of a familiar face. George O’Neal, the somewhat proverbial young farmer of Lil’ Farm, was suspended from the ceiling in the form of a powerful and serious 16-inch-by-24-inch rectangular photograph.
His image is part of a row of 15 portraits using local farmers and farmhands as the subjects. The collection is titled BURLAP. Portraits of Piedmont Farmers, the latest exhibit by Raleigh photographer Raymond Goodman. Bull City Arts Collaborative at 401-B1 Foster St. opens the exhibit on Nov. 12, extending the display to the back wall of the farm-to-fork restaurant, the Piedmont, next door.
I met Goodman as he snapped photographs this weekend at the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association’s annual Sustainable Agriculture Conference, held this year in Durham. He spent eight weeks photographing at a dozen North Carolina farms, including less traditional organic projects like Raleigh urban farm Part & Parcel and the Refugee Agricultural Project of Carrboro. He chose to hang a sheet of burlap behind the subjects, creating a glowing, Monet-like veil between them and the fields in which they live and work. This technique, combined with the enormous portrait size, urges the locavore-slash-foodie to view a statuesque version of the farmer free from the confines of their work as farmers and vendors.
“I wanted to raise the profile of the farmer,” Goodman told me. “It’s to celebrate the farmer—not the land, not the toil, not the sweat, none of the other stuff. To give a little distance between the field, the farm stand, all those other things. The work I’m most proud of is about other people, and who they are and what they mean to me. There’s a power there. By isolating them in the portrait, you end up with the truth, the reality.”
BURLAP. is curated by Dave Wofford of Horse and Buggy Press. The 12 16-inch-by-24-inch and three 24-inch-by-36-inch portraits are set in locally sourced Ambrosia maple frames designed by William H. Dodge and fabricated by Marc E. Smith.
BCAC hosts an opening reception on Friday, Nov. 18, from 6 to 9 p.m. Additional viewing hours will be during the Durham Artwalk on Saturday, Nov. 19, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 20, from 1 to 5 p.m. The exhibit runs through Jan. 28. Visit www.bullcityarts.org for a full schedule and for the artist’s statement.
Model John Deere tractors fill every shelf and display cabinet in the three dining rooms at Ye Old Country Kitchen in Snow Camp. And not just tractors. There’s a John Deere airplane, a truck that’s integrated into a tractor-pull scene, and a snow mobile.
John Deere stockpiles like Ye Old’s aren’t rare. Similar to Coca Cola memorabilia (which also hangs on a few of the walls), the green-and-yellow farm machinery inspires random, obsessive collectors (see www.bleedinggreen.com). But I can get behind a tractor collection. My family owned a farm implement business in Johnston County for decades, and my toy box ran over with Allis Chalmers figurines and model tractor wheels. Anytime I’m in an antique store, I look for the distinct orange pieces.
Bryan Wilson, Ye Old Country Kitchen’s owner, tells a similar story about his acquisitions. His father was a farmer in Snow Camp, as was his grandfather. “I started getting toy [tractors] at a young age and have been collecting ever since.”
Photographs of his Wilson’s grandfather’s dairy farm hang below the well-kept mini tractors, which are mostly encased in their original packaging (I buried most of mine in a sandbox). Next to the one-story, wood-planked restaurant that was used as a set for the film Vampires Anonymous stands a sign for the Durham-based Long Meadow Milk, with whom the Wilson family used to work.
Wilson’s parents, James and Louise, opened the restaurant at the corner of Snow Camp Road and Greensboro Chapel Hill Road in 1969, when the unincorporated community of Snow Camp had little other than farmland. “There wasn’t anything out here like that,” Wilson says. Ye Old Country Kitchen remained the only restaurant in the area for 30 years, at which point Yesteryear Cafe opened a mile away on a two-lane road.
I ask Wilson about his own ties to farming. “Do you have any actual John Deeres?”
“And do you farm?” I ask.
“A little,” he says, claiming “a few cows and pigs.”
I believe Wilson, who is soft-spoken, and wears a blue ballshirt that bears his restaurant’s endorsement.
I eat from the buffet, choosing super-crisp fried chicken (the highlight), boiled cabbage, green beans, macaroni and cheese and a salad. Wilson admits that he cooked most of it. For dessert, I get a piece of cool chocolate pie, which his mother made. She still bakes all of the desserts, he tells me. With the rest of her time, Louise Wilson works next door at the Outdoor Theatre, which she started almost 40 years ago to help educate people about the area’s Quaker roots. The theatre’s longest running play, The Sword of Peace, dramatizes decisions made by Quakers, whose religious beliefs are rooted in nonviolence, during the American Revolution.
The production’s focus on local is reflected next door at the restaurant, which Wilson’s grandparents took over once the theatre was started. They moved it to its current spot on Drama Road, and expanded the building nine times to accommodate crowds. Wilson began his stint as owner in 1987, following his grandfather’s death in 1983.
“You have a lot of local food,” I tell Wilson.
“We try,” he says, adding that there’s meat for sale, too. He goes to a freezer and comes back to show me a frozen pound of hot sausage. The label reads, “Ye Old Country Kitchen.”
After prodding Wilson that he must raise more than his admitted few hogs in order to process the sausage, he tells me that he also sales his own country ham and supplies the restaurant with some of its meat. The remainder of Ye Old's food is primarily purchased from nearby farmers.
Wilson is as humble as his restaurant, which serves honest good food. The only extravagance at Ye Old, it seems, are the tractors, but they hint at the restaurant’s roots. There are the Coca Cola signs, too, but those, says Wilson, are just a hobby.
Ye Old Country Kitchen (327 Drama Road, Snow Camp) is open 11 a.m.—2:30 p.m. and 5-8:30 p.m., Wednesday through Friday, and 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup cocoa
2 cups water
1/4 cup flour or cornstarch
1 tsp. vanilla flavoring
1 tbsp. (dairy-free) margarine
Baked piecrust or graham cracker crust
Mix first four ingredients and cook over medium or high heat until thick, about six to eight minutes. Stir all the time the mixture is cooking.
Add the vanilla and margarine; stir until dissolved.
Pour into crust. Chill 3 hours before serving.
Recipe courtesy of Patsy Ray in Heavenly Helpings Seasoned with Love.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
2/3 cup dairy-free vegetable shortening
6–8 tbsp. ice water
Mix together flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Using a pasty blender or fork, cut in vegetable shortening until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Mix in ice water one tablespoon at a time, until the dough begins to form a ball. Dough should be moist enough to stick together without crumbling, but not overly wet. Divide dough into two balls. Roll dough to quarter-inch consistency. Place one rolled crust into pie pan. Chill for a few minutes and bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes.
Recipe courtesy of Lesley Stanford, as adapted from What's To Eat? The Milk-Free, Egg-Free, Nut-Free Food Allergy Cookbook, by Linda Coss.