In The Southern Food Truck Cookbook (Nelson Books, 260 pages), Heather Donahoe roams below the Mason-Dixon Line, where she seeks out not haute cuisine for the white tablecloth crowd, but innovative street food for those of us who feel more at home using paper napkins.
While the Triangle boasts dozens of food trucks—and Donahoe, preparing for an influx of angry emails, acknowledges this is a sampling, not a comprehensive list—four make the cut: Triangle Raw Foods, Chirba Chirba, Porchetta and Big Mike’s BBQ.
In addition to brief personal stories about the chefs—many of them, having left unsatisfying jobs, are on their second careers—Donahoe provides recommendations and recipes.
(If you think your kitchen is small, try cooking TRF pad Thai, Chirba Chive dumplings, basil pork sausage and blue cheese cole slaw within the coffin-like confines of a food truck.)
This is a handy tome for a road trip: The Boka Taco truck in Richmond, Va., serves a Asian-Mexican menu. However, having just returned from the culinary-challenged Nova Scotia, I am skeptical of French Indo-Canada, described as poutine meets bahn, in Louisville, Ky. And if you find yourself stranded with a flat tire in Little Rock, Ark., the chipotle-pineapple black bean quesadilla will tide you over until the tow truck arrives.
Governor Pat McCrory issued an official proclamation declaring Sept. 16–20 Farm Safety and Health Week.
Agriculture and agribusiness combined are a top industry in North Carolina, providing more than $77 billion in revenue with $14.9 billion directly coming from farm production, according to the governor’s statement.
The governor’s proclamation came at the urging of the Agromedicine Institute. The institute is a partly state-funded, nonprofit research facility at East Carolina University that works in conjunction with North Carolina State University and North Carolina Agriculture and Tech University.
According to Robin Tutor, the institute’s director, North Carolina’s average fatality rate in the agriculture industry is 7.5 times greater than the average fatality rate in any other industry. (Agriculture includes farming, fishing and forestry.)
“North Carolina has not had such a proclamation in the past,” she says, citing the Midwest as creating National Farm Safety and Health Week. “This is such an important issue in our state. We need to raise awareness not just with our officials, but also with the public.”
Farmworker groups, representing migrant and American labor, welcomed the proclamation with caution.
NC Field, a farmworker advocacy organization based in Kinston, N.C., is represented on the Agromedicine Institute’s board. The group released a statement Wednesday in response to the governor’s proclamation. It highlights a labor force excluded from the proclamation: children.
Melissa Bailey, former director of NC Field, says she sees families in Lenoir County “so poor that they can’t pay rent and utilities without a twelve-year-old’s help in the second most dangerous job in the U.S.”
NC Field’s statistics show that in 2013, more than 100 children within a 60-mile radius of Kinston were actively employed tobacco workers. Their ages ranged from 10 to 18.
“Most were employed by labor contractors and many worked unlimited hours and days legally due to the federal agricultural exemption for child labor,” the group’s statement said.
North Carolina leads the nation in tobacco production. The crop puts younger laborers at greater risk of falling ill.
Twenty-one-year-old Yesenia Cuello, a U.S. citizen, worked the fields every summer as a teenager to help her single mother care for herself and her younger siblings. She mostly worked in tobacco, with the occasional work in sweet potato fields, where she saw a child as young as 9 years old working with the adults.
“No child should be exposed to those conditions,” she says.
She developed frequent susceptibility to heat stroke working long hours in the summer. Her younger sisters, she says, would vomit almost every day after work.
Nicotine absorbed through the skin in a day’s work is equivalent to smoking 36 cigarettes, says the NC Field statement. Green tobacco sickness is a common ailment with tobacco workers, and is often fatal.
Cuello now serves as president of NC Field’s Poder Juvenil Campesino (Rural Youth Power), a group of youth farmworkers pushing for change in child labor policy. She is also studying to be a nurse.
After a story about child labor ran in the INDY in 2012, the Department of Labor agreed to meet with NC Field and other farmworker advocacy groups. However, there hasn’t been a shift in policy or acknowledgement of child labor issues. The Governor’s recent statement also excluded any mention.
“Even as state and federal agencies fund ‘adolescent tobacco prevention’ curriculums and we require a minimum age of eighteen to purchase tobacco products, rural children continue to be at risk in working environments that are unethical and dangerous,” says NC Field’s statement.
“People should know who harvests their food and their tobacco,” Cuello says. “I worry about my mother’s health, and about the children working in the fields to help support their families. That’s just wrong to me. I wish the state government would take more initiative in making some changes, especially about kids working in the fields.”
Maria Estrela's face, a rainbow of late afternoon light and shadows, focused with ease on a ball of dough in her hands.
Nothing could have deterred her casual concentration in that church parking lot on that summer Saturday afternoon. Not the furtive scurrying of kids around a makeshift prep table, nor the bellowing calls from her sister, Vilma Nuñez, down an improvised short-order line.
"Una revuelta y una con queso!"
Nuñez shouted as she hustled behind a hot, flat-top grill, a spatula gripped in one hand and a whirling queue of handwritten order tickets flying through the other.
Each order was nearly identical, the menu offering only one item: the pupusa. And the Salvadoran sisters know pupusas.
La Iglesia Hispana Emanuel, at 2504 N. Roxboro St. in Durham, periodically hosts mini street-food festivals to raise funds for various church activities. All of the public is invited.
"Everyone in the community seems to enjoy it," says Julio Ramirez, the church's pastor. "We're sharing our history through food. And it's a reminder that we're not an island. We're all a part of this community, this human race."
The church's Spanish-speaking congregation is made up of immigrant families hailing from Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean. Ramirez is from the Dominican Republic, and he jokes that the congregation still manages to understand each other despite speaking Spanish in different accents.
"This is how we can connect. And we share part of who we are," he says. "We're from different countries and villages. Yet we all come from the same heart, the same history. We're immigrants. Each of us left for different reasons—economic or cultural ones, instability—but we're all here to achieve our dreams. So this simple food gives a bit of aroma, a bit of flavor, to our lives."
Durham's Ninth Street Bakery was officially acquired today by baker Ari Berenbaum.
Ninth Street Bakery was originally founded by four partners in 1981. Among them, owner Frank Ferrell, who, along with his family, operates the bakery at its current 136 E. Chapel Hill St. location.
"We are all extremely excited about this opportunity," Berenbaum tells the INDY. "The Ferrell family has been very kind to us in allowing us to take up their mantelpiece. We look forward to carrying on the Ninth Street tradition—in effect, to modernize a brand while retaining its integrity."
Berenbaum previously served as the bakery's head bread baker and production manager. Since January 2011, he has operated Berenbaum's Bakery, specializing in Jewish breads and vegan baked goods. Berenbaum's can be found at Durham Central Park on Saturday mornings, and the vegan sweet and savory hand pies are offered at a few local coffee shops.
The bakery and cafe's mission is "to provide organic, healthy products." Its website highlights an environmentally minded business ethos, stating, "We are not only responsible, we are responsive." The bakery currently distributes its breads and pastries to 21 local supermarkets and seven coffee shops, much of it delivered via a veggie-fueled van.
In 1992, Ninth Street Bakery moved its baking operations from Ninth Street to the old Herald-Sun newspaper production facility downtown, now the bakery and retail cafe's current Chapel Hill Street location. The bakery's Ninth Street location was closed in 1996 (and is now occupied by Elmo's Diner).
Most recently, Berenbaum teamed up with Ninth Street Bakery cafe chef Matt Props to host their Day One vegan pop-up dinners at the restaurant at least once a month. The cafe serves lunch six days a week and dinner on Tuesday and Saturday nights.
"Matt will be able to build out the vegan options on the permanent lunch menu, expand the daily specials menu, continue vegan dinners on Tuesdays and Saturdays, and possibly more nights based on demand," says Berenbaum.
On Saturday, Sept. 14, Ninth Street Bakery will celebrate 32 years of business, from 5 to 9 p.m. According to today's press release, the celebration dinner will be "a symbolic passing of the torch. More details to follow."
Michael Twitty has dedicated his life's work to the study of African slave foodways and how they spread from the Southeastern seaboard. That's where thousands of shackled, malnourished people emerged from hellish journeys to find odd comfort in growing conditions reasonably similar to their homelands.
It was on these plantations and farms that displaced Africans longing for a taste of home developed a sort of fusion fare by blending their native traditions with available resources. Those lucky enough to be assigned work in hot kitchens understood that their job was to cover huge tables with elegantly presented foods and stay out of sight while their white mistresses became renowned hostesses. They were powerless when keepers claimed the recipes as their own, sometimes publishing popular cookbooks that now serve as roadmaps to culinary historians.
Twitty's efforts to reveal these much-discounted labors and to genetically connect contemporary citizens with their slave roots has been recognized by the Smithsonian Institution, Colonial Williamsburg and Monticello, among others. On Sept. 7, during a fundraising event he will lead at Historic Stagville in Durham, he intends to disclose findings of his own genetic testing.
Previous research confirmed Twitty's connection to Halifax County fields that once were the property of his great-great-great-grandfather, Richard Henry Bellamy. This in turn confirmed at least two direct links back to Africa.
Twitty was intentional about coming to Stagville, which comprises the remnants of one of the largest plantations of the pre-Civil War South, to learn more about his own story. In 1860, about 900 slaves worked its almost 30,000 acres of land.
"On the eve of the Civil War, a third of the population of North Carolina was enslaved. That's a critical fact," he says. "I am a descendant of enslaved North Carolina people and plantersboth sides of the fence. I take it with me everywhere I go."
Pub crawls, food tours, a rolling party, a night of gallivanting: Downtown restaurateurs and entrepreneurs Seth Gross and Martha Philpott King are launching Biker Bar NC, a 14-seat human-powered bicycle with riders facing one another around a center bar area while a bike captain steers, brakes and provides a guided tour along your route. The bar route begins and ends at Bull City Burger and Brewery, 107 E. Parrish St.
You supply the beer or wine (none of the hard stuff, though) and the Biker Bar provides the driver. Prices and policies are on the bar's FAQ page.
Raleigh has a similar venture, the Trolley Pub Raleigh, which departs from the Warehouse District on West Street.
The inaugural ride is Saturday, Aug. 24, at 11:15 a.m. with celebrity guest riders Mayor Bill Bell and Frank Stasio, host of WUNC's "The State of Things."
The remaining 12 seats are being auctioned off with all of the proceeds going to the John Avery Boys and Girls Club of Durham. Bid now at www.biddingforgood.com/bikerbarnc.
This is the latest venture from the BCBB team; this fall, they plan to open Pompieri Pizza around the corner at City Hall Plaza.
"I tried but I could not find a way ... " So sang Roxy Music's Bryan Ferry on "Remake/Remodel" from the band's 1972 album.
In that spirit, we say adios to The Roxy, an upscale bar on West Main Street near the Brightleaf District, closed Saturday night, shortly after it had gone on a two-week hiatus for summer vacation.
The owners announced the closing on The Roxy's Facebook page, noting that within the next six weeks the establishment will become Triangle Pint and Plate, with help from new partners at the Triangle Brewing Company.
The Roxy opened two years ago, with visions of being an upscale cocktail bar and party space.
Tonight, master bartender Scott Richie will present "A History of Prohibition Cocktails" at the main branch of the Durham County Library. INDY readers voted Richie Best Bartender in Durham County in 2010, 2011 and 2012. Former co-owner of Whiskey, he currently bartends at Alley Twenty Six and hosts cocktail-making workshops at The Cookery.
Tonight, Richie will detail the rich cocktail history of the Al Capone-era, when cities teemed with hidden speakeasies that scrambled to make drinks on the sly with limited access to alcohol, paving the way for the ingenuity of the craft today. The free discussion takes place at 7 p.m. at the Main Library, 300 N. Roxboro St. More information is here.
Edward Lee’s new book Smoke & Pickles should come with a consumer warning label: Exercise caution when starting this book because YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO PUT IT DOWN.
Beautifully written and designed, the volume is part memoir of how a cocky Korean-Brooklyn kid finds his footing in a culturally diverse neighborhood and food scene, experiencing bittersweet success as a hipster New York City chef before finding his destiny at 610 Magnolia, a Louisville restaurant serving contemporary Southern fare. Fellow English majors who morphed into foodies will be nodding to the many literary references, as well as to this good advice from Cola Ham Hocks with Miso Glaze: “Braise for 2 hours while you read some Walt Whitman poems.”
The balance of the book is a 130-recipe collection that ranges from simple to complex. Some are restaurant favorites that have been retooled for home cooks, but most reflect the dishes and drinks Lee makes in his kitchen to enjoy with friends. Reading them, you can almost smell the sometimes bourbon-spiked, umami-rich flavors.
The acknowledged culinary genius and three-time runner-up for James Beard honors will be celebrated Wednesday evening by Chef Colin Bedford with a special dinner at Fearrington Village in Pittsboro. The event starts at 6 p.m. Tickets are $85, which includes dinner, a beer tasting, gratuity and a signed copy of Smoke & Pickles.
Lee says he looks forward to returning to the Triangle and visiting with close friend Ashley Christensen of Poole’s Diner, who will introduce him.
“Every time I’ve been to the Raleigh area, it’s always ended up a very colorful evening,” he says with a laugh while driving from his home to Oxford, Miss., to participate in a Southern Foodways Alliance event. “I always enjoy the people there. They give me lots of libation.”
The dinner will be a homecoming in other ways for Lee. “I have an uncle that I haven’t talked to in like 15 years. He called me of the blue about a week ago to say he lives about 15 minutes away from Fearrington,” he says.
His uncle is bound to find familiar flavors in the “contemporary approach to the Southern table” that Lee has made famous at 610 Magnolia. In his book, Lee attributes this to “smoke [as] the intersection between my two worlds”—referring to his Korean heritage and chosen Southern home.
“Korean grills and Southern barbecue have a lot in common,” he says. “And there are so many ways to infuse that smoky flavor into foods with great local ingredients like bourbon, bacon, sorghum—or to brighten them with the bite of a sharp pickle. It creates the perfect balance, the yin and yang, that makes a meal memorable.”
Ashley Christensen pre-ordered a copy of Smoke & Pickles, a book by her friend Edward Lee, so she could be among the first to read it.
“You’re immediately engaged based on what a great storyteller he is,” Christensen says of Lee, who she met a few years ago through the Southern Foodways Alliance. “He’s a brilliant writer. His food is beautiful, thoughtful and bold. Those are things that, in combination, create something very special.”
Christensen said she was struck by Lee’s honesty in sharing so many personal stories and how they shaped him as a chef. “As chefs and restaurateurs, you are always on display,” says Christensen, who has welcomed hundreds of strangers to her Raleigh home for fundraising events. “I believe the book will make a lot of people think differently about how they approach the process, about not keeping the public and readers at arm’s length.”
Christensen intends to use a similar approach with her first book. She hopes to sign with an agent this week, a crucial step in getting the project to a top publishing house.
“Ed's and my books will be very different, but I want to share stories as he does to show how my thought process works,” she says. “I learned to cook by throwing dinner parties. It will be based on how that can explode into other things we can make.”
Christensen has been working hard to document the recipes that dazzle diners at Poole’s, Beasley’s Chicken+Honey and Chuck’s. Some already have been featured in food magazines.
“Like Ed, my goal will not people telling people how to measure,” she says. “I want to teach them how to think about cooking, the history of how food got here and why the relationship between chefs, farmers and artisan providers is so important.”
Lee, a three-time runner-up for James Beard honors will be celebrated Wednesday evening by Chef Colin Bedford with a special dinner at Fearrington Village in Pittsboro. The event starts at 6 p.m. Tickets are $85, which includes dinner, a beer tasting, gratuity and a signed copy of Smoke & Pickles.
Jill Warren Lucas is a freelance food writer who blogs at Eating My Words. Follow her at @jwlucasnc.