Exploring North Carolina has been a lifelong pleasure for me, but it became a new source of wonder and interest in 2001. I spent parts of my business career in Kinston, Wilmington, Charlotte, and Raleigh where I met people from all over North Carolina. I often attended covered dish dinners and other social functions that included home cooked dishes. The people I met told stories about favorite foods that connected them with home. I’ve collected recipes since I was a child, and was fascinated by all the traditional yet varied ways to prepare dishes such as pound cake—lemon, pineapple, cold-oven, brown sugar, cream cheese, and many others; chicken—fried, with pastry, in pies, casseroles and salads. Or biscuits—buttermilk, angel, mayonnaise, large and fluffy, small and crisp, cheese...and these are just a few of the recipes!
I celebrated my fiftieth birthday in 2000 and was keenly aware that I had begun the rest of my life. Then, in 2001, after being employed as a computer consultant for almost twenty years, I was out-placed from my job. Though I had enjoyed my work, workplace, and fellow employees, for years I had wanted to develop my creative talents. The idea occurred to me that I could combine two things that I had loved all my life—meeting people from every part of the state and collecting recipes. Suddenly the opportunity to pursue my dream had emerged and I reached out to embrace it.
David Malpass, an NPR employee, who was reporting on the many computer consultants that lost their jobs that winter, had interviewed me. Mr. Malpass used state-of-the-art equipment to record our conversation. He was kind enough to share his knowledge with me. I wanted to use audio equipment to capture the stories from the cooks as they told them in their own words. You can hear some of their voices on this web site by clicking on the link to "Hear the cooks".
By the summer of 2001, I was off to Charlotte for my first interview with Mecklenburg County native Essie Guilliard. Next I visited my friends, neighbors, and relations to collect recipes. Soon I was off to all parts of North Carolina. Many cooks referred me to other cooks they thought I should meet. Sometimes I was invited to attend reunions, Sunday dinner, luncheons, and once I got to go to a birthday party. Folks from all over opened their pantries and hearts to me. I was humbled by the warm welcome I received. Event photos here. I met many cooks through representatives of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, visitor centers, and historical societies.
Not only did I enjoy edible delights from all over, I also enjoyed some of the most beautiful natural wonders I’ve ever seen. From Mattamuskeet Lake in Hyde County to historic Old Salem, a corn patch in Currituck County to the magnificent mountain home of the Cherokee tribe in the west. I got to make sorghum syrup in Moore County and wade out into the Albemarle Sound to pull a net, attend a corn husking at a living farm in Surry County. North Carolina is a beautiful place to live and is filled with hospitable cooks.