Archive for the ‘Southern Culture’ Category

OMG!  It was a Thursday night.  More than 200 people were already inside at 6:30 p.m. They'd parked with tires on the highway.  Behind neighbors' car ports and cars.  There was a huge line at the outside carry out window.  And people were still streaming in.  We knew we'd arrived at the Long Creek Fish Fry in Dallas, NC - an offshoot of Gastonia. There's nothing we dislike more than chain-type restaurants.  We try to find the local joints, owned by locals, frequented by locals, and packed by locals.  We search Yelp.Com, check the reviews - must have several reviews - not just one or two that might be inserted by the owner or a friend. We are not fans of fried foods, but we make an exception about every 6 months when we hit on a 'special' place. The Long Creek Fish Fry was such a place.  We counted more than 30 employees, about 20 on the wait staff alone - like sharks - always in motion. Despite the crowd, we were immediately seated in the sparse, cavernous restaurant. Our waitress was instantly at the table.  Drinks (no booze) arrived at our elbows.  We looked around at the other diners.  Many were a wee bit overweight, gray headed, or bald.  Some in bib overalls and work clothes. Very few youngsters or kids. Oysters.  Fried. Fish. Fried.  Scallops.  Fried.  Hush puppies.  Fried.  Potatoes fried.  Everything except a baked potato was fried.  One of us ordered a small size oyster platter and the other took perch plate. The meals appeared within minutes and there were enough perch for 3 people and the French fries looked like a double order.  There was a large helping of homemade cole slaw, a dozen hush puppies, and large size cup of homemade tartar sauce, sitting on top of the oyster plate with contained 18 large size oysters in addition to the other sides. Half gallon pitchers of iced tea was left on the tables. We said, "OMG," who can eat all of this and they are just a half size orders.  In 5 minutes the drinks were refilled, the waitress left two carry out boxes (how did she know?), and our check.  Everything was served in throw away containers - everything thing and our table was cleared before we could leave the room. It was an incredible experience.  There were 12 pieces of perch and 12 large oysters that went into the carry out boxes to take to the motel for a midnight snack. Total price?  $23.54.  I left a $5 tip and the waitress, with sweat running down her cheeks, gave me a big hug and kiss and pleaded that we come back again. Outside the restaurant, carry out orders were leaving almost as fast as patrons could pay and most had a 1-gallon jug of sweet iced tea. The owner never left the inside cash register because there was always a line waiting to pay- it took us 8 minutes to get to the register.  Incredible experience and the fried seafood was not over done and well worth the trip.

On VA Route 40, west of Stoney Creek

During a recent trip through the back roads of Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina I found my mind wandering to earlier days. Here and there I found dilapidated 'country' stores, long closed by economic pressures of modern day shopping, giving way to the ravages of time and weather. These stores along the Middle Atlantic states were to the community what the 'juke' joints were to the Mississippi Delta  These famed old juke joints existence is slowly dying out from modern entertainment around casino country. But they were the place to be in their day.  In the deep south, always great fried fish, hush puppies, cold beer, the lonesome music of the blues with maybe dancing and a little gambling. In the country stores, it was much the same.  A place for the locals to gather, swap farm and crop stories, gossip and speculate why the constable's car went by so fast last night.

North of McKinney on VA Route 40

You could get a piece of thick sliced bologna or cheese, served across the counter on two pieces of cracker - in 4-unit pieces or a moon pie and a cold RC Cola or Big Orange. There wasn't much dancing, but in the evenings the good ole boys would come by with their banjos, guitars, maybe a fiddler and there'd be picking' 'n singing on the porch or around a pot bellied stove in the middle to the store in the winter time. In TN beer or booze was out in such establishments - thanks to the  Southern Baptist church folks' support of the moonshiners and bootleggers. They joined hands to defeat every vote attempting to approve the sale of beer or wine,  It kept the bootleggers happy and in business and the Baptists could go to church slapping each other on the back for another defeat of legalized booze. After the country store closed in the evenings,  the younger hangers on would pile into the cars, drive down the road to a house sitting down a long drive, park under a huge tree in the back yard, out of sight of the main road, and the bootlegger would sent someone out to take your order and your money. Then filling themselves with the spirit(s), the car'd park along a lonely back road and the tales would get wilder and the music louder until time to head home.  Nobody ever came by to bother them. Those were horrible old days, but I can't help but miss them when I drive by a closed country store.
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