Carolina on My Mind

When Bill and I travel together by plane, we always, ALWAYS get an aisle and a middle seat. I don’t know why, because a hundred percent of the time, we  spend the time peering over the shoulder of our neighbor-the-window-seat-holder to look out the window, undoubtedly annoying the heck out of him or her. Why didn’t you just buy the window seat, he or she wants to ask.

And so it was that I was rudely gawking outside as I said goodbye to North Carolina yesterday after five days of feeling like I was at home rather than on vacation. Because, you see, I’m pretty sure I lived in the south in a previous life. And after recently watching Scarlett O’Hara moon over Ashley Ashley, I’m ruling out Atlanta as my previous home. But North Carolina is definitely in the mix.

We spent our time with Bill’s brother Bruce, who lives, happily, (and happily lives) in Winston-Salem, the town that tobacco built. We were reminded of this fact very quickly, as we ate barbecue our first night at a local joint……

And, by the way, when you say barbecue in North Carolina, don’t even think about asking where’s the beef. It’s pork, all the way.

North Carolina seems to encompass All Things Southern. But there are Things that are notably North Carolinan. Baby blue, for example. The hallmark colors of at least some Carolina sports and sported by many on the street. And Cheerwine, a cherry flavored soda that’s as common in North Carolina pop machines as Diet Coke.

And while pimento cheese and banana puddin’ aren’t strictly from North Carolina, I can assure you that they are well represented in eateries there. Many years ago, when Bill and I first visited the Florida keys, we set out to find the best key lime pie. Similarly, we spent the past few days dutifully seeking the best banana puddin’ in Winston Salem. Not surprisingly, we did. Thank you Cloverdale Kitchen, which, as it happens, also serves up good fried chicken. You’re welcome, banana puddin’ fans.

I also drank my share of sweet tea, which I assure you isn’t iced tea to which sugar is added. There’s a whole process that involves simple syrup and a formula that results in a delicious beverage. Especially with lots of lemon. In a Cheerwine v. sweet tea contest, I pick the tea. In my non-vacation life, I would usually avoid the calories in sweetened tea, but while travelling, I recalled the calories I was consuming in my banana puddin’ research and decided being on vacation offset any caloric concerns.

Bruce gave us a five day grand tour, flying down the W-S streets that are so familiar to him after 30-some years of living in this pretty city. As he drove, he pointed out the grand estates, some nearly hidden by the magnolia and crape myrtle trees (and I spelled that correctly). We also saw the stunningly beautiful Wake Forest campus, the Reynolds family’s summer home built in the early days of the 20th century that they referred to as their bungalow. Some bungalow. Most bungalows don’t have indoor swimming pools, a bowling alley, and a gorgeous Art Deco bar….

The home had long since been donated to Wake Forest, and it was the site of a very cool Georgia O’Keeffe exhibit that we were lucky enough to visit. The exhibit included a couple of her paintings, but featured many photos of the artist and lots of her clothes. Offbeat and so interesting.


Exploring the town was fun, and seeing the sheer number of trees everywhere you look is surprising to this woman who has spent the bulk of her life in the wild, wild west. But equally satisfying were the afternoons we spent floating in Bruce’s pool, reminiscing, and solving the problems of the world. After our summer in which Bill spent the majority of his time with a power tool in his hand and I spent the majority of my time trying to find someplace that wasn’t noisy, we loved just relaxing and not having a thing to do…..

So, while I’m quite certain I was a southerner in a former life, I’m happy now to just enjoy occasional visits. As for a future life, well who knows?