Sandy and I drove down to see my mother for Mother’s Day in Marietta, N.C. Whenever I tell people I’m from Marietta, N.C., they never hear or read the N.C. part. They always think I’m talking about Georgia. It’s on the north side of the North/South Carolina line in Robeson County. We’re talking sand and swamp. Joseph Mitchell called it Black Ankle County.
Last night, we took Mama out for dinner at the Barn in Fair Bluff, N.C., the town across the Lumber River from us. This is where my brother works for Coastal Agribusiness. Yep, that’s right. The whole farm thing is for another blog entry, if I can ever get the emotional energy up for it.
Anyway, there are not a lot of places to go out to eat down there, but it’s a whole lot better than it used to be. We had fried seafood. That’s usually what you have when you go out to eat at night down there. I never thought two minutes about Calabash-style fried seafood and hush puppies and slaw as being regional food before a few years ago. We took a couple of friends from Canada to Lake Waccamaw and out to eat at Dale’s Seafood. They looked at the fried shrimp like it was going to crawl off the plate. What is this again? they said.
When I grew up, we called hush puppies “corn dodgers.” Also, down there we call lunch “dinner” and dinner “supper.”
Mama cooked “dinner” for us, mostly ahead of time. She fixed a chicken salad casserole that was basically baked chicken salad and rice with Ritz crackers on top. It was really delicious. Also, my favorite dish, butterbeans and field peas with ham hocks for flavoring. I don’t eat pork any more except for this dish. And Mama’s vegetable soup.
Butterbeans are what people up here call baby lima beans. I ordered butterbeans in a diner once and they brought me these pasty brown huge beans that tasted like cardboard. I was shocked. I can’t imagine why anyone would order these on purpose.
When we left, I felt like I was forgetting something. I realized finally that Mama hadn’t loaded me up with leftovers or cake or pie or produce from the garden. We did cut ten cuttings from her fig tree, though. We’re going to root them. And she gave me a bunch of seeds she had left over from planting her garden. I asked her what varieties they were and she didn’t know. Just peas and string beans and squash and watermelons and cantaloupes, she said. By peas she means field peas, not green peas.