Tuesday, April 10, 2007

BBQ and Winston-Salem

Sunday, April 08, 2007

I had a very full day off yesterday. I slept in and arrived at the barn around 10:00 a.m. I made some eggs, cleaned up, and walked across Jess Hackett Road to Ginnie's house. She invited me in and we visited for a while. She's staying in to do her taxes, so there was no persuading her to come out and play.

I borrowed Ginnie's car and headed out around noon. I pointed the car west and drove down Old Liberty Road to Ashboro, turned onto highway 64, past Sammy's farm and kept on going until I reached Lexington. I had one goal in mind: barbecue. It took me about an hour to reach Speedy's BBQ in Lexington. The drive was easy. The sun was shining, but a bitter wind was blowing. Clouds accented the Carolina blue sky. Hwy 64 cuts a path through rolling hills that are heavily wooded. Tall trees form a corridor along the road. The bright green fresh leaves are punctuated with white dogwoods along the edges of the woods. In front of mobile homes, the gardens are filled with bright pink azaleas and pink dogwoods.

I find Speedy's easily, thanks to Sammy's directions and a hand painted sign on the outskirts of Lexington. I pull into the parking lot and see lots of people sitting in cars. Attendants are delivering bags of food to the cars. A sign on the wall says "For Curbside Service, Honk Horn." Looks like a few folks honked. I walk inside. The place is packed. There are three rooms filled with booths. Lots of old tin advertising signs cover the walls. Ted Williams used to sell soda--who knew? I look over the menus. I know what I want. Lexington chopped pork sandwich and hushpuppies. Sweet tea should wash it all down. The older waitress takes my order. I wait a few minutes and out comes my sandwich wrapped in paper and a basket of piping-hot hushpuppies. I unwrap the sandwich and look it over. The pork is very tender and moist. It is topped with "red slaw," the local version. It is sweet, vinegary, with a little zip. A squishy hamburger bun holds it all together. I can smell the wood smoke. This stuff looks right. I take a bite. The pork is very tender. The slaw adds a nice, sweet but slightly acidic balance to the hickory smoked meat. There is no sauce on the table, nor is it served with sauce. I later found out I had to order a side of "dip." I guess they really want to focus on the quality of the meat, not the sauce.

The hushpuppies were perfect. Crispy fried cornbread is a beautiful thing. I ate a few and took the rest home. They reheat well in the toaster oven. The sweet tea came with a small pitcher of extra tea. It was really, really sweet. Perhaps too sweet. I drank it anyway.

There was a constant stream of patrons. The tables were never empty for very long. I finished my lunch and left. I didn't have room for homemade banana pudding. Perhaps next time.

From Speedy's, I drove north to Winston-Salem, a distance of about 25 miles. I found my way to downtown and explored the area know as the Downtown Arts District. The intersection of 6th and Trade is the hub of the revitalized section of downtown.

I parked in front of the Piedmont Craftsmen Gallery on Trade Street. I walked in and browsed the work of local artists. There was work from Seagrove potters, local weavers, wood carvers, glass blowers, and jewelers. Nothing I had to own, but they had a nice cross section of local talent on display. I walked up the block and spotted The Apple Lady Folk Art Gallery across the street. Inside I was greeted by Currie, a.k.a. the Apple Lady, with paintbrushes in her hand. She showed me around her gallery and we talked. She told me her story. She is one of 13 children, and she's somewhere in the middle. When she moved with her family to Winston-Salem she fell into a deep depression because she felt cut off from her loved ones. She found a cure for her depression through art. She took up painting as an adult, because doing art is what made her feel special as a child. Her art focuses on her childhood, scenes from popular culture, and images of home. She includes an apple in every painting, because as a child, everyone used to gather and play under the apple tree. It is a symbol of love and happiness. It also refers to being "the apple of God's eye." Her style is childlike, but it conveys lots of love and devotion to the subject matter.

Currie is also a professional storyteller. She goes into schools and libraries and entertains audiences with stories from her family. "Everyone (referring to other storytellers) around here tells Jack tales, but I tell stories that my daddy used to tell us. She then went on captivate me with a tale of "Annie Mae, the middle child." Annie Mae is one of her sisters, and as a middle child she didn't feel special like the eldest or the youngest. It is a tale of recognizing the unique qualities of being a middle sibling. Currie's story made me choke up and made me fumble for a Kleenex. (Note: I cry easily at movie, too.)

An hour later, I bought a small painting of an apple for $10 and Currie gave me a big hug. If you're in Winston, find Currie. She'll make you feel special, too.

The Bubbling Well Tea and Tonic Bar. Also on Trade Street. It is a large tea shop and tai chi studio. I walked in with a very stuffy nose and asked if they could give me something for my allergies and sinus problems. The English woman behind the bar pulls out an array of vials and starts concocting a potion to cure what ails me. Some elderberry syrup, some ginger, a dropper full of some other extracts went into warm water and set in front of me. I took a sniff. Didn't smell gross. Kind of sweet and slightly earthy. I took a sip and actually liked it. By the end of the elixir, I felt pretty good. My sinuses were a bit clearer, and I felt energized.

Around the corner from the tea bar I found a subterranean, contemporary American art gallery called Urban Artware. The space was full of work from young artists. Friday night they hosted an art opening by a young artist named Tiffany (?). Her art was dark, twisted, and cartoonish. They were a gothic twist on Keene eye figures. Cute, but nothing I would want to look at more than once or twice. I'm sure the artsy 20-somethings went gaga over her work. After making a circuit around the gallery I discovered the glassware. Beautiful hand-blown votive candle holders caught my eye first. Then I fell in love with the kaleidoscopes. My favorite had a hand-blown bottle on the end, filled with plastic and glass bits, that spun around. It was as much fun watching the bottle spin as it was looking through the kaleidoscope. It was made of scrap leaded glass. Note to self: Perhaps I can make one with my scrap glass. Didn't buy any pretty k'scopes, but I did purchase two tiny glass vases. They were made by the fellow who made the glass bottle that went on the end of the kaleidoscope. They're brightly colored and hold tiny flowers. I've never seen anything like them.

Millicent, the woman who runs the gallery was really warm and friendly. She asked me if I was from out of town. I said I was exploring Winston-Salem on my day off. I told her I was studying cheesemaking with a cheesemaker south of Greensboro. "Goat Lady?!?" she inquired. "Yes," I replied. "Oh! I just love Goat Lady! They make the best cheese! Why did you come all the way from California to make cheese and how did you wind up there?" I get asked that question a lot. Folks also ask why I didn't bring them any cheese.

We talked half and hour about food, art, eating local, and hot sauce. Jack, a guy who seemed to be hanging out, killing time in the gallery, makes his own hot sauce. He calls it Angry Metalworker. Not sure where he sells it, but it sounds like it would peel the paint off of my car, let alone, the lining of my intestines. It was getting late so I said goodbye to my new friends and went to the car loaded down with several bags filled with small objects d'art. Next stop, Old Salem.

Old Salem closes at 5:00. It probably closes even earlier if it is the day before Easter. I arrived just before 5:00pm. Old Salem is just south of downtown Winston. It was restored in the 1970s and now is a thriving tourist attraction. The Moravians who live(d) in Old Salem were excellent bakers, and the baked goods are probably the most popular items. I bought some Moravian cookies and a sugar bread to share with the Tates for Easter brunch. The Moravian spice cookies are small, round, flat, sweet, and crispy. They come in flavors like ginger, sugar, and lemon. You buy them in a tube like Pringle's potato chips. They go really well the tea in the afternoon.

Winkler's Bakery in Old Salem.

I walked around Old Salem, ignoring the biting wind, pretending that the sun was warm. The brick sidewalks were deserted. All of the museums were closed so I had Old Salem to myself. The streets were lined with dogwoods, all in full bloom. It looked like they were competing with each other, trying to be the most splendid tree on the block.

God's Acre, the Moravian cemetery was ready to receive guests for Easter. Part of the Easter celebration in Old Salem involves cleaning and polishing the tombstones in the cemetery. Flowers are placed on the graves. As far as I could see, there were shiny tombstones, decorated and ready for the sunrise service.

Hunger soon called, and I tried to get into three different restaurants around Winston-Salem. Don't try to walk into a place with a major tennis tournament in town. The Davis Cup packs 'em in, I suppose. I went back to Greensboro and ate a bison burger at Ham's. No, I did not try the deep-fried cheesecake.

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