Thursday, July 24, 2008
*Warning - Vegetarians, Vegans, and perhaps a few PETA members in the audience could probably do themselves a favor by just skipping this paragraph fair warning* Growing up in North Carolina certainly has its advantages when it comes to some good BBQ (and I don’t mean beef or sloppy joes for all you mid-westerners). As many masters of the trade will tell you, barbeque is not a hot flame on a grill in your backyard. Traditional barbeque is pork slooooooow cooked over a low heat using embers from burning wood for 10-12 hours. Patience, consistency, and a good heat source (Hickory being the choice of a lot) give it that fall right off the bone juicy smoked flavor. One of my going away wishes was to cook a shoulder (front quarters of a pig) in this time honored tradition. Pops took it one step farther by bringing in the whole pig! Friends and family came over to take part in the Pig Pickin’ (typically done in the fall after harvest and when it’s not 99° in the shade) where you come up to the pit and pick off what part you want. Some of you may turn your head in disgust, but to me the best part of the pig is actually the skin. I don’t mean the bags you see in the grocery stores, but the real deal typically has some fat and a little meat still stuck to it. Now that’s some good eatin’ It’s best a day later when it’s hardened up a little and is more crispy. Alternatively, deep frying (what can I say – its heritage I guess) or baking (the healthier option?!?!) to finish them off preserves them a little longer so you can enjoy for weeks to come! The rest of the meat gets chopped up and Dad’s special sauce get’s thrown in to seal the deal.
While we did not actually make it to any of the Vineyards this year I wanted to throw in a little bit about it since I have been calling my hometown the “Napa Valley of the East” in the future. Tobacco for years reigned king of the crops for North Carolina for many years. After several circumstances: declining sales, larger farms taking over the industry, governmental subsidies going away (yes tobacco for years was guaranteed by the government and was purchased on the open market with tax dollars if the big boys didn’t buy it) and now days you have to have a contract. As with many things as one door closes another opens and in steps another vice to peddle – wine! Ahh how we love our guilty pleasures! While the initial startup costs a bit more (three years of basically throwing grapes in the ditch from what I understand) it must be paying off. Ten years ago there were two vineyards in the area.
Today that has grown to at least 27 vineyards with their own wine producing facilities including the largest on the East Coast (Shelton’s http://www.sheltonvineyards.com/) as well as countless others that sell to the local Coop (North State http://www.carolinaharvestwines.com/). Perhaps one day the name Yadkin Valley will be as well known as Napa but only time will be the judge of that. For more info on the area as well as a full listing visit: www.yadkinvalleywineries.com/
Blues Lake sits about thirty minutes north – northeast of Winston-Salem. What makes it different than other lakes and rivers in the area is the fact that the water temperature sits between 90 and 100+ depending on where you are in the lake. The source of the heat comes from the Steam Power Plant that looks eerily similar to Springfield Nuclear Power Plant in the Simpsons. (Quick Smithers – go dump that toxic waste in the lake!) After being assured that it was perfectly safe we jumped in. Dad got to take his boat out for another spin around the lake and test out the new tube he just bought. I think my ribs are still a little sore from the hit I took from the water, but hey that’s life.
And now we have arrived at the moment – the Last Supper. Perhaps not as momentous as the real Last Supper, and hopefully no backstabbing was taking place, but all the same memorable. What was the cuisine of choice you might ask…Americana at its best…Mexican. In all reality – this will probably be the hardest to find in SEA for the next five months. Burgers, steaks, fries, all that is synonymous with this great land can all be had elsewhere just as easily as across the street at your local diner, albeit nowhere near as good. Globalization and homogenization of the world, love it or hate it, at least it does produce a “western” toilet when the hole in the ground has worn out its welcome. For only the price of an ice cream cone at the “local” McDonald’s! It never tasted so good!
Off we go! Next stop Kuala Lumpur.