Southern hospitality, North Carolina

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We drive through red and yellow trees and a muffling carpet of leaves and arrive at a cluster of wooden cottages in a place where people have soft lighting, rugs and dogs and the air smells of wood smoke and pine. This is Hillsborough, where Dave’s brother, Simon, lives, and the kind of place you don’t drive a zillion miles to see unless you have a friend to visit, which is a pity because hanging around here, poking around the hardware store, buying coffee at Cup o’ Joes, lying in bed listening to the sweet mournful whooo-hooo of the rumbling night train is – in my humble opinion – a treat, in the way that your average bonafide tourist attraction (wagons, pioneers) is not.

It’s a calm patch within a strangely rural-sophisticated triangle, The Triangle – North Carolina’s golden triangle indeed (Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill), home to several colleges, buzz-worthy chefs, artists, intellectuals, producers of artisan bread / cheese / butter / salami and so forth. There’s a river that Simon’s son’s dog, Bowler, swims in, woods and trails, historic houses, great restaurants and live music venues but I’m not sure what visitors to Hillsborough would do apart from drool over the houses and envy the people that live here. Oh, and eat.

A load of us head to the Eddy, talk through slide guitar and eat Cane Creek House Smoked Pork Chop stuffed with prosciutto and local smoked farmer’s cheese over sweet potato mashers and local collards. I don’t, sadly, have room for the Apple Cider Goat lady Chevre Cheesecake with gingersnap crust.

On a vaguely food-related theme, here’s a recipe I found in a Carolina Woman magazine on a table outside the local produce market, taken from a new collection ‘Around the Southern Table: Coming Home to Comforting Meals and Treasured Memories’ by Rebecca Lang. ‘All Things Sweet Potato Casserole’. Special for Thanksgiving, I reckon. Get 4 & 1/2 cups of mashed sweet potato, 4 large eggs, 2/3 cup of heavy cream, 1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, 3/4 cup butter. 1 & 1/2 cups crushed gingersnaps, 3 cups mini marshmallows. Mix it all together, put it in a 13 x 9 inch baking dish and shove it in the over at 350 degrees for 28 minutes. (I’m paraphrasing, but you get the gist). Serves 12.

Anyway, I recommend The Eddy, part of an old converted mill. 1715 Saxapahaw-Bethlehem Church Road  Saxapahaw, NC, (336) 525-2010

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