Originally published in the Herald Sun 11/28/2012
In our minds, I and my best friends Rhiannon and Bo, ran the high school and owned the whole of Elizabeth City when we were seniors.
We all had cars and boyfriends (my car was a 1971 Dodge Dart Swinger named Lancelot, and my boyfriend was a stone cold fox named Petey), at 18 we could legally buy beer, we had jobs, so we had a little jingle in our jeans, and we had enough (ati)‘tude to light up Time’s Square.
And it all seems like yesterday.
But yesterday was actually my thirtieth-class reunion. Petey and I got back home a few hours ago. It was all kinds of fun.
Friday night we donned NHS reunion t-shirts and went to see Northeastern play football. We stomped First Flight High from Kill Devil Hills 47-7.
Which is kind of amazing, because I’m not sure the Eagles won one game the entire time I was a student there.
Saturday we had an old-fashioned pig pickin’ wonderfully prepared by our uber-talented ‘cue cook and classmate, Frank Lilly Jr.
Eastern NC BBQ is different from other food. It’s something that is only made well by a very few. It’s not a recipe or a ‘dish’. It is pork slowly basted in mystery, and the past. Luckily for the class of ‘82, Frank is one of the anointed ones.
Barbecue is never to be attempted by dilettantes and amateurs.
I got crazy sunburned. Petey, wise man that he is, wore a hat and got into the shade occasionally. He has a healthy glow–I look like I was staked out in the desert.
Saturday night was the dinner-dance.
There was a catered dinner, a DJ, and a photographer. Everybody was all dressed up and looking swell. It was prom for the Spanxx and bald spot set.
Nobody wanted it to end.
When traveling, we don’t like imposing on friends and family. The visit is happier when all parties can retreat to privacy.
But I don’t like to stay in chain motels. They all look alike, and usually smell funny.
And Petey doesn’t like Bed and Breakfasts. He’s very quiet and nest-y, and it makes him feel uncomfortably like a house guest in a stranger’s home.
My conundrum was that is the bulk of the options in town.
The last time I visited E City, Bo showed me where they held the cast party for her local theater production.
It was a beautiful brick Georgian house on Main St, just a short walk from downtown; the Culpepper Inn (609 W Main St, E City). In addition to hosting parties, it was also a B&B.
When it came time to make a decision about where to stay, I thought about the inn, but I didn’t think Petey would be up for it. Just in case, I pulled up the website.
Yes, it was a dreaded B&B, but with a neat twist. They had the most adorable suite upstairs in the carriage house. It was a separate building, with outside access, and total privacy. The flat also contains a shower so big you could play half-court b-ball in it. That’s my idea of nirvana (the shower, not the b-ball).
It’s a charmingly decorated studio apartment with the amenities of a stately, well-appointed residence. And it comes with a three-course breakfast.
I made reservations.
Holly Koerber, and her lovely daughter Melanie were our hosts, and by the time we left, friends.
The best meal we ate all weekend was at their table, this morning.
Holly’s philosophy is astonishingly Durham-like. The inn is run in a very environmentally responsible manner.
But it’s her cooking that truly resembles the Bull City.
As much as possible, the food is organic and locally sourced. I ate some fantastic bacon that they get from a farm in Windsor (a teeny tiny town about 50 miles from E City). The pumpkin came from a nearby field. Local honey. Everything was fresh, and simply, honestly prepared so that the ingredients shined. Outside our own carriage house door was growing a healthy gaggle of heavenly smelling tomato plants, heavy with luminous jade orbs.
This morning, we had scrambled eggs, the aforementioned yummy bacon, baked cheesy grits, and a pumpkin French toast casserole, along with vibrant fresh fruit.
I thought about that bounty on the 3 ½ hour ride to Durham. And also about the beauty of that historic home and all of our experiences in town this weekend; how they were truly an illustration of the very best things about Elizabeth City.
As soon as we got back, I called Holly and asked for a recipe. I was hoping I could beg her for one, but almost before I finished asking, she kindly offered both recipes, the grits and the casserole.
Here they are, in her own words:
Cook ½ cup yellow grits in 2 cups of boiling water with ½ tsp. of salt & ground pepper on low for 5-6 minutes. Add ¼ cup real butter, 1 cup shredded cheese (any kind you prefer, I like smoked Gouda), and finally, 1 beaten egg. Put in individual baking dishes and bake at 325 degrees for 25 minutes. Brush top with more butter and serve.
Pumpkin Bread Breakfast Casserole
5 slices of any bread, cubed. (Inexpensive white bread puffs the nicest!)
1 cup pumpkin puree (canned or fresh)
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla
3 eggs, beaten
½ cup milk
3oz evap. milk
½ cup chopped pecans
Grease 8X8 casserole. Add cubed bread. Blend pumpkin, spices, vanilla, salt, eggs, both milks and pour over bread. Top with pecans. Cover with plastic and refrigerate overnight.
Bake uncovered at 350 degrees about 45 minutes until a toothpick in the center comes out clean. You may serve this with vanilla yogurt on the side.
It was kind of disconcerting seeing all my old classmates this weekend. In my head they were a bunch of eighteen-year-old kids getting ready to take on the world. But the folks that showed up looked like the parents of those kids.
Until I looked into their eyes. And then I recognized those nutty guys from NHS class of ’82 (Of course, Rhi, Bo, and I all still look like teenagers).
*Coming soon: One of my most beloved friends from NHS, Paxton, lives here in Durham. It was revealed this weekend that the heathen doesn’t like Mexican food. His partner Alex and I are taking him to Chubby’s for a conversion attempt.
I will spill on our adventures in a future column.
Thanks for your time.