January 16, 2017

NCFOOD is the North Carolina Folklife Institute’s blog exploring our state’s traditional cooking and foodways. Every highway and byway in the state is a potential jumping off point for a food adventure, whether discovering the Restaurante Rosa de Saron in Sampson County or the Pakse Café in Greensboro.

You’ll find stories and personal experiences about farmers and food artisans, local recipes, and great traditional eateries -- a celebration of the rich and diverse food traditions of North Carolina. Celebrate the magic that happens when many cultures come together around a common table.

Pecan Pickin’

Text and photos by Ray Linville A couple of weeks before Thanksgiving, our thoughts often begin to shift to traditional pies and other desserts, much more than the bird that will anchor the center of the table. One traditional pie for my family is a Southern favorite—pecan. Can you imagine foraging for pecans or walking a farm to find nuts that have just fallen on the ground? Through the years, generations of … [Read more...]

Nick’s Grill

Text and photos by Madison Heltzel Like many sub-rural stretches of Western North Carolina, my neck of the North Asheville woods is graced with an abundance of small burger-and-shake joints. In fact, there is one located directly across the street from my humble abode. However, whenever that inevitable burger-craving hits, I usually find myself hopping on a bike and riding a bit farther up the street to Nick’s … [Read more...]


Text and photos by William Ritter As the leaves begin to fall and cold weather (sort of) begins to set in, pumpkin pies, pumpkin soups, and pumpkin ales start popping up on menus across the state. Historically, though, many western North Carolina families let the pumpkins go to the hog pen, and it was candyroaster squash that graced the table instead. Don’t get me wrong, I love a pumpkin pie, but the orange … [Read more...]

Local Favorite Keeps Its Tradition Going

Text and photos by Ray Linville Whiteville, the largest city in Columbus County and the county seat, has been a hub of activity in eastern North Carolina since the county was formed in 1808. When vehicle traffic came onto the scene, major highways U.S.74, 76, and 701 intersected in the downtown section and brought tourists, courthouse business, and retail customers, all hungry at lunch for a quick, satisfying … [Read more...]

A Feast For the Eyes

Text and photos by Sol Weiner At the North Carolina State Fair, a 100-pound watermelon is not just a 100-pound watermelon, nor is the first-prize pumpkin pie just a dessert. Like The Treachery of Images by René Magritte, which famously declared “This is not a pipe” below an image of that very object, food on display is a representation of something else, something bigger. After all, if you can’t actually eat the … [Read more...]

Hurricanes, Pigs, and People

Text by Sol Weiner, photos by Sol Weiner and Tom Clement (unless otherwise noted) Perhaps it seems insensitive, almost crass. With as much life and property lost in a storm like Hurricane Matthew, news outlets—with the pressure to constantly produce material—still run stories not about people washing away, but about pigs. And chickens. And turkeys. Whether the story is about the family pet falling victim to … [Read more...]

Spots Are Running

Text and photos by Ray Linville “They’re running” is a phrase that you hear often. It could be at the start of a NASCAR race in Charlotte, a 10K run in the Triangle, or a warning about bulls charging in Pamplona, Spain, but right now it’s a phrase referring to a seasonal phenomenon on the coast. For many coastal areas in North Carolina at this time of year, "they're running" means that spots are running near … [Read more...]

El’s Drive-In Shrimp Burger: A Crystal Coast Favorite

Text and photos by Sol Weiner Summer in North Carolina has now come and gone, and with it the height of beach season. Like many humans, I like the beach—there’s an ocean you can jump into, and a lot of tasty seafood. And like many folklorists, I also spend a lot of time in my car. While most of that time is spent driving, smaller portions are used on noble pursuits like sleeping in Walmart parking lots, changing … [Read more...]

Collard Eating as a Community Sport

Text and photos by Ray Linville Would you compete in a collard-eating contest? It’s an event I would rather watch, particularly after learning that the winner has to eat almost six pounds in half an hour. Collard-eating contests have been held in the town of Ayden in Pitt County for as long as most people can remember. The home of the official N.C. Collard Festival, Ayden has a lot of collard aficionados, and … [Read more...]

Beyond the Music: Feeding the Merlefest Masses for Community Causes

Text and photos by Leanne E. Smith When 75,000 people gather for four days at a music festival, they will eat a lot of food. If that festival is Merlefest, they will have plenty of choices from longtime favorites to newer offerings. Food vendors are scattered throughout the festival grounds at the Wilkes Community College campus in Wilkesboro, NC, but the center of the morning-to-night food scene is the circus-sized … [Read more...]