by David Cecelski
The first time I knew
the spots were running was just west of the Northeast Cape Fear River, on US
117 in Pender County. I saw a young boy sitting in a red pick-up truck in a
yard full of nets and boats. Next to the truck, a sign read “Fresh Spots.” Fall
is here, I said to myself.
the sweet, bony, little fish were everywhere. I was there to give a lecture for
the YWCA and as I drove around town, every fish market had a big sign by the
road or a placard in its window that said “Fresh Spots” or sometimes just
Later, on my way home, I saw an older fellow with a
cooler full of spots by the side of the road at the fork where US 74/76
Business and By-Pass split off east of Whiteville. He still had his boat on his
truck’s trailer, so I knew they were fresh.
As I drove toward Fayetteville on US 87, every little grill and
cafe seemed to be advertising spots. I almost stopped for lunch when I saw the
sign for “Fresh Spots” at the old S & J Grill in Dublin,
in Bladen County. In business since the 1950s,
it’s just up the road from the famous Houston’s
Peanut’s plant and retail shop.
I decided to wait a little while to eat, but I
didn’t last much longer. I finally stopped at Anderson’s Grill in Tar Heel. It’s a
wonderful little country cooking joint right on US 87. It’s just across the
street from UFCW Local 1208, the union at the Smithfield Packing Company on the
other side of town, said to be the largest hog slaughterhouse in the world.
Grill had a crowd, but I didn’t mind waiting. The seating is all outside on
picnic tables and on a low, cement block wall and it was a pretty day.
Everybody was in a celebratory mood, too, it being a Friday and with the spots
running. A few people were having fried crab dinners or a barbecue
sandwich, but most everybody was eating spots.
I got a plate of fried spots and cornbread and sat
on the wall, picking the meat off the bones a little bit with a fork, but
mostly with my fingers. It did make for a nice end to summer.
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.
Title photo of Altapass Orchard by Cedric N. Chatterley