by Malinda Dunlap Fillingam
It wasn’t that I hadn’t ever eaten pound cake before, I had. Mama Dunlap made a wonderful pound cake, rich with a touch of lemon. She had it on top of the pie stand in case a visitor came by and was hungry for a bite to eat.
No, what made the pound cake at the Tobaccoville based Pollirosa Restaurant better than any pound cake I had ever eaten was the fact that the owner, Mrs. Rierson, made me feel like I was home there, like she had made it just for me. I came upon the restaurant quite by accident, an accident that helped me get to college. I was out driving alone one evening after my job at a nearby drug store, wandering around roads new to me, trying to figure out what path to take after high school.
I didn’t have any money to pay, but she was sitting there on the front porch and saw me pondering what to do. She asked if I was hungry and I said I was, having not eaten since a piece of white bread earlier that morning. I explained I had no money and she explained that the first time was free, which I later learned was not true.
We sat and talked a spell, watching people come in and out, laughing, picking teeth with toothpicks, and undoing their belts. I heard the music being played in the big two-story rustic auditorium. I saw the familiarity between folks that seemed like kin coming in and out. The price was right and the feel was family, a family united by good food, good music, and good fellowship. If I didn’t know better, I would have declared I was in church.
I ate there with people who were strangers at first, then friends, and after returning a few more times, family. I clapped my hands to the music up on the balcony, stomping my feet when the notion hit me, and often stood and yelled like I was in a rock concert, the place where most of my high school friends were going on Saturday nights.
I came alone, but didn’t feel alone. I felt surrounded by acceptance, by appreciation of how good real food tastes, and how good real music sounded in an old building of logs and a feel of belonging.
When it came time for me to decide whether or not I could make it to college, I was awarded a scholarship for four consecutive years from the Pollirosa restaurant, a gift of confidence that I would make a difference in the world, as Mrs. Rierson had made in my world, one piece of pound cake at a time.
When I got engaged to be married, I told my husband-to-be he had to pass several tests before I said I do. He had to like Hanging Rock, he had to be liked by my younger brother, and he had to enjoy the Pollirosa.
He passed the first two with flying colors, and on the one about the Pollirosa? Well, he liked it so much we had our wedding reception at the place. His family, my family, and our friends all gathered at the place where this lost girl got found. Our wedding reception was the best place I could think of to start off a marriage on the right food, although my husband never got such good food at home! The band played us The Hawaiian Wedding Song, complete with a banjo. The reception was held in the new building as the old one I had first known had burned down. The structure was different, but the atmosphere of warm hospitality remained.
Here’s the recipe for the Pollirosa Pound Cake, the first dessert I ever had in this place of welcome and music, a balm for any soul:
Mrs. Rierson’s Pollirosa Pound Cake
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
3 cups sugar
½ cups margarine (room temperature)
1 cup shortening
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon lemon extract
1 ½ cups sifted plain flour
Cream sugar, margarine, and shortening. Beat eggs and add to mixture. Add vanilla and lemon and salt.
Slowly add flour and mix easily, but thoroughly.
Pour batter in a greased Bundt cake pan (or pound cake pan, if you prefer)
Bake 350 degrees for 45 minutes, then decrease to 325 degrees and bake for about 35-45 minutes more.
Editors Note: Pollirosa Restaurant is now closed. Tobaccoville is a village in Forsyth and Stokes counties in the U.S. state of North Carolina. The population was 2,441 at the 2010 census. While a Tobaccoville post office was established in 1887, the village was not incorporated until 1991. – Wikipedia
Malinda Dunlap Fillingim had the good fortune to move to her step-father’s hometown, Walnut Cove, NC when she was in eighth grade. Curious by nature, Malinda asked Mama Dunlap so many questions about her cooking that she finally gave up some of the old recipes she carried in her head. Malinda is an ESL teacher at Cape Fear Community College and lives in Leland with her husband.