by David Cecelski
Last night my wife and children and I went to hear my son’s guitar teacher perform at the Saturday evening outdoor music series in Saxapahaw, an old textile mill village in southern Alamance County. Our neighbor was great, as always, and we also got to enjoy some good food.
Saxapahaw has changed a lot since I was last there. When I visited the village 15 or 20 years ago, the textile mill had closed its doors and the whole town seemed shuttered and forsaken. Last night, though, it was totally different. The old mill buildings have been converted into apartments and retail shops, a whole community has grown up around the mill, and the place was, literally, rocking.
Saturdays are the new Saxapahaw’s most exciting nights. For the monthly concerts, crowds fill a hillside next to the old mill. There’s also a farmers market every Saturday during the summer from 5 to 8 PM. Last night the vendors were hawking fresh vegetables, lots of figs and blueberries, honey, baked goods, and all kinds of other, interesting things, including homemade fishing flies made by a young man that looked maybe 16 or 17 years old.
And just up the hill, in the mill’s old dye house, a dreamy little restaurant serves gourmet country meals at the Saxapahaw General Store. It’s kind of a surprise when you’re there: you walk into this old grocery store that has bulk dog food and deer-hunting supplies and you can get red snapper in Veracruz sauce or roasted veggie lasagna. My daughter and I shared a watermelon, tomato, and feta cheese salad there that was to die for.
While we were waiting for our supper, I also saw the best newspaper headline that I’ve seen recently. It was the top of page one in the Mebane Enterprise and said: “One Big Tomato Sandwich.” The photograph showed Mildred and Baynes Law proudly holding a very large tomato that had come out of his garden. The caption said that Mr. Law has grown tomatoes in Alamance County for 70 years, that his garden plot is only 12 x 12, and that his tomato is a Missouri variety that the late Harold Ashley, also of Mebane, introduced to him.
Mr. Law’s tomato weighed 1 pound and 11 ounces, which, I had to agree with the headline, would make one big tomato sandwich.