Text and photos by Ray Linville
Holding a “throwback” event is a great way to honor a tradition that once was a favorite but ended too quickly. Such was the case this spring when the Moore County Historical Association—the oldest historical society in N.C. in continuous operation—held a luncheon and re-created a popular dish to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Association’s founding: creamed chicken over waffles.
The scene was the Shaw House, built around 1820 by a first-generation Scottish settler at the intersection of an ancient north-south Indian Trail and an east-west trade route that connected to the market town of Fayetteville. The house’s sturdy simplicity is characteristic of homes built by Scottish families who settled the Sandhills.
For five decades, luncheon was served at the Shaw House daily except on Sundays during mild springs and fall weather. In 1975 it received an Award of Excellence from Ford Times magazine and was featured in the publication as a “Famous Eating Place.” At the time, Shaw House Tea Room became a destination for the motoring public seeking venturesome day trips as it continued to serve the local community. However, the practice was discontinued in the 1990s.
For the “old-timey” luncheon, the Association served creamed chicken over waffles and prune cake with whipped cream for dessert, which evoked fond memories for community members who had dined at the Shaw House Tea Room. Caroline Anderson, a long-time resident of Southern Pines, said, “I remember coming for chicken and waffles in the ‘60s.”
Creamed chicken over waffles is not specific to the food culture of this area, which has multiple generations of Scottish and African descendants. It would, however, have been among the more popular options when planning a lunch. Becky Keith, one of the event volunteers, said, “Creamed chicken was a staple for any lady planning a luncheon, Scottish or otherwise.”
Roberta Williams and Jim Jones, a retired restaurateur, were responsible for the food preparation. Jones was quick to acknowledge the involvement of many Association members in making the luncheon a success. “So many people helped,” he said, and the menu for the event listed 28 volunteers.
To prepare the creamed chicken and waffles, Jones researched recipes for that dish in particular, as well as other historic food traditions of the Sandhills. On the other hand, no research was needed to make the prune cake because an Association member had preserved its recipe. In fact, “seven or eight members each wanted to make the cake,” Jones said, so they all used the same recipe to make pans of the cake needed for the luncheon.
Making foods enjoyed decades ago brings back memories and helps to preserve food stories. Although reading an old recipe can help us to reminisce, sharing a dish is the best way to keep food traditions alive.
Shaw House Historic Preservation: http://www.hpo.ncdcr.gov/nr/MR0503.pdf