Chefs of the Coast: Restaurants and Recipes from the North Carolina Coast

By Nancy Gadzuk

John Batchelor, food critic and author of Chefs of the Coast, Restaurants and Recipes from the North Carolina Coast was the featured speaker at the May 2017 History Center meeting.

He spoke on his experiences as a restaurant reviewer for newspapers in both Winston-Salem and Greensboro and as a judge of restaurant cooking competitions throughout Western North Carolina.

These experiences led him to write first , Chefs of the Mountains with recipes and stories from some of the restaurants he’d visited there.

To some people (like me), John’s would be a dream job: sampling delicious food, hearing the chefs’ and restaurateurs’ stories of how they got into the business, learning at least some of their secrets and recipes, finding out where their ingredients come from, and compiling these experiences into a beautifully photographed collection to be shared with others.

Apparently John thought so too, and he began work on Chefs of the Coast. One of the things he learned in his first book was that refining recipes that are meant to serve fifty down to recipes that serve four is not so easy.

Based on feedback he’d gotten on his earlier book, he also knew readers wanted simpler recipes and that some relatively inexpensive restaurants needed to be included. Seventeen Wilmington and Southport restaurants are represented in the book, which leans heavily toward the Outer Banks.

He said the key to pulling everything together came from his interviews, where a line or two would stand out and inform the focus of the entire segment. For example, “If it’s white – rice, flour, sugar – don’t eat it,” is John’s own food mantra.

He acknowledged that many home cooks can prepare a meal that’s every bit as tasty as what a top chef prepares, but for two or four people rather than a restaurant full of people all wanting different meals.

John’s line that stood out for me was this: The traditional chef’s hat has one hundred folds in it, signifying that a good chef should be able to cook an egg one hundred different ways, from memory.

Bon appetit!

 

 

Cape Fear River Watch

By Nancy Gadzuk

Madi Polera, fisheries biologist with Cape Fear River Watch (CFRW), spoke at the February 20th meeting of the Federal Point Historic Preservation Society. Madi stepped in for Kemp Burdette, the Cape Fear Riverkeeper, when Kemp was unable to make the meeting.

Madi explained the mission of Cape Fear River Watch: To protect and improve the water quality of the Lower Cape Fear River basin. The Cape Fear River basin is the largest in the state, covering more than 9000 square miles, with one-third of North Carolina’s population living within the area.

The environmental and economic importance of the Cape Fear River cannot be overstated. The river basin itself is home to a diverse variety of animal and plant life, including ancient bald cypress trees.

The river watershed is also home to more factory farms than any other watershed on the planet.

A major concern of CFRW—and it should be a concern to all of us in North Carolina, especially those of us who drink Cape Fear River water—is the proliferation of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, or CAFOs.

The Cape Fear region has the highest density of CAFOs in the world. There are 9.8 million people in North Carolina, and 10 million hogs. Poultry production is also exploding.

Animal waste can and does cause significant pollution as run-off into river waters. Hog lagoons can be managed and monitored to minimize their impact, but poultry waste is not currently monitored by the state.

Madi acknowledged the need to balance the economic benefit to the state of CAFOs with the environmental impact of the animal waste. The battle is with pollution, not with farmers.

She also shared the recent success of the CFRW Fishing Restoration project to build a fish ladder or fish ramp on the Cape Fear River.

Migratory fish like striped bass and Atlantic sturgeon had not been able to migrate up the Cape Fear River naturally for more than 100 years until this fish ladder at Lock and Dam #1 on the Cape Fear River was completed.

Progress can happen with persistence and hard work.


Additional video resources:
YouTube videos of Cape Fear fish ladder

 

Eight Days Down The Cape Fear River

from Our State Magazine

…   After 170 miles of paddling, downtown Wilmington appears at the confluence of the Cape Fear and Northeast Cape Fear rivers.

We ducked underneath a railroad bridge at Navassa as a large sightseeing boat was bearing down on us. “We love you, Kemp!” screamed a dozen women and girls onboard. Kemp shook his head and smiled. The captain was a friend of his, Kemp said. He wasn’t really that popular.

At 11:30, we paddled underneath another highway bridge at the mouth of the Northeast Cape Fear River, and suddenly we were downtown, passing a Coast Guard cutter and the Battleship North Carolina, waterfront parks, buildings, fountains, and cars. Men and women eating lunch at riverside restaurants watched us take stroke after stroke. Joggers glanced at us. Dogs sniffed in our direction. We sat up straight, and stuck out our chests. We paddled toward Dram Tree Park like runners entering a stadium at the end of a grueling marathon.

We turned left, just above the noisy Cape Fear Memorial Bridge, and pulled onto a ramp, where Cape Fear River Watch volunteers, friends, and onlookers greeted us. We walked up the street to Elijah’s for a big lunch and Endless River beer. It felt like our journey was over, even though we weren’t done just yet. “The worst part of the trip ending?” Chris said. “You don’t get to paddle the next day.”

As we walked, one of the onlookers stopped me. “How was the trip?” she asked.

It was like having a new job, I said. A good job. I got up in the morning, and got to work paddling. At the end of the day, I had dinner, relaxed, and went to bed. The next morning, I got up and did it again. It was simple. As simple as I dreamed it could be.

And with that, on the seventh day, we rested.

The last day of paddling was an afterthought. We had 26 miles to go, and the wind was at our backs, with a falling tide to push us. We’d reach the river’s end by lunchtime. We left Dram Tree Park at 5:30 a.m. with light boats, carrying just some water and snacks. We paddled into the blackness of the 42-foot-deep shipping channel and quickly encountered a container ship, the Maersk Wakayama, being guided by a tugboat to the mile-long State Port just south of downtown. We gave it a wide berth. The ship was almost the size of two football fields and its captain likely couldn’t see us.

The Cape Fear River was now an estuary, and as its water dried on our coats, it left behind a salty residue. The channel was a mile wide. We passed Island 13, a splinter of land bulked up by sand and dirt dredged from the riverbed. Ahead, the water disappeared into the horizon, under a blue sky flecked with high, pink clouds. Pelicans, ibis, and seagulls circled above us.

View images and read the full story of paddling 200 miles down the Cape Fear River at Our State Magazine.

 

World War I and its “Indescribable Desolation”

By Nancy Gadzuk

Jan Davidson, Historian at the Cape Fear Museum of History and Science, spoke at the January 16, 2017 meeting of the Federal Point Historic Preservation Society.

Jan spoke on Service, Sacrifice, and Memorialization: New Hanover County Residents and World War I.

The United States entered World War I in 1917. The war was sold effectively to citizens as a fight for democracy, and colorful propaganda posters promised “Adventure and Action” while serving the country.

World War I was considered a total war that required mobilization on every front. Everything and everyone had to come together: mobilizing business, labor, finances, and, especially, mobilizing “Red Blooded Fighting Men Between 18 and 40.”

Wilmington became the biggest source of draftees in the region, with the majority of its draftees African American. Women were called to serve as nurses.

It was a terrible war, known for its “indescribable desolation” and killing its soldiers both in action and through disease, all the while setting the stage for World War II.

Those soldiers who did return did not come home unharmed. As one North Carolina returnee wrote from a psychiatric hospital, “We aren’t the same animals at all who left home.”

Wilmington’s World War I Memorial was first erected in 1922 to honor New Hanover County’s war dead. The monument was moved, restored, and rededicated along the downtown Riverwalk in 2014.

The following quote from the Roman poet Horace (born 65 B.C.) is inscribed on its base: “Dulce et Decorum est pro patria mori. ” This was a well-known rallying call during World War I, translating to: “It is sweet and proper to die for your country.”

Dulce et Decorum Est is also the name of the best known poem from the first World War, written by British soldier Wilfred Owen. Owen was killed in action in France one week before the Armistice.

Dulce et Decorum Est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est 
Pro patria mori.


Cape Fear Museum’s Historian Jan Davidson:  A Moving Monument – Wilmington’s World War I Memorial

 

The Ladies’ Memorial Association and the Civil War

By Nancy Gadzuk

Travis John Gilbert, manager of the Lower Cape Fear Historical Society’s Latimer House, spoke at the November 21, 2016 meeting of the Federal Point Historic Preservation Society. Travis talked about the Ladies’ Memorial Association and the role of women during and after the Civil War.

The notion of a so-called “good death” vanished with the realities of the Civil War and that change translated into women’s roles, particularly Southern women’s roles, changing dramatically as well.

While Southern women were supposed to be protected and taken care of, the war presented a new reality.

The unprecedented casualty rate of the Civil War meant that almost everyone was mourning loved ones who died alone and far from home rather than in the comfort of their families’ arms, in an honorable or good death.

In 1865, nearly every family plot in Wilmington’s Oakdale Cemetery had a fresh grave. War beckoned the ladies from their homes and they tried to mitigate the overwhelming death and destruction of war by leading the city’s mourning process.

The Ladies’ Memorial Association formed to take good care of Confederate graves. They held benefits and the 19th century equivalent of bake sales to make money for their efforts. May 8, 1868, marked Wilmington’s first Confederate Memorial Day, held outside Oakdale Cemetery with “graceful flowering offerings.”

By 1872, the Ladies’ Memorial Association had constructed the Confederate Soldiers Mound in Oakdale Cemetery as they shaped Wilmington’s post-war rebirth.

This plaque dedicated to the Confederate dead lies at the base of the mound:

THIS MONUMENT WAS DEDICATED MAY 10, 1872 / TO PERPETUATE DEEDS OF THE BRAVE AND IN GRATEFUL / TRIBUTE TO THE MEMORY OF 550 HONORED UNKNOWN / CONFEDERATE DEAD AT THE BATTLE OF FORT FISHER / WHO LIE BURIED HERE / SPONSORED BY THE LADIES MEMORIAL ASSOCIATION LATER MERGED WITH DAUGHTERS OF THE CONFEDERACY / SELF DENIAL – WORK – PRAYERS – TEARS – HEARTS BLOOD / ENTERED INTO ITS BUILDING

Under the auspices of flowers and community healing, the women of the confederacy became agents of local politics and power. Eventually this new gender strength and consciousness would find its way into the women’s suffrage movement, where these same elements would be crucial.

Self denial. Work. Prayers. Tears. Hearts blood.

 

 

 

Hurricane Hazel – A Special but Evil Storm

By Nancy Gadzuk

hurricane-hazel-1954Steve Pfaff of the National Weather Service spoke at the History Center’s October 17, 2016 meeting. Originally Steve was scheduled to make a presentation on Hurricane Hazel. And then Hurricane Matthew happened on October 9th.

steve-pfaffDespite working long hours dealing with the aftermath of Matthew, Steve found the time to weave his original presentation on Hazel into a fascinating presentation that combined information on both Hurricanes Hazel (1954) and Matthew (2016).

paths-of-hurricanes-hazel-mathewHe began by sharing some information about Hurricane Hazel, a “special but evil storm.” Hazel became a Category 3 hurricane very quickly and killed over 1,000 people as it tore through Haiti, a pathway that Matthew would unfortunately follow as well.

He cautioned that we should not let radar fool us when determining how big a threat a hurricane may pose. Over-reliance on the Saffir-Simpson wind scale to determine hurricane strength and possible destructive effects has been problematic, especially with storms such as Hazel and Matthew, where storm surge and high water levels have been so destructive.

hurricane-hazel-impactsHe cited meteorologist Ryan Knapp’s apt example to show relative destructive impacts: I can breathe in 100 mile per hour winds, but I can’t breathe under 10 feet of water.

Hazel had what Steve called “good air”: high barometric pressure that allowed for a very large storm surge. High temperatures preceding the hurricane and a high lunar tide, along with unusually warm water temperature, all contributed to a powerful 18 foot storm surge that wiped out most of the oceanfront dwellings in Brunswick County.

byron-mooreByron Moore, long-time History Center member who lived in Carolina Beach during Hazel, shared some of his recollections of the storm and its aftermath. His family lived on Canal Drive and water went up to the speedometer of the car sitting in the driveway. He remembered seeing propane tanks floating down Canal Drive and 6 to 8 feet of sand on Carolina Beach Avenue North. Other audience members contributed their own memories of the devastation Hazel caused.

return-period-for-hurricanesSteve warned us that the return period for hurricanes along the North Carolina coast was 5 to 7 years. Also, since 1999 there have been five 500 to 1000 year flood events in the Southeast in case anyone has a notion to become complacent and let their insurance lapse.

The Archaeology of Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson

by Nancy Gadzuk

Jim McGee- Brunswick Town/Fort AndersonJim McKee, Site Manager of the Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson Historic Site, spoke at the September 19, 2016 meeting of the Federal Point Historic Preservation Society. Jim spoke on The Archaeology of Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson.

The Brunswick Town archaeological collection is the largest in the state of North Carolina.

Several conditions contributed to the large number of artifacts. First, Brunswick Town was prosperous and a world-class port. The density of people and cargo passing through the area was conducive to numerous artifacts (defined as anything man-made) being left in the area.

The people of Brunswick Town, and many colonial areas, disposed of their refuse in the streets. The streets were literally paved with refuse. Back in the day, this was called refuse or garbage. Now, this refuse is called historical artifacts.

Brunswick Town had three wharves, and the area immediately surrounding the wharves has been a treasure trove of colonial artifacts. Much of what shipped out of Brunswick was naval stores, products made from pine tar and sap.

Pine tar, river muck, and salt water all combined to make an excellent preservative for anything that fell into that marine environment. Most of the artifacts Jim shared with us were found near Captain William Dry’s wharf.

Archaeologists use the artifacts they find to form a theory of what happened at the time – from the mundane to the outrageous, with reality generally found somewhere between the extremes.

Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson - shoeAt Captain Dry’s wharf, for example, they found six leather shoes in the muck, a step or two from the edge of the wharf. Each shoe was pointed toe first, suggesting some kind of panic on the wharf, so that sailors jumped, fell, or were pushed into the water.

Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson - coinAlso found were a Spanish silver coin stamped by the mint master of Seville and fabric with buttonholes in the style of the Havana garrison uniform. These artifacts supported the belief that Dry was largely responsible for repelling a Spanish invasion in 1748.

Many Brunswick Town inhabitants were wealthy landowners who also had property elsewhere.

Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson - water jugOther artifacts gave us a glimpse of a well-traveled, prosperous population: water jugs from Germany, a Dutch copper mouth harp, an intricate pocket watch key, an Irish half penny.

One person’s careless discards can, over time, become an important historical record.

 

 

October Meeting – Remembering Hazel

View 47 photos of Hurricane Hazel in Carolina Beach, Oct. 15 1954:  Brummitt Collection

 

hazle-mapThe Federal Point Historic Preservation Society will hold its monthly meeting on Monday, October 17, 7:30 p.m. at the Federal Point History Center, 1121-A North Lake Park Blvd., adjacent to Carolina Beach Town Hall.

This month our program will be “Remembering Hazel.” Steve Pfaff, with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, returns to give an overview and how Hazel rates in the history of North Carolina hurricanes.

In addition we have Byron Moore and Charlie (Tommy) Greene, both long time members of our  Society, on board to talk about their personal experiences during and after noaaHazel.

From Wikipedia: At landfall on October 15, 1954, the hurricane brought a storm surge of over 18 feet to a large area of coastline, producing severe coastal damage; the damage was greater since the hurricane coincided with the highest lunar tide of the year.

Brunswick County, North Carolina, suffered the heaviest damage, where most coastal dwellings were either destroyed or severely damaged. For example, in Long Beach, North Carolina, only five of the 357 buildings were left standing.

The official report from the Weather Bureau in Raleigh, North Carolina stated that as a result of Hazel, “all traces of civilization on the immediate waterfront between the state line and Cape Fear were practically annihilated.” According to NOAA, “every pier in a distance of 170 miles of coastline was demolished”.

Nineteen people were killed in North Carolina, with several hundred more injured; 15,000 homes were destroyed and another 39,000 were damaged. The number of people left homeless by the storm was “uncounted thousands.” Damages in the Carolinas amounted to $163 million, with $61 million incurred by beachfront property. Total damage in the United States historic-plaqueranged from $281 million to $308 million.

While Hazel caused the most damage in the Carolinas, the storm did not lose all of its intensity. Going north, Hazel turned extratropical by midday when it merged with a cold front; however, it retained hurricane-strength winds and it was continuing to drop heavy rainfall.

 

Jack Fryar—History Buff

by Nancy Gadzuk

Jack FryerThe Federal Point History Center’s August 15 meeting featured Jack Fryar, well-known local historian, prolific author, publisher, and, as his T-shirt proclaimed, History Buff.  (His T-shirt also mentioned that, as a history buff, he’d be more interested in you if you were dead.)

Jack spoke on The Cape Fear in the Revolutionary War Part II: 1777 – 1781.  He illustrated his detailed walk through various battles with numerous pictures of modern-day war reenactments alongside period maps from the Revolutionary War era.

Title - Jack FryerHe referred to this time period as the “first civil war,” because after the Battle of Moore’s Creek in 1776, settlers began to split into two camps: those who wished to remain loyal to the King, and those who wanted independence.

Charleston and Savannah had been important in the early Revolutionary War effort, but with the fall of Charleston in 1780, the British gained a toehold in the South and Wilmington became a critical focus.

The Cape Fear region was geographically very important to the war effort. First, the Cape Fear River is the only river in North Carolina with direct access to the Atlantic Ocean. This was critical for fighting a war in which the Loyalists were coming from across the Atlantic Ocean. Second, the Cape Fear River went inland 147 miles to Fayetteville, and effectively served to divide the state.

Burgwin's House - FryerThe Loyalist Major Craig used Wilmington as a base of operations until forced to evacuate by the Independent forces in 1781, marking the end of significant British presence in North Carolina.

Jack talked in detail about battles, battle routes, winners, and losers. It’s important, however, to also keep in mind the human cost of all wars — the death, devastation, and destruction.

 

 

Zach Hammer, Producer of ‘Summers at Seabreeze’

by Nancy Gadzuk

zachZach Hanner spoke at the July 18, 2016 monthly meeting of the Federal Point Historic Preservation Society.

Zach was the creator of the informative and entertaining musical production, Summers at Seabreeze, produced in 2015 at TheatreNOW, a performing arts complex in Wilmington featuring dinner theater.

Zach is Artistic Director of TheatreNOW, as well as being a driving force in many other artistic ventures in the Southeast.
summers-seabreeze-2Zach talked about his personal experiences that led to the creation of Summers at Seabreeze.

He’d been given the opportunity as a free-lance writer for the Wilmington Star-News to write an article about Seabreeze, the African-American beach community just north of Carolina Beach. But with documentary filmmaker Ken Burns as his role model, Zach wanted to do more than write a single article for the newspaper. And in 2014, he began to do just that.

He read existing writings about the community, including a UNCW master’s thesis on Seabreeze, and contacted about half a dozen former Seabreeze residents who were willing to share their experiences with him.

He learned about the ferry driver on the small ferry running between Seabreeze and Carolina Beach who would “whop rowdy passengers over the head with a cane,” presumably from one of those rowdy passengers. By the time Zach had interviewed three or four people, he said, “I knew I had a show.”

He combined the oral histories of his interviewees with other sources of local history to tell the story of Seabreeze during its heyday in the 20th century as an African-American resort.

Since both food and music were major components of life in Seabreeze, telling its story through a dinner theater production made perfect and delicious sense, with musical greats like Fats Domino visiting Seabreeze and enjoying their famous clam fritters.

Summers at Seabreeze

Summers at Seabreeze

I had the good fortune to enjoy Summers at Seabreeze when it played in Wilmington last summer – although as a long-time New Englander, I have to say that clam fritters are supposed to be round spheres, not pancakes like the ones served in Seabreeze.  But they were delicious!

While some of the actors in Summers at Seabreeze were seasoned professionals, some were not, and part of the experience, from Zach’s point of view, was to expand and grow all the participants.

Zach would like to stage another, perhaps larger scale, version of the play and hopes to explore that possibility in the future.

Those who saw Summers in Seabreeze last year certainly hope he does.