Bless the heart of Bill Redding, who stood up at the public hearing on rezoning lots for parking spaces east of ECU...

Garner: Food and reconciliation

Bob Garner

Bob Garner


Sunday, June 3, 2018

The 15-year-old boy came to the house for dinner after a long morning of plowing behind a mule.

He washed at the hand pump on the back porch and decided on a quick smoke before being called to the table. There was just enough Duke’s in his drawstring pouch for one cigarette.

A younger sister crept up as he was painstakingly arranging the precious tobacco on the curled rolling paper — and mischievously blew it onto the dining room floor. The boy reflexively slapped her in annoyance.

When their sharecropper father began to remove his belt to administer a beating, the boy locked eyes with him and made it clear that he wouldn’t submit to the discipline without a fight.

A few minutes later, he found himself carrying a few possessions down a dirt road into banishment.

The year was 1931. The boy was my father. And Carteret County, his known universe, was in the fierce grip of the Great Depression.

I’ve tried to imagine how terrified he must have been. He never talked about that, nor told me much about how he held body and soul together during the six-year estrangement that followed. There were only oblique references to living in a makeshift tent while helping saw newly felled pine timber, a brief stint of prizefighting and working on an uncle’s shrimp boat.

He also never had a single bad word to say about my grandfather or told me the fault was anything but his own (although it wasn’t). I could observe for myself that there was no lingering bitterness.

That’s because, against all odds, they had been reconciled. My grandfather had finally come to his son and asked him to return home. And my Dad had readily agreed.

Forgiveness was so complete that the schism might never have existed. By the time I came along and was old enough to take notice, the two were absolutely inseparable and had been for years.

During a four-year enlistment, my father had sent nearly all of his meager sailor’s pay home to his parents. After becoming an officer and serving in World War II, he built a new house in town for my grandparents. They had always moved from one tenant house to another, but were finally able to live in their own home for the rest of their lives.

That home was the setting for a decades-long celebration of the resuscitated relationship, mainly through the pursuit and savoring of good food. Although I didn’t realize it as I observed them, impressions were created that ultimately resulted in my own later-life career as a food writer.

I came to discover that the enjoyment of food is inextricably entwined in relationship. Without that, the finest food is insipid.

My father’s life as a Navy pilot dictated that much of my growing up took place on the move. But his eastern North Carolina home town was always a family anchor.

Whenever we visited, which we did often, there was always some sort of expeditionary food activity afoot. Going in search of a big, sweet watermelon. Digging clams and netting crabs. Picking sweet corn. Buying oysters for a neighborhood oyster roast. Eating a Shore Dinner on the Bogue Sound waterfront, or perusing the catch at a local fish house.

My grandmother always put on wonderful feeds from her own kitchen when my Dad was home. But she was wisely content to let the father and son bask in their own special sense of restoration — in their own special way.

I am extraordinarily blessed to have shared the experience.

Bob Garner is a UNC-TV restaurant reviewer, freelance food writer, author of four cookbooks, barbecue pit master and public speaker. Contact him at bgarner2662@gmail.com.


Join Bob for some soft-shell crabs at a popular lunch spot in Beaufort.


Humans of Greenville


Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.


August 15, 2018

The Leroy James Farmers Market Vendor of the Week is Smith Produce.

The farm is owned and operated by Jerry Smith and his daughter Cassandra. Rashaun, Jerry’s grandson, also helps with the family business. Smith Produce Farm is located in Blounts Creek in Beaufort County. Jerry, 82, has been…


August 15, 2018

If you’re looking for new place to hang your hungry hat, then I have the place for you. Newk’s Eatery just opened at 516 S.E. Greenville Blvd., and it’s fantastic!

Every meal is made-to-order in an open-view kitchen. The diverse menu offers toasted sandwiches with flame-grilled…


August 15, 2018

Q: I had a heart attack recently, and my health care provider is trying to get me to go vegan. I never paid much attention to my diet, but I am willing to try to make some changes. I might be able to be a lacto-ovo vegetarian, but I don’t see myself giving up dairy products. I love milk,…


August 15, 2018

Q I would like to hear your thoughts on what happened with a girl I was dating for two months. We went on dates every weekend, where I also stayed at her place. We texted each other during the week. On our last date, she said I don’t text enough and that she had started to chat with someone…

Carolyn Hax

August 15, 2018

Late summer reaps bushels of peppers in a kaleidoscope of colors and a crooked assortment of wiggly shapes. I shop with my eyes, because the first thing I do when I get home is pile my peppers into a bowl, where they do double duty as a decorative centerpiece on the kitchen table before they are…


August 13, 2018

Library events

Sheppard Memorial Library, 530 Evans St., will host the following events. Call Call 329-458.

■ Movie matinee, 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.

■ Board games family program, 10:30 a.m. Wednesday.

■ Bedtime story hour, 7 p.m. Thursday.

■ Baby and Me Story Hour, ages 18 months and younger,…

August 13, 2018

Pitt County Schools

Pitt County Schools' first day of school is Aug. 27. An open house will be held Aug. 23.

The schedule for open house is:

Elementary schools, 4-6:30 p.m.

K-8 schools and middle schools, 5-7:30 p.m.

High schools, 6-8:30 p.m.

St. Peter

A pre-kindergarten and kindergarten open house…

August 13, 2018

Several Pitt County 4-Her’s were among students honored during last month's State 4-H Congress in Raleigh.

This year’s 4-H Congress had more than 500 youth and their adult leaders participating in activities including oral presentations, leadership and citizenship workshops, state and…


August 13, 2018

Chicod School’s Fiona Hollard was recognized by the Pitt County Board of Education at its Aug. 6 meeting for her selection to the Junior Eastern Regional Orchestra.

This is the highest honor for middle school orchestra, Daniel Walker, Chicod’s band and orchestra director, told the…


August 12, 2018

Q I am stepfather to my wife’s only child, age 8, from her first marriage. My wife always and in every way puts her son before our marriage. We went through counseling several years ago and things got better for a while, but then began slipping back into child-comes-first mode. Believe me, we…

264 stories in Look. Viewing 1 through 10.
«First Page   «Previous Page        
Page 1 of 27
        Next Page»   Last Page»