With my wanderlust friends I set out this past week for the great alluvial plain that is eastern North Carolina. I hesitate to talk much about its mystery, authenticity, history and lavish southernness for fear of its discovery.
We all departed at different times in our various trucks hauling our camping gear and kayaks. Our destination was Goose Creek State Park. We met up in a tall forest of pines and hardwoods on a peninsula in the vicinity of the Pamlico Sound, and set up camps. One day it had been balmy and the next it was the knife edge of cold. I spent a lot of cognitive power figuring out how to sleep in Not-Discomfort. I finally came to the conclusion that if I covered my head with my sleeping bag and breathed down into it I could warm it with my breath.
But from the cold we wrested solitude. We had the benefit of fish pulled hours before from cold waters–we ate better than any king– fat shrimp, oysters roasted over a hardwood fire and dumped out on a picnic table. The sunset at the point of the peninsula served as a declaration of why we do these treks. And I can’t remember an afternoon in my kayak that provided me with more visual ideas than this one did.
The final perfect blissful experience for me was on my drive home. I vowed to leave the trodden path and immerse myself in authentic eastern North Carolina patois. It is the land of my beloved grandmother. It is, to me, as elegant as she was, and as unique. I love the sound of it, the smell of it, the big sky that comes with the flat land. I drove the streets of Bath and Washington, and found the perfect place for lunch. I love any restaurant where there is heart behind the food. That means I love some dives and some temples of gastronomy.
My discovery of the perhaps year was King’s Chicken in Washington, where a lot of people awaited their orders to take out. On that menu board were a couple dozen fresh vegetables and southern regional body and blood dishes, as well as shrimp burgers of perfect sensuousness. The prices were almost a joke, kind and mindful of their fellow man. Anyone could afford to step up to this table. So I had the breathtaking shrimp burger, and on a hunch that God is in the Details and Courage is Rewarded, I ordered coconut pie, $1.25 to end it with. I am still tasting that macaroon crust, and that barely sweet custard. Thank you King’s, for being what you are– evidence of the divine in the simplest, remotest corners of this state.