I lived in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina for almost 10 years of my life. In fact, I lived at one time or the other in just about every one of the cities and my son, Zach, was born 28 years ago when I lived in Durham.
Shortly before Zach’s arrival and in teenage rebellion style, I left Alabama at 18 with my best friend (and a whim) heading towards Chapel Hill. Our first house in the area – rented for $50 a month - was in the middle of a tobacco field and you could literally see the sunset through the kitchen wall. I remember telling my mother, “This is paradise.” The memories of that first summer still make me laugh but at the arrival of winter, I found more suitable “paradise” where the heat from the wood stove actually warmed the house.
However, I can still smell the rows of tobacco being worked by migrant farmers that drifted through those walls. And from time to time, I feel the sense of driving down the streets of Durham with the overwhelming smell of tobacco infusing the entire community.
How lovely to read this article today in the New York Times about how the greater Durham/RTI community has been able to make the leap from traditional (and chemical ridden) tobacco farming to sustainable local cuisine. I especially love the story of Neal’s Deli where the son of famed chef Bill Neal carries on the family tradition.
It is heartening to think that the fields on the outskirts of our little town may one day be bountiful again.
*Photograph by Travis Dove for The New York Times