Can we please make every issue of verve about food?
Much as I might love that, it could turn out to be detrimental to our staff’s health. Working on our food issue these past two months, I think everyone in the VERVE office may have gained a few pounds. For days, there were big hunks of delicious local cheese sitting around our office, along with City Bakery sourdough bread, Wildflour rye, Imladris Farms jams and Sweet Betty Bee’s honey. And don’t get me started on the Sugar Momma’s cookie, which is gigantic compared to most cookies but is more like a sweet little heaven-sent pizza. It even shows up warm and in a pizza box. Our summer intern Cassady Sharp said it was torture driving 30 minutes with a warm box of Sugar Momma’s in her car.
by Jess McCuan . photos by Anthony Bellemare
A year ago, Amy Haldeman couldn’t do four push-ups. But then what started as an effort to help a friend lose weight turned into a six-day-a-week, gut-busting workout routine that culminated in a bodybuilding contest this spring. “I’ve never really lifted weights,” says the Asheville dentist and mother of three. “Then, I was just amazed at how strong I was getting.” Apparently, everyone else was too. At her first bodybuilding competition, the Carolina Supernatural Body Building Championship in Spartanburg, South Carolina, in mid-June, Haldeman cleaned up, taking home six trophies—two in the women’s heavyweight class and one in the master’s category, plus three awards for “best poser.” “I think everybody who knows me would be shocked,” she says of her recent, wildly successful foray into bodybuilding.
by Jess McCuan
Detroit’s Big Three automakers may have all but collapsed in a heap, and auto sales nationwide have been in a slump for a solid year. But we still need our cars tuned up and repaired—good news for auto garages and lube shops everywhere—and believe it or not, some people in WNC are still buying the occasional new car. “We didn’t see as much pickup in the spring, but we did see it in May and June,” says Pat Grimes, owner and manager of Harry’s on the Hill, a GM dealership in Asheville. She notes that year-over-year sales figures for domestic vehicles statewide are still down by as much as 40 to 50 percent. “Considering this economy, we’re optimistic,” she says. In such an uneasy time for the car business, VERVE took a closer look at three local women who have driven, sold and repaired cars through recessions past and seem to be cruising through the current one.
by Jess McCuan . photos by Brent Fleury
Harriette Bugel likes to say that her religious tradition has gone from the noisy (Southern Baptist) to the quiet (Quaker). But in fact, after 20 years as an ordained minister and clinical social worker who married a Buddhist and helped hundreds of people through wrenching domestic violence and mental health cases, her views about religion are much more complicated than that. “Was what I was taught in Sunday school true? No,” she says matter-of-factly. Does she still believe in God? Yes. Now, at 47, she’s reinvented herself as a chef and caterer, but she hasn’t left religion behind. The Fairview resident still officiates at weddings and funerals and simply sees herself as more of a “food therapist” these days, someone who ministers to people through artful, thoughtful meals. “I’m still a social worker, I’m still a chaplain,” she says. “Now, I just do it on my own terms and in a slightly different venue.”
by Jess McCuan . photo by Brent Fleury
Athena Brooks has always played by the rules. Even as a little girl, she made sure everyone else did, too. “My mother would probably tell you I was bossy,” says the 42-year-old, who claims she knew she wanted to be an attorney at age four. Growing up in Weaverville, she watched Perry Mason on TV and, later, police and detective shows like Kojak and The Rockford Files. By the time she got to law school at UNC-Chapel Hill in 1988, about half of her law school class was female, but few of those women were as interested as she was in criminal justice. “You deal with some slugs and thugs, some unhappy people,” says Brooks, who landed a job as assistant district attorney in Buncombe County right after law school in 1991.
The former cheerleader was elected Henderson County District Court Judge in 2004. And for an accurate depiction of what that’s like, all you have to do is watch Night Court, she says. “You really do hear stories like that,” she says. Brooks was re-elected to the district court in 2008 and appointed Chief District Court Judge in January this year. One longtime court bailiff, Sgt. Terry Whitmire, says people know that if Judge Brooks starts the day with her curly red hair tied up but takes it down after lunch, you know it’s going to be a long afternoon.
Roberta Flack, All Ears
The two-time Grammy winning pop and soul singer, famous for hits like “Killing Me Softly with His Song” and “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” was born in Black Mountain.
Are there any unusual recipes in your family? My family is heavy on the African but also heavy on the American and the Cherokee Indian, so I know lots of recipes that deal with corn… We had fresh fried corn, and then you added vegetables like green and red peppers. And then of course, having grown up on a pig farm, we would add some fatback oil or some bacon. Then add some tomatoes and grits on the side. It’s all very fattening… There are things you can do with corn that would make you smack your mama or grandmama.
What are some of your favorite foods now? These days my favorite recipes have to do with vegetables. I have two incredible juices I drink. I juice myself into oblivion. That’s why I’m able to get up in the morning and think straight. That’s why I’m still working… Fresh mango and orange juice—there is nothing better.
Roberta Flack’s Simple Southern Cornbread
1 box corn muffin mix
1 stick butter
1 half-pint container of sour cream
1 can sweet cream corn
Mix all ingredients, bake in a greased baking pan at 375 degrees for 45 minutes.
interviews by Cassady Sharp and Jess McCuan
Patty Dowdy Sunny Point Café, West Asheville
At work, Dowdy whips up elaborate veggie-heavy dishes like enchiladas with tofu chorizo and Asian “tuna crunch” burgers with lemongrass and wasabi lime aioli. At home, she can’t even cook a frozen pizza. Really. “The time I was trying to cook a steak for my husband, I pepper gassed him,” Dowdy says, laughing. “I created this white pepper smoke. He was coughing violently. Nothing goes right at home when I cook.”
When she goes out to eat at other restaurants, she rarely orders pastas or soups. “Pasta dishes can be a dumping ground for things that no one can get rid of,” she says. Same for soup. A chef might make soup as a way to use up a small amount of leftover seafood or meat.
by Mackensy Lunsford
photos by Rebecca D’Angelo
Sally Eason’s eyes moisten as she tells the story, and it’s hard to discern what bothers her most—the event itself or that anyone could be so calculatingly cruel. “It destroyed everything,” she says, recalling flames that lit up the sky like an untimely sunrise. On August 10, 2006, she was driving toward her seven-acre trout farm in the pre-dawn darkness. “I thought, wow, those are flames—how could that be?” There were no houses around for miles. As Eason approached her property, she noticed something orange fanned across the highway. “Nothing was computing in my brain,” she says. Suddenly she realized with a sickening jolt that trout caviar was covering the road and the flames that licked the sky were consuming her business at an alarming speed.
Sunburst Trout Farm sits on a meandering and impossibly beautiful hunk of land that sidles up against the verdant expanse of the Pisgah National Forest in Bethel, 12 or so miles outside of Canton. The crystal-clear waters in which the rainbow trout swim course through the pebbles and roots of the Shining Rock Wilderness watershed before they empty into Sunburst’s concrete trout runways.
by Mackensy Lunsford
photos by Naomi Johnson
Tomatoes grow well in a mild climate like Western North Carolina’s, and there are several large commercial tomato operations here. But with heirloom tomatoes, amateur growers and professionals alike are using the long growing season to let their imaginations—and their gardens—run wild. And really, compared to supermarket tomatoes, heirlooms rock.