Carol is known around these parts as “the forest granny,” and she harvests roots for many people, who give her things like eggs and meat in return. “I harvest a little bit of a lot of things, but the ones I harvest are the ones I make use of,” she told me as she dug. Yellowroot is her favorite because it’s the most all-purpose medicinal plant in the mountains.
I was born in rural eastern North Carolina and raised up in Duplin County, a place focused on farming and food. Memories of homegrown collards boiling at my granny’s and fish frying under sheds, blue smoke rolling out of hog cookers and steam rising off clusters of oysters spread on a communal table, formed deep impressions on me. No words I have are enough. I make pictures.
The river used to boil, here, with fish in the spring. Thousands of shad, herring, striped bass, eels, even sturgeon, surged upstream from the Atlantic, to spawn in their natal freshwater. In George Graham’s lifetime, all but the shad have effectively disappeared after decades of overfishing, hydroelectric projects, pollution, and the introduction of ravenous nonnative species like blue catfish.
Though hot chicken is not peculiar to Nashville, the city is uniquely obsessed with the dish (which gets its own category in the weekly paper’s dining listings). Prince’s is Nashville’s oldest hot chicken joint still in business, and the best.