First Friday

Dangermuffin takes the First Bank Stage at the Sunrise Theater on Sept. 7 from 5-8:15 p.m. for this free, family-friendly event featuring live music, good food and cold beverages. Bring the kids, but please leave the dogs at home. Should there be inclement weather, the band will move inside the Sunrise Theater, 250 N.W. Broad St., Southern Pines, and party on.

Curtis Strange and the Ryder Cup

The Given Tufts fall colloquium on Thursday, Sept. 6, features World Golf Hall of Fame member Curtis Strange, who will give golf fans a look behind-the-scenes in preparation for the 2018 Ryder Cup matches. Strange, the back-to-back winner of the 1988-89 U.S. Opens, was a five-time Ryder Cup player and captain of the 2002 U.S. team. In his role as an on-the-ground reporter for Fox Sports, he knows the current U.S. and European team members intimately. The 6:30 p.m. dinner will be in the Grand Ballroom of the Carolina Hotel, 80 Carolina Vista Drive, Pinehurst, with a reception beginning at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $100 and available at the Tufts Archives, 160 Cherokee Road, Pinehurst, or online at Sales close Sept. 4.

Supper on the Grounds

Enjoy BBQ with all the fixin’s, wine, iced tea and live music at the Weymouth Center for the Arts and Humanities on Friday, Sept.14. Cost is $20 for members; $30 for non-members. Kids 6-14 are $10; 5 and under free. The Weymouth Center is at 555 E. Connecticut Ave., Southern Pines. For further information call (910) 692-6261 or visit

Live After 5

Pinehurst’s Village Green rocks on Friday, Sept.14, with the Live After 5 performances of Lauren Light from 5:15-5:50 p.m., followed by Liquid Pleasure from 6-9 p.m. There will be food trucks and activities for the kids. Picnic baskets are allowed but no outside alcoholic beverages, please. Free and open to the public, the concert is at Tufts Memorial Park, 1 Village Green Road W., Pinehurst. For information call (910) 295-2817 or visit

A Rodgers and Hammerstein Spectacular

Sandhills Repertory Theatre presents the off-Broadway smash A Grand Night for Singing, bringing to life over 30 of the most-beloved tunes of the legendary Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein in three performances from Sept. 21-23 at the Hannah Theater Center at The O’Neal School, 3300 Airport Road, Southern Pines. The cast of five Broadway actors includes Christina DeCicco and Matt Leisy. Friday and Saturday show times are 7:30 p.m. with Sunday’s matinee beginning at 2 p.m. Advance purchase general admission is $35; $32 for seniors and military; $20 for students. Tickets at the door are $40. Purchase tickets online at or Senior and military tickets are also available at the Given Memorial Library in Pinehurst and The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines.

The Man in Black

Todd Allen Herendeen and the FTD Band highlight an evening of country music celebrating Johnny Cash on Saturday, Sept. 22, from 6:30-9:30 p.m. at the Southern Pines Brewing Company, 565 Air Tool Drive E., Southern Pines. Tickets are $25 in advance; $30 at the door. Children 12 and under admitted free. For more information call (910) 365-9890 or go to

You Gotta Try this One

Sip and sample beers from all over North Carolina at the third annual Pours in the Pines beer festival Saturday, Sept. 22, from 2-6 p.m. in the rolling meadow at the Weymouth Center for Arts and Humanities, 555 E. Connecticut Ave., Southern Pines. The event includes food trucks and music by McKenzie’s Mill. Sales benefit the Duskin & Stephens Foundation and the Southern Pines Rugby Club. Tickets can be purchased at www.eventbrite.come/e/pours-in-the-pines-tickets-25548052914.

The Rooster’s Wife

Saturday, Sept. 8: Stray Local, album release party. Art-inspired music from this Wilmington-based indie band, presenting their brand new album to start the fall season. Cost: $10.

Thursday, Sept. 13: Open Mic, with the Parsons. Members are admitted free.

Sunday, Sept. 16: Lula Wiles, Fireside Collective. Blazing a name for themselves with their progressive approach to American folk music, Fireside Collective delights listeners with memorable melodies and contemporary songwriting. Lula Wiles is a band deeply rooted in traditional folk music, but equally devoted to modern songcraft, from old-school honky-tonk to modern grit, all in three-part harmony. Cost: $15.

Friday, Sept.21: Emily Scott Robinson, T’Monde. Emily Scott Robinson is an important emerging voice in Americana, and a finalist in the 2018 Rocky Mountain Folks Fest. T’Monde is an Acadian phenomenon, a creative fusion of classic country and out-of-the-way Cajun. Cost: $15.

Sunday, Sept. 23: Howard Levy and Chris Siebold. Multiple Grammy Award-winner Howard Levy is an acknowledged master of the diatonic harmonica, a superb pianist, innovative composer, recording artist, bandleader, teacher and producer. He brings the equally talented guitarist Chris Siebold to Aberdeen for the first time. Cost: $20.

Sunday, Sept. 30: Eric Brace, Peter Cooper and Thomm Juste. Eric, Peter, and Thomm all have something distinct and slightly skewed to say about the world. When they bring their singular perspectives to the trio table, it’s a perfect example of a whole being much greater than the sum of its parts. Cost: $20.

Doors open at 6 p.m. and music begins at 6:46 at the Poplar Knight Spot, 114 Knight St., Aberdeen. Prices above are for members. Annual memberships are $5 and available online or at the door. For more information call (910) 944-7502 or visit

A Beautiful Blue Marble

Finding meaning in the universe, however large or small

By Jim Dodson

While digging out an old flower bed this summer I found, of all things, a beautiful blue marble buried more than a foot deep in the earth.

I decided it was either evidence of a lost race of marble-playing pioneers or simply belonged to a kid who lost it in the dirt when our house was built. That kid would now be over 75 years old.

Either way, this beautiful blue marble, resting in the palm of my soiled palm, reminded me of an image of the planet taken by the crew of the final Apollo mission as they made their way to the Moon. The photograph was dubbed The Blue Marble because it revealed a fragile blue world that is home to “billions of creatures, a beautiful orb capable of fitting into the pocket of the universe,” as NASA elegantly put it.

Some experts say marbles are the oldest toys on Earth, found by archeologists in the tombs of ancient Egypt and the ashes of Pompeii, mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey and Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Even America’s Founding Fathers were known to play a mean game of marbles when they weren’t busy forming a nation.

The earliest marbles were made of dried, molded clay. In the mid-19th century, however, a German glassblower invented a pair of special scissors that could cut and shape molten glass, making glass marbles affordable for the first time. Glass marbles quickly dominated the market, particularly after industrial machines made them more efficiently, further lowering their price. “Valued as much for their beauty as the games played with them,” the National Toy Hall of Fame notes, “marbles inspired one 19th-century enthusiast to describe the twisted spiral of colored filament in glass marbles as ‘thin music translated into colored glass.’”

Because my family was always on the move during my first seven years of life — following my father’s newspaper career across the Deep South — I had few if any regular playmates and plenty of time to fill up on my own come endless Southern summers. Books and marbles and painted Roman armies filled those quiet hours when the air sounded roasted by cicadas. Everywhere we lived from Mississippi to South Carolina, I found myself a cool and comfortable patch of earth beneath a porch or a large tree where I played out the Pelopennesian War or shot marbles in a large ring scratched into the dirt.

I excelled at shooting marbles, often whipping my dad when he came home from work. His necktie loosened, he would come outside with a cold beer to see if I had any interest in coming to supper, squatting to play me a quick game before we went in to eat. The object of the game we played was to knock as many marbles outside the ring without having your “shooter” wind up outside as well. I forget who told me that it was good luck to play with a marble that matched the color of your eyes. Accordingly, my shooter was always blue.

I could spin and skip marbles like nobody’s business in those days, and even carried a small sack of my favorites with me whenever my family went on vacation or visited elderly relatives. Politely excused, advised not to wander far, I could slip outside and find the nearest patch of earth for a little marble- shooting practice.

Then along came the spring of 1964. I watched Arnold Palmer win his final Masters green jacket on TV and began swinging a golf club in the yard, making a list of 11 things I intended to do in golf. At the top I hoped to someday meet the new King of the game.

That summer I made the Pet Dairy Little League and began reading about Brooks Robinson, the “Human Vacuum Cleaner” in the sports pages. Robinson played third base for the Baltimore Orioles. I laid hands on an official Brooks Robinson fielder’s glove, vowing that in the unlikely event that I didn’t grow up to be the next Arnold Palmer I might become the next “Mr. Hoover,” as Robinson was also called.

In effect, I lost my marbles that summer of ’64 — or at least put them away forever.

Arnie won the Masters, and Robinson had his best season offensively, hitting for a .318 batting average with 28 home runs. He also led the league with 118 runs batted in, capturing the American League’s MVP Award and his fifth Gold Glove. In the American League MVP voting, Robinson received 18 of the 20 first-place votes, with Mickey Mantle of the Yankees finishing second, much to the delight of my colorful uncle Carson.

He took me to my first Major League ballgame when I got sent up in late summer to spend a week with my uncles and their German wives in Baltimore. Uncle Carson was a big Irishman who worked at a tire factory and had season tickets to “the Birds,” as he fondly called them. He couldn’t abide Mickey Mantle. “I’d like to knock that smug smile off that overpaid showboat’s kisser,” he said to me during the pre-game warm-ups as both teams took the field in Memorial Stadium.

Uncle Carson’s seats were a dozen rows back along the third base line. He encouraged me to bring my new Brooks Robinson fielder’s glove along because he was confident I could get it autographed by “the greatest third baseman ever.”

Sure enough, when Robinson appeared on the field, stretching and chatting with other players, including several on the detested Yankees team, Uncle Carson sent me scurrying down to the dugout where a crowd of kids clustered, seeking autographs.

When Robinson ambled over, I asked him for his autograph and he smiled and said “Sure, Kid. Where you from?” At least I like to remember it this way. Honestly, I was too tongue-tied and in the throes of awe to remember what he actually said.

Up in the stands, however, as Mickey Mantle sauntered past, Uncle Carson cupped his massive hands to his mouth and hollered, “Hey, Mantle! You’re a stinking bum! You couldn’t hit the side of a barn if they pitched underhand to you!”

For the record, I’m not sure this is precisely what Uncle Carson yelled at Mickey Mantle, either. But it’s certainly within the ballpark, as they say, because Uncle Carson was a world-class heckler, a one-man leather lung, the ultimate obnoxious Oriole. Mickey Mantle just laughed and kept walking.

When I got back to our seats, Uncle C was buying a couple of cold beers.

“How old are you now?” He asked as the vendor moved along. He was holding two large cups of beer.

“Eleven,” I answered truthfully.

“That’s old enough.” He handed me a National Bohemian beer, my first ballpark beer. A moment later, facing the field of play, he calmly remarked, “Just so you know, Squire, some things need to stay at the ballpark.”’

I knew exactly what he meant.

Funny thing about life on a beautiful blue marble. 

I failed to become the next Arnold Palmer. But at least I grew up to collaborate on his memoirs, becoming a good friend of the game’s most charismatic figure.

Some years ago, I even had the chance to tell Brooks Robinson about Uncle Carson at a dinner where I was the guest of honor for my sports journalism and books. The event’s hosts had secretly invited the greatest third baseman of all time to sit beside the honoree, who was nearly as tongue-tied and in awe as he was in 1964.

“I think I remember your Uncle Carson,” Robinson told me with a laugh. “Or at least a few hundred others like him — especially up in Yankee Stadium. They made your uncle look like a minor league heckler, I’m afraid.”

We had a fine time chatting about the Oriole’s golden seasons and lamented their cellar-dwelling ways these days. In 1966, Robinson was voted the All-Star Game Most Valuable Player and finished second to teammate Frank Robinson in the American League Most Valuable Player Award voting, and the Orioles went on to win their first World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

In the 1970 post-season, Robinson hit for an average of .583 in the American League Championship and tagged the Cincinnati Reds for a pair of homers on their way to a 4–1 shellacking and their second World Series title. It was Robinson’s defensive prowess that snagged the Series MVP, however, and prompted Reds manager Sparky Anderson to quip, “I’m beginning to see Brooks in my sleep. If I dropped this paper plate, he’d pick it up on one hop and throw me out at first.”

At the end of his final season in 1977, having collected 16 Golden Gloves, Robinson’s No. 5 jersey was retired. Six years later, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on the first ballot. “It all seemed to pass so quickly,” Brooks Robinson told me that night we ate supper together. “But what amazing memories.”

As another hot summer ends, as overdue rain and cooler nights heal my withered garden and herald the post-seasons of golf and baseball, my friend Arnold Palmer is gone and this month the Birds — per usual — are dwelling deep in the American League cellar, their glory years just a pleasant memory.

Having lost all my marbles but having found a blue one buried in the earth of my own garden, I’m probably where I should be at this moment and time on this fragile blue planet, lucky to have a quieter world I can hold in the palm of my hand.  PS

Contact Editor Jim Dodson at

Cool Temps, Hot Dishes

September’s stars serve up a medley of sweet and sour

By Astrid Stellanova

September brings us the fall, thank the Lord! We get a respite from the sweat and vapors. 

Now that it’s cool enough to go back into the kitchen, take a look at the calendar. There’s a slew of official food-related observations that sound suspiciously like they came from a bunch of hungry Southern cooks at a family reunion. It’s as if somebody started sampling the home brew, and after a few, couldn’t agree on any one delicacy to celebrate, so they included the whole menu. Maybe this is how come September is not only National Biscuit Month, but also National Potato Month and National Chicken Month.

If these honors were indeed invented by Southerner Star Children that home brew musta been pretty good: They left National Banana Puddin’ lovers Month until November. — Ad Astra, Astrid

Virgo (August 23–September 22)

Sugar Lump, there was a time when you had less going for you than a scared Beagle in a hailstorm. Now, you have a busier social life than the Kardashians. Everybody is watching, wondering, waiting for you to make a move and follow suit. If you still have a little bit of Snoopy in your soul, lie down, put your feet up and think first.

Libra (September 23–October 22)

It is entirely up to you if you want to direct everybody in the drama of life, but it would sure help if you had any idea about what you are doing. The advice you have sworn by is about as helpful as a room deodorizer in a bus station. Change gears or you may strip the transmission, Sugar Pie.  Recalibrate.

Scorpio (October 23–November 21)

Oopsies were made. That’s a charitable way of saying you’re wrong more often than right lately, but enough people stand by you anyway. Charisma? Yup. Regrets? Nope. But Sugar, don’t squander all this goodwill in one month.

Sagittarius (November 22–December 21)

I wish I had a restraining order for everybody who tried to attack you for having an “original” idea that was behind its time. Not a typo. Honey, if you can just pretend to regret being too big for your britches you might not get your comeuppance.

Capricorn (December 22–January 19)

The seasonal change has got you all flubbed up. But as soon as the first cool evening settles, all will feel better and brighter. There’s a whole lot of hot air hitting you from a close acquaintance that has Spam for brains. Grab a fan and pay them no mind.

Aquarius (January 20–February 18)

You’ve been on the sliding board of life and it has felt like the first time on the playground — scary, too fast and at least a little skin left on the sliding board on the way down. But you arrived at a safe place, Honey Bun, and things do go right at last.

Pisces (February 19–March 20)

You’ve made an important correction, Sweet Thing, and you get to reap the benefits. You’ve shared a lot of credit, helped others and boosted your karma. It wasn’t easy to make the change you did but you put your big pants on and did it.

Aries (March 21–April 19)

Two people are walking back into your life and there will be a test of your strategic powers. This is destiny, Sugar, so just remember that you are in the Schoolhouse of Life for a reason. Your best will be good enough and you shall pass without scars.

Taurus (April 20–May 20)

You’ve got a generous, intelligent, powerful nature, and when people get on your good side they are in for a treat. It is myth-making to watch you do your creative best. These times remind your friends why they hang in there, and they do.

Gemini (May 21–June 20)

You cleared a big hurdle and now you graduate to the next. Your abilities to redeem yourself never fail to amaze — and sometimes stupefy. In the end, Buttercup, there is another task to face. It will look easy after summer’s challenge.

Cancer (June 21–July 22)

Lordamercy, if you were surprised by the breaks you got, you never let it show. You have a better poker face than the professionals. The cards are in your favor, and you know how to play them. So deal or draw. The game is yours, Sweet Thing, but don’t hold ’em.

Leo (July 23-August 22)

You are legendarily strong and stoic. You are a born leader and you know it. But you also have a shadow side that is the opposite. When did you last let anyone know that? It is possible to show that side to others and not lose a bit of face. Try it, Sugar. PS

For years, Astrid Stellanova owned and operated Curl Up and Dye Beauty Salon in the boondocks of North Carolina until arthritic fingers and her popular astrological readings provoked a new career path.

Caw Caw of the Wild

The stealthy, predatory — and fascinating fish crow

By Susan Campbell

Everyone knows what a crow is, right? Well, no — not exactly. It is not quite like the term “seagull,” which is generic for a handful of different species. When it comes to crows, you can expect two species in the Piedmont during the summertime: the American crow and the fish crow. Unfortunately, telling them apart visually is just about impossible. However, when they open their beaks, it is quite a different proposition. The fish crow will produce a nasal “caw caw,” whereas the American crow will utter a single, clear “caw.” That single, familiar sound may very well be repeated in succession, but it will always be one syllable in contrast to the fish crow. Young American crows may sound somewhat nasal at first, but they will not utter the two notes of their close cousins, the fish crow.

Both crows have jet black, glossy plumage. Strong feet and long legs make for good mobility. They walk as well as hop when exploring on the ground. Also they have relatively large, powerful bills that are effective for grabbing and holding large prey items. Crows’ wings are relatively long and rounded, which allows for bursts of rapid flight as well as efficient soaring. The difference between the two species is very subtle: Fish crows are just a bit smaller, and probably the only way to accurately tell them apart is to have them side-by-side.

Fish crows are migratory across inland North Carolina. Before much longer, expect to see flocks of up to 200 birds staging ahead of the first big cold front of the fall. Most of the population will be moving generally eastward come October. For reasons we do not understand, some fish crows will overwinter in our area. Small groups are even being found on Christmas Bird Counts each December across the region. Because of in-migration, the number of fish crows along our coast swells significantly by mid-winter. Visiting flocks do not stay there long but are among our earliest returning breeding birds, arriving by early February for the spring and summer. Almost as soon as they reappear, they begin nest building. Interestingly their bulky stick-built platforms are hard to spot, usually perched in the tiptops of large pines. Furthermore, crows tend to be loosely colonial, so look for two or three pairs nesting close together in early spring.

Although fish crows are frequently found near water, they wander widely. They are very opportunistic, feeding by picking at roadkill, taking advantage of dead fish washed ashore, sampling late season berries, digging up snapping turtle eggs or, one of their favorite activities, robbing bird feeders with what often appears to be pure delight. But they can also be predatory. And though they are large birds, they can be quite stealthy. If you’re lucky, you might catch them stalking large insects in open fields or, at the water’s edge, frogs and crayfish. Unfortunately, fish crows are also very adept nest robbers and take a good number of eggs and nestlings during the summer.

These birds, as well as their American cousins, can become problematic. They are very smart and readily learn where to find an easy meal. At bird feeders, they will quietly wait until the coast is clear, especially if a savory lunch of mealworms or suet can be had.

Southern farmers, years ago, found a fairly effective deterrent was to hanging one of their brethren in effigy to keep flocks from decimating their crops. Recently I acquired a stuffed crow from my local bird store with the hope that this method would scare them from my feeding station and keep them from preying on nearby nests. Amazingly, it worked! I do move it regularly to keep the attention of passing would-be marauders. Of course, it is quite the conversation starter as well!  PS

Susan would love to receive your wildlife sightings and photos. She can be contacted by email at, or by calling (910) 585-0574.


Crazy Bones

He’s been going to the same tavern for 30 years,

always sits on the same stool in the same spot.

The bartender has been working since the day

Clinton and Monica got caught. He remembers

watching the news on the bar’s TV. On her first

night, the bartender walked up behind him

and pinched the loose skin on his elbow between

her forefinger and thumb. “I like the way elbow skin

feels on old people,” she told him. “It’s so soft

and sometimes I can see a face in the wrinkles.”

She’s done this many times. Now she’s moving

to Sarasota. She married a black ops guy from Bragg.

The other barflies like telling the good one about

how her husband would have to kill you if he told you

what he did in the military. This is her last night.

The place is smoky. These people pay no attention

to state law. He orders a Fat Tire and she pours it in

a pilsner glass. He flattens his forearm on the bar

and she lays hers next to his, elbow to elbow,

crazy bone to crazy bone. He rolls the loose skin

on her elbow between his thumb and forefinger.

“Do you see a face?” she asks. “Yeah,” he says,

“mine.” And they laugh together like people

who’ll never see each other again.

Stephen E. Smith

Grape Expectations

The magic of muscadines

By Jan Leitschuh

As a Wisconsin transplant who fell in love with the South almost 40 years ago, I had never tasted a muscadine grape until the early 2000s.

It wasn’t until I bought a little patch of land here that I came to know the unique fall grape born in the Tar Heel State. In fact, it’s our state fruit.

The muscadine is often called the “grape of the South.” Though widely cultivated now in the southern and eastern United States, Vitis rotundifolia has a wild, wild past. Gathered for centuries for jams, ciders, jellies, preserves and homemade wine, the first reported muscadine was the “Mother Vine,” a golden-green variety of muscadine vine discovered by Sir Walter Raleigh’s colony. The colonists delighted in the abundance of these sweet treats tangling coast, woodland and riverbank. 

By the way, the “Mother Vine” still lives in coastal Manteo, stewarded by an elderly couple on private land. Over 400 years old, she is America’s oldest cultivated grapevine. At one point, “Mother” covered over half an acre, with a trunk-like base 2 feet thick. Her wild gold-bronze fruits were named for the Scuppernong River, which runs into the Albemarle Sound in eastern North Carolina. Scuppernong is the original variety discovered growing in the wild. 

While the term muscadine encompasses both the greenish-bronze scuppernongs as well as the purple-black grapes, the moniker “scuppernong” is reserved for the fairer grape alone.

My new property is nestled beside a town so tree-filled and tangled it was originally named Vineland before John T. Patrick renamed it Southern Pines. The raw land was filled with muscadines. Threaded through the wooded edges of my piece of heaven were exceedingly vigorous grapevines, wild and snarled, which I left alone out of curiosity and, frankly, a healthy live-and-let-live indolence. It’s a lot of work, tearing out grapevines, and expensive, too — a bulldozer or trackhoe is needed to uproot an old vine. 

We co-existed. Cardinals built their nests in the protective snarls, the light green leaves sparkled in the woodland fringes, and the vines did their viniferous thing.

Come August, the vines were heavy with fruit. The leaves shaded to gold. The birds grew excited. It became inadvisable to park under the vine-bearing trees. The vines began to shed ripe grapes, and the birds shed the remainders of ripe grapes. 

I had to see what the excitement was about. I’d heard how old country farmhouses kept a bowl of muscadines on the kitchen table in the fall, something tasty to grab and snack on. Or that every third Southern backyard had a cultivated muscadine. I reached out to my wild vines and sampled some very sour greenish-gold grapes — and some sweet and strangely intriguing black grapes.

Biting in, the thick skin was a surprise. To one raised on common green grapes from the grocery, these feral globes were of a different ilk, larger and hanging solo rather than in a tight cluster. Likewise, the five large seeds each grape contained got in the way of the juicy pulp. 

It was not love at first bite. And yet, the grapes were curiously addictive. By the end of that first fall, I found myself craving their unique, dusky taste.

Only later did I learn the intriguing, heart-healthy benefits of this curious Southern fruit.

Muscadine grapes, it turns out, are antioxidant superstars.

Nature’s healthiest grape, muscadines have, by a large margin, the highest levels of antioxidants. We are talking off the charts healthy. One could even pull out that hoary label “superfood.” Studies show that the main compounds, ellagic acid and resveratrol (you know, the redwine antioxidant), can play a useful role in preventing cancer, heart disease and hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol). They forestall free radical damage and inflammation, staving off aspects of the aging process. Muscadines can also help inhibit the growth of cancerous cells by inducing apoptosis, or cell death. 

Beneficial for hypertensive people, especially people also suffering from high cholesterol, muscadine phytochemicals can help regulate blood pressure. Muscadine grape skin extract inhibits the cell growth in prostate cancer. Muscadines also enhance general immunity, just what is needed heading into fall’s chilly storms.  

Other nutrients found in muscadines include the antioxidant quercetin, vitamin C, potassium, vitamin B, and trace minerals. Muscadines are naturally fat-free — a half-cup serving is 65 calories — cholesterol-free and low in sodium. They are fiber rich, too, full of the insoluble fiber doctors urge us all to consume.  

Unlike other grapes, which are bred to be seedless, muscadines contain both seeds and those thick skins. I soon discovered many people spit out the skin and seeds. Unfortunately, 90 percent of the nutritional health benefits of the grapes are in the skin and seeds. 

Based on the ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity, a lab test to measure antioxidants in food), muscadine grapes have been clocked as high as 6,800 per 100 grams, compared to 739 for red grapes. The muscadine grape skins alone have about six to eight times as much antioxidant capacity as whole blueberries.

Yet muscadine seeds are the true antioxidant superstars. Seeds contain the highest antioxidant levels in the grape, followed by the skin and pulp. The seeds are dense with phenolics, containing 87 percent health-promoting antioxidant compounds. That’s crazy. The skins, the second-highest source, contain around 11 percent, and muscadine pulp has only 1.6 percent. Researchers have identified a total of 88 different antioxidant compounds in muscadine grapes, 43 of which occurred in the seeds. Seventeen of the compounds are unique to muscadine grapes. Muscadine grapes work this magic via an extra set of chromosomes, with genes that produce a unique balance of phytonutrients virtually absent in other grapes.

The seeds need to be chewed to release their health benefits, but if you aren’t fond of munching on gritty grape seeds (tasteless, I might add), there are other ways to ingest.  Unwilling to spit out and waste the deep nutrition of the seeds, I like to wash and freeze a batch of grapes on a tray, then bag the grapes for later fall and winter smoothies. A few frozen grapes tossed into many smoothie recipes sweeten things up naturally, and a good blender makes short work of the seeds and skins. Vôila! Drinking my nutrition.

Another way to capture the seed nutrition is to pay big bucks for a muscadine grape supplement, sold online or in health food stores for $30-$45. Some clever wineries, understanding how valuable their waste product actually was, discovered ways to dry and powder the seeds, encapsulating the result and offering it for sale. Why buy resveratrol pills for inflammation control? Eat muscadines and get the whole panoply of benefits.

For cooking, fresh muscadines are often de-seeded, and the pulp and hulls cooked. The resulting preserve is used in breads, cakes and pies. To feature a taste of place, regional chefs enjoy crafting unique dishes with muscadine flavors. Their offerings often feature pork, a fellow fall flavor. A quick perusal of online recipes turns up such dishes as Muscadine-Honey Glazed Pork Chops, or Slow-Cooker Muscadine and Cranberry Pork Roast.  Beef gets a showing, too, such as Scuppernong-Glazed Bourbon Beef Ribs with Tasso. Grilled Sausage with Herbed Muscadine Sauce is drool-worthy.

Some folks make a fall chutney or spicy muscadine sauce with cloves, allspice, cinnamon and mace. I’d be tempted to add a tiny bit of heat to that sweet, perhaps a small nugget of jalapeño worked in. Muscadine mojitos sound perfect for those glorious Indian summer weekends or perhaps Muscadine Sangria. All Google-able.

Muscadine swirl cheesecake is inventive, and appears to take cream cheese and mascarpone to a whole new level. A creamy goat cheese log with muscadine jelly alongside is as simple as party treats get. Scuppernong pound cake evokes church dinners in the fall. Muscadines in port wine spooned over ice cream intrigues.

You can grow your own muscadines to easily cover a trellis or arbor. They are sturdy, vigorous, native and virtually pest-free (unless you count birds). Lacking vines of your own, search for pints of muscadines at farmers markets, in Sandhills Farm to Table Co-op boxes and farm stands. There are also many muscadine vineyards located throughout our state, especially down east. Some grocery stores may even feature them for a very short time.

Store muscadines in a covered shallow container in the refrigerator for best results. Do not wash them until you are ready to use them — this prevents the muscadines from degrading. The N.C. Cooperative Extension says they will keep for up to a week depending upon their original condition, but are best if used within a few days. Inspect the grapes periodically and remove ones that show signs of decay. But honestly, I mostly keep mine on a cool counter, or freeze.

To cook or preserve muscadines, sort, stem and wash. Separate pulp from hulls, saving both. Heat the pulp to boiling, to separate seed. I use the back of a spoon to push the cooked pulp through a strainer. Mix juice with hulls and boil until the hulls are tender. Mix softened hulls with seed-free pulp. Add one part sugar to six parts grapes, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Cool and then either process or use as a sauce in some creative manner of your own.

This month, see if you can track down this edible piece of North Carolina heritage. If the taste doesn’t grow on you, perhaps the health benefits will.  PS

Jan Leitschuh is a local gardener, avid eater of fresh produce and co-founder of the Sandhills Farm to Table Cooperative.

Cafeteria Girls

Soaking in the songs of heartbreak

By Janet Wheaton

“Allen, Cole, Cunningham, Englehart,” the teacher read off the first four names from her alphabetized class list. We four girls filed out the door of our classroom and headed for the school cafeteria, where we would be the cafeteria ladies’ helpers for September. The next month it was supposed to be the next four, and so on down the list, but we proved too darned good to give up. We got to keep our plum assignments — not only getting out of class half an hour before lunch and half an hour after, but also getting to keep our lunch money: 25 cents a day, $1.25 a week, $10 a month. Not to be sneezed at by a sixth-grader in 1962.

We were 11 years old, not quite children, but not quite anything else. Donning hairnets and calling each other by our last names, we found a new kind of camaraderie in our work, setting out the big stainless steel bins with the day’s hot lunch, lining up the milk cartons and filling the silverware trays. After lunch, before washing up and wiping everything down, we’d take a break behind the kitchen with the cafeteria ladies and sit in the shade of a white oak tree, eat our Fudgsicles and listen to country music on their transistor radio.

The tales of heartbreak and longing and missing other places struck a chord in me. A child of the military, I had already learned the sorrow of parting with friends and family. I was still missing my fifth grade class in Alabama, and the boy who was, I guess, my first boyfriend. Donnie Smith and I sat next to each other in class each day. We were square dance partners on the rainy days when we couldn’t go out for recess or lunch break. He was my leading man in a play I wrote for our class on another of those rainy/no recess days. We talked about everything together, and though we had never even held hands, we pledged to write to each other forever when my father’s transfer to Virginia separated us. So I thought I knew what Hank Williams meant when he sang, “I’m so lonesome I could cry.”

I was fascinated by the adult stories that I found in the lyrics of songs like “El Paso,” by Marty Robbins, and Johnny Cash’s “Don’t Take Your Guns to Town.” Patsy Cline, Conway Twitty and George Jones told tales that caught my imagination and lifted me up. I listened carefully to their lyrics of love and loss, of woe and glory; and I understood that adulthood was fraught with danger, regret and missteps, but also with romance and adventure.

I watched the faces of the cafeteria ladies, etched with lines that told me they had made a few of those missteps, had a few of those regrets. But the hard lines softened when they would hear a certain song and laugh or sigh knowingly at one another. I guessed they’d had some adventures, too. At the end of our break, we went back in the kitchen to clean up. I remember Johnny Cash singing “I Walk the Line,” as we girls sang along, not having a clue as to what that line was.

The next year I would start junior high and succumb to Beatlemania, but I never lost my love of country music. Fifty years later when I hear one of those songs, the lyrics still roll off my tongue — and in the back of my head I hear Allen, Cole, Cunningham and Englehart chiming in.

And Donnie Smith and I still write to each other.  PS

Janet Wheaton is a Pinehurst resident, native North Carolinian, unpublished novelist and a frequent contributor to PineStraw.

Dark Passage

An oral history recounts the grim realities of slavery

By Stephen E. Smith

Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo” is an oral history as told by Cudjo Lewis, a 95-year-old former slave who was among the last Africans transported to the United States prior to the Civil War. (A barracoon is an enclosure, fortress or compound in which black captives were held before being sold to slavers.)

Lewis’ narrative is pieced together from interviews conducted in 1927 by Zora Neale Hurston, an anthropologist and popular writer of the Harlem Renaissance who had, prior to the publication of Barracoon, faded into obscurity. After completing her three months of interviews with Lewis, Hurston was unable to find a publisher for her manuscript and Lewis’ story languished for 90 years until it was released by Amistad, a HarperCollins imprint, and immediately climbed The New York Times best-seller list.   

Slave narratives aren’t a rarity. The Life, History, and Unparalleled Sufferings of John Jea, The African Preacher, The Life of Olaudah Equiano, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Incident in the Life of a Slave Girl, etc., have enjoyed popular acceptance, so much so that they assume a similar narrative pattern, beginning with a statement of birth, usually taking place on a plantation, and concluding with reflections upon the slave experience from the point of view of a freeman. Barracoon differs from the typical slave narrative: It’s the complete recounting of the slave experience, beginning with the principal’s early life in Africa, the massacre of his family, his time in a barracoon, the Middle Passage, during which he was packed with more than 100 other human beings aboard the ship Clotilde, and his suffering as a freed slave who found himself without family in a strange, hostile land where his existence was marked by brutality and endemic bigotry. Nothing about Lewis’ story is uplifting. Degradations, heaped one upon another, marked his passage through a life that was a desperate struggle for survival marked by physical and emotional suffering.

So why publish such a book? Isn’t there grief enough in the world? And why read about suffering that’s past and done?

The casual student of history understands that slavery was the dominant disruptive force in our nation’s history, and that issues of caste and class continue to profoundly disturb the workings of our democracy. If slavery is the legal expression of the relative status of one race to another, it’s possible to prohibit by law the mechanisms that enable the attendant injustices. It’s much more difficult to banish the persistent stigma of slavery from the hearts and minds of our citizens. Hurston had a responsibility to relate the undeniable horrors of Lewis’ life so that readers could truly comprehend the circumstances under which he lived. Writers and/or folklorists take no pleasure in making readers miserable, but sentimentality is deadly stuff, and it’s reprehensible to hide the grim realities of life with self-serving lies. Just as we must confront the horrors of the Holocaust, it’s well that we have access to the unvarnished truth about slavery. We need to face the past as it was in order to comprehend the pernicious legacy that shapes the present. Cudjo Lewis no doubt understood this when he said, “Thankee Jesus! Somebody come ast about Cudjo.”

To comprehend Lewis’ experience, it’s necessary to understand his dialect; therefore, Hurston’s facility at producing a text that conveys the orality of her informant’s spoken words is of the utmost importance. Initially Lewis’ dialect can be slow going for readers who have difficulty comprehending the peculiarities of his vernacular, which is unlike the more contrived dialect of Mark Twain’s Jim or Joel Chandler Harris’ Uncle Remus. “Yeah, in Afficky we always know dere was a God; he name Alahua, but po’ Affickans we cain readee de Bible, so we doan know God got a Son. We ain’ ignant — we jest doan know. Nobody doan tell us ’bout Adam eatee de apple, we didn’t know de seven seals was sealee ’gainst us.”  After reading a few pages of dialect, the reader slips easily into the rhythm of the language and Lewis is easily understood.

Hurston worked hard at producing a readable but authentic facsimile of Lewis’ speech, but it was this use of dialect that publishers, intent on translating the text into Standard English, offered as a justification for rejecting publication of the manuscript.

The subplot of Barracoon concerns Hurston’s determination to gently coax from Lewis his life experience. A few critics have dismissed the book as Hurston’s recreation of Lewis’ story, but it’s clear to the reader — indeed it is necessary for the reader to believe — that Hurston resisted interjecting her own point of view into Lewis’ telling. She’s patient with Lewis and sensitive to his emotional reaction to the terrors of his life, enticing him with peaches and gently prodding him into revealing the most intimate and horrifying details.   

The attack on Lewis’ African village, the death of his loved ones, the Middle Passage, and his years as a slave are all necessary elements of the story, but Lewis’ primary focus is on his life in Africatown, the community in which he lived after emancipation. He lost children in unexplained accidents, was swindled by white lawyers, and eventually suffered the death of his wife. And like all African-Americans of the time, he endured the humiliations of Jim Crow. What resonates with the reader is Lewis’ homesickness, his love and longing for his African childhood, and his humanity. When Hurston asked him to pose for a photograph, Lewis donned his best suit of clothes — but stood before the camera in bare feet. “I want to look lak I in Affica, ’cause dat where I want to be,” he said. After living most of his life in America, he still pined for his homeland.

At a time when compassion is in short supply, Cudjo Lewis’ story is a reminder that all that’s good and human in our hearts needs renewing. PS

Stephen E. Smith is a retired professor and the author of seven books of poetry and prose. He’s the recipient of the Poetry Northwest Young Poet’s Prize, the Zoe Kincaid Brockman Prize for poetry and four North Carolina Press awards.

The Phantom Ryder Cup

“If it doesn’t open, it’s not your door.”

By Lee Pace

With the Ryder Cup on tap for later this month, it’s fun and perhaps a bit revealing to hearken back to Pinehurst’s two Ryder Cups — the one in 1951 that did happen, as everyone knows, and the one in 2004 that did not happen that hardly anyone knows about.

Of the former, you’ve probably read that Pinehurst No. 2 was the venue for the biennial match pitting top pro golfers from the United States against the best from Great Britain and Ireland (that team expanding to include all of Europe in 1979). As competitions go, it was rather a snore. The Americans had Ben Hogan, Sam Snead and Jimmy Demaret. The GBI team featured a nice phonetic lilt with Arthur Lees and Dai Rees but not much more. The Yanks won in a landslide, 9 1/2 to 2 1/2.

So casual was the atmosphere at the time for the early November event that on Saturday’s day off (the format called for matches on Friday and Sunday) Snead drove to Florence, South Carolina, for an exhibition. Other golfers went to Chapel Hill for the UNC vs. Tennessee football game. And Pinehurst owner Richard Tufts was struck by how many members and guests were playing golf on courses 1, 3 and 4 while the Sunday singles matches were underway.

“America has become the senior partner, and Great Britain the junior partner,” the English golf writer Henry Longhurst opined. “This is it in the military, the economic and the golfing spheres of influence.”

Fast-forward nearly half a century to the late ’90s.

Pinehurst Resort & Country Club by then had been under the stewardship of Robert Dedman Sr. and ClubCorp for nearly 15 years, and Dedman and chief lieutenants Pat Corso (president and CEO) and Don Padgett Sr. (director of golf) had ushered the club and its renowned No. 2 course back into the front ranks of the national golf hierarchy. The last decade of the 20th century had seen the club host two successful PGA Tour Championships, one U.S. Senior Open and the 1999 U.S. Open, won in pulsating fashion by Payne Stewart on the last stroke of the championship. The golf course was outstanding (one-under-par won the title), and the village, Moore County and the state of North Carolina heaped the proceedings with oodles of sponsorship cash, manpower and energy.

“Perfect,” said Stewart, who lost his life four months later in a plane crash. “A perfect way to win. I think everyone in the field will attest to how great No. 2 is, what a special place this is. To win here means a lot to me.”

Corso and Padgett had no idea in the run-up to the event that the ’99 U.S. Open would turn out so well, but they knew that one successful Open might mean another championship 10 to 12 years down the road. Throughout the ’90s, they were casting about for other significant opportunities to keep the Pinehurst and No. 2 names in the nation’s ongoing golf conversation.

“We thought to stay in the public eye and keep moving the business forward, we needed to have events every two or three years,” says Corso, who ran the resort from 1987-2004. “Padge and I never, ever believed we could wait 10 years for another Open.”

Padgett’s roots and allegiances were with the PGA of America, which owns and runs the Ryder Cup. He was a longtime club pro in Indiana and had risen through the service ranks of the PGA, becoming a national officer in the early ’70s and president in 1977-78. Padgett was among the tight circle of PGA officials that, with the vocal support of Jack Nicklaus, correctly saw the Ryder Cup had become lopsided and made the decision after the 1977 matches to expand the Great Britain/Ireland team’s boundaries, giving it access to European stars-in-the-making like Seve Ballesteros of Spain and Bernhard Langer of Germany.

Those were the credentials that Padgett brought when he became director of golf at Pinehurst at the age of 62 in 1987 and was charged by Dedman and Corso with giving the resort the guidance, ideas and connections it needed to further the Pinehurst cause in top golf circles. Pinehurst forged new relationships with the USGA for its 1989 Women’s Amateur Championship and with the PGA Tour with the 1991-92 Tour Championships. And it was Padgett’s initiative that brought the PGA Club Professional Championship to Pinehurst in 1988 and again for a two-year run at the new No. 8 course in 1997-98.

“We were kind of on a dual path,” remembers Corso, today the executive director of Moore County Partners in Progress. “At that time, we hadn’t actually conducted an Open yet. There was one relationship with the USGA and another with the PGA. We had no idea which way it was going to go.”

Part of the master plan for the 1997-98 Club Pro commitment was to show the nation’s club professionals and instructors that Pinehurst could be an ideal venue for another Ryder Cup — even a half  century after the 1951 matches. Corso invited N.C. Gov. Jim Hunt to a dinner the week of the 1998 Club Pro where Jim Awtrey, the CEO of the PGA of America, would be attending.

“The governor dropped everything and came at the last minute,” Corso remembers. “He sat on one side of Jim Awtrey and I sat on the other. The governor was great. He was very passionate in telling Awtrey that this state wanted the Ryder Cup and asked what he could do to help.”

By 1998, Pinehurst had shown that the state’s corporate community would support a major golf championship. With leadership from its Governor’s Council — a blue-ribbon group of key business executives from across the state — Pinehurst had sold a record number of corporate sponsorships well in advance of the ’99 U.S. Open. The club had rebuilt the greens on No. 2 in 1996 with the top-echelon bent grass and a modern drainage system to ensure the greens would remain firm any time of the year.

It was all enough to convince the board of the PGA in the summer of 1998 that No. 2 would indeed be a terrific Ryder Cup venue for 2003, and Padgett got the good news from Will Mann, at the time the PGA’s president, who was backed by Vice President Jack Connelly, Secretary M.G. Orender and honorary President Ken Lindsay.

“It was all set and agreed upon,” says Don Padgett II, speaking for his father, who died in 2003. “The PGA board said, ‘We want to come to Pinehurst.’ Dad told everyone (at the ClubCorp corporate office) in Dallas it was a done deal.”

Unfortunately for Pinehurst, Awtrey had other ideas. Unbeknown to the board, he negotiated deals with Oakland Hills C.C. in suburban Detroit, Michigan, and Valhalla G.C. in Louisville, Kentucky, for future Ryder Cup and PGA Championship dates — Oakland Hills getting the 2003 Ryder Cup and 2008 PGA and Valhalla the 2007 Ryder Cup. (The Ryder Cup was subsequently set on an even-year schedule following the matches’ postponement in 2001 because of 9/11.) Awtrey informed the board at a meeting in Chicago and left Mann, at the time the owner of a golf course in Graham, N.C., with the uncomfortable task of backtracking with Padgett.

“Financially, the package was so strong that it was the right thing for the association,” Padgett II says of the deal with Oakland Hills and Valhalla. “But none of the officers knew anything about it. The staff had not given them a heads-up; they went into that meeting blind.

“In Dad’s career, it was probably the most heartbreaking thing for him. He’d worked successfully with the Tour and with the USGA. And then the organization he’d given his professional life to was the one that let him down. Not too many things bothered him like that.”

“Padge had such a great love for the PGA and affinity for the club pros,” Corso adds. “To have that happen really, really sucked the air out of his sails for a while.”

But not for long. Later that fall, Padgett Sr. was ruminating on the falling dominoes and found a bright spot.

“Some people say Pinehurst lost out,” Padgett Sr. said. “I’m not so sure but that the PGA lost out.

“I’d say this gives Pinehurst the opportunity to continue aligning itself with the USGA and its championships. Maybe the Open comes back to Pinehurst sooner than it would have. Maybe Pinehurst gets a U.S. Amateur. Maybe the Walker Cup. I personally believe Pinehurst would be a terrific place to hold the Walker Cup.”

Indeed, the die was cast. Within eight months of the Payne Stewart Open, the USGA announced it was returning in 2005. Now over two decades, Pinehurst has hosted a slew of USGA events — the 1999, 2005 and 2014 Opens; the 2008 U.S. Amateur with another to return in 2019; the 2014 Women’s Open; and the 2017 Men’s Amateur Four-Ball. The Open returns in 2024.

And the third weekend in September 2004 was just another fall golf holiday at Pinehurst as the pros fought it out hundreds of miles away outside Detroit. The European team handily dispatched an American squad remembered for the ham-handed leadership of captain Hal Sutton and a dysfunctional pairing of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

No one knew it at the time back in 1998, but it would all work out fine for everyone involved. Well, except Sutton. Maybe he wished that Ryder Cup had been in Pinehurst, the town of his 1980 U.S. Amateur win at the Country Club of North Carolina. PS

Chapel Hill-based writer Lee Pace has written about Pinehurst for three decades and authored four books about the resort, most recently The Golden Age of Pinehurst in 2014.

Three’s Company

Three drinks, three ingredients

By Tony Cross

I asked a close friend the other day what I should write about in my next column. She replied, “Like, how to make a drink.” She’s obviously not one of my 12 readers; 10 if you don’t count my parents.  Instead of just walking away, I asked her to enlighten me. Her response, “Something good. But, like, easy to make.” That I can do. So, for those of you who want a few go-to cocktails that only involve a few steps, here are three suggestions. And, even if you don’t mind making a mess out of your kitchen, I think you’ll enjoy these.

The first time I tried a Negroni cocktail, I was in disbelief about how terrible it was (forget the fact that I made it). My palate was as sophisticated as a 4-year-old; obviously, my taste buds had some growing up to do. Months later, Campari and I became well-acquainted, and soon best pals. So, the first time I tried the Boulevardier cocktail, I was smitten. Spicy rye whiskey paired with bitter Campari and rounded out with sweet vermouth was love at first sip. In fact, I loved this drink so much that I made one (maybe it was more?) for myself every single evening last summer when I returned home. For the whiskey, my standards are either Wild Turkey Rye or Rittenhouse. Both pack a punch and are moderately priced. The sweet vermouth, however, has changed during the course of the 100 that I’ve prepared. I used to use Carpano Antica, which is a lovely sweet vermouth that has beautiful notes of vanilla and orange, but now I like a more bitter-forward style. Cocchi Dopo Teatro is a ridiculously good vermouth that infuses quassia wood, rhubarb and cinchona. The base wine is blended with Barolo Chinato. The result: a vermouth that’s perfect for sipping on its own but I love it in a Boulevardier. You be the judge.


1 1/4 ounces rye whiskey

3/4 ounce Campari

3/4 ounce sweet vermouth

Combine all ingredients in mixing vessel (or build it in your rocks glass). Add ice, stir for 50 revolutions, and strain into a rocks glass over ice. Garnish with orange slice or orange peel.

It’s still warm enough to have one more month of summer drinking, even if fall is a few weeks away. One of my absolute favorite poolside cocktails is the Caipirinha. Made with cachaça, a rum distilled from sugar cane indigenous to Brazil, this cocktail is so good, it’s hard to just have one. If you have cachaça, a lime and sugar, you’re good to go. Please note that Bacardi, or any other clear rum, is not a substitute. Cachaça’s grassy flavor comes from its lower sugar content that’s produced when it’s juiced. A lot of rum is made with juice that comes from molasses.  If your lime is small, use the whole thing; if it’s rather large, 3/4 of it will do. Start by cutting the lime in half lengthwise (think of the top and bottom of the lime as the north and south poles). Take each half and cut the ends off each pole. Then, take each half and cut down the center from the poles. You’ll have four pieces of lime now. Cut off and discard any slithers of white pith that remain. The pith will add a bitterness that’s not needed for this drink. Once that’s done, cut each of the four pieces down the middle widthwise. You should have eight little pieces of lime. Place those into a sturdy rocks glass. I say sturdy because you will be building and muddling into this glass. If it’s a brittle glass, it might break and you could cut yourself. Blood would be a fourth, and totally unnecessary, ingredient. Add two teaspoons of white sugar, and muddle. When muddling, try not to annihilate the limes; you’ll want to gently muddle while twisting the muddler to extract not only the lime’s juice, but the oils as well. Add 2 ounces of cachaça, and crushed ice (yes, the type of ice makes a difference — crushed ice for the win.)  Now, with a bar spoon (or regular spoon, if you don’t have one), gently stir everything in the rocks glass for about 10 seconds. Top off with more crushed ice.  This will be just a touch spirit-forward, especially if your sugar sinks to the bottom of the glass. Another option would be using 1/2 ounce of simple syrup (two parts sugar, one part water). If this gets good to you, try adding a couple slices of pineapple or strawberries when muddling.


2 ounces cachaça

2 teaspoons sugar

3/4 to 1 whole lime

This last drink takes some time — three weeks, to be exact, but don’t let that deter you from having this amazing cocktail. I totally stole the base of this recipe from bartender Jeffrey Morganthaler’s Bar Book that came out four summers ago. In it, Morganthaler gives us the specs for a recipe he found in a book printed in 1939 from Charles H. Baker using his strawberry-infused tequila. All you’ll need is one quart of strawberries and 16 ounces of a good reposado tequila. Dice the strawberries, add them to a Mason jar, and fill with tequila. Seal the jar, and leave in a cool, dark place for three weeks. Shake the jar for about 15 seconds a few times each week. When the time is up, voila! Strain through cheesecloth, and you’ve got yourself a winner. It’s delicious by itself, but when I decided to put this on my drink menu, I didn’t want to sell this neat or over ice. I was afraid that it would be gone just like that. So I decided to make a cocktail with it. I made a syrup from lavender buds and added lime juice — essentially a riff on a margarita. It was delicious, but it still sold out quickly and, in turn, I learned that when making three-week liquor infusions, it’s best to make more than less. 

Bit by a Squirrel

2 ounces strawberry-infused reposado

1/2 ounce lime juice

1/4 ounce lavender syrup

Put all ingredients in cocktail shaker and add ice. Shake it like it’s hot, and then strain into a chilled cocktail coupe. Garnish with a few lavender buds.

Lavender Syrup: take 1/4 cup of water and 1/2 cup of baker’s sugar, and place in a small pot over medium heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Add 1/4 ounce of dried lavender buds (available in bulk at Nature’s Own). Once the syrup has cooled, strain out lavender.  PS

Tony Cross is a bartender who runs cocktail catering company Reverie Cocktails in Southern Pines.