A perfect local road trip for foodies

Published 9:47 pm Tuesday, November 1, 2016

By Susan and Biff Andrews

The north wind is blowing, the temperature is dropping, and it is raining leaves. I love the change of the seasons, especially fall. I get downright nostalgic about it.

Today is a sweet potato-baking kind of a day, which is exactly what’s in the oven while I am writing this article.

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When I was a kid, a sweet potato was kind of a treat. Something your grandmother kept warm on the back of the stove on chilly afternoons. This seems to be a time-honored tradition, not just in my family, but with many folks I know that grew up around here.

I’ve heard friends lovingly refer to them as “North Carolina ice cream.” I think that is because of the way this back-of-the-stove fast food was consumed by the youngsters, like an ice cream cone — top half peeled, bottom half still in the skin, “Thanks, Granny,” and off you go.

This is the time of year when I want to go food foraging. It must be something in my DNA.

We foraged for a lot of black walnuts this month, mostly for the seed drive for the Department of Forestry, but we got some for ourselves, too.

If the little critter that has been raiding the box sees fit to leave me some, soon I’m going to get out the hammer and get crackin’. Another time honored tradition, but that’s another story.

Mostly we food forage along Route 460 at various businesses. The sweet potatoes were the product of a trip to the Windsor hardware store for cold crops for the garden. A perfect complement to the kale, collards and broccoli that we bought, along with the mandatory bale of straw for the fall yard display of mums and pumpkins.

In years past, this trip came with the added bonus of your choice of a sweet potato jack or an apple jack made by a local Windsor lady for those in the know, who got there early on Saturday morning and gave the secret signal to the clerk at the check-out counter.

But those days are long gone.

Sometimes our travels down Route 460 take us to the Felts Ham Store in Ivor, where you can buy all manner of smoked hog meat. Our granddaughter always loves to sit on the painted pig out front and have her picture taken.

Cooking the ham is also another one of those labor-intensive, time-honored traditions.

My mother recently gave me a pearl of wisdom: She buys it already cooked and sliced at the local grocery store deli.

But I emphasized the good in having the whole-ham experience from time to time to make sure the young folks know how. I don’t think she has plans to participate that day.

Peanuts are another must-have on our trip down 460. We like the Wakefield Peanut Store, where you can walk around the perimeter of the store and sample peanuts and other nuts for every taste. Salty, spicy, sweet, candy-coated, chocolate-covered — you name it.

We use our squirrels and birds as our virtuous reason to visit the store, where we buy big bags of wildlife nuts for our furry and feathered friends, but in reality we’re there for the chocolate-covered peanut brittle.

Yup, you can get your salty, sweet candy-coated, chocolate-covered goobers all in one bomb. They only make it this time of year and you won’t see any after December.

Most Saturdays through November you can get every local deliciousness imaginable and help out some good people, too. There is no end to the church bazaars along the roads in Suffolk and Isle of Wight County, most of which usually come with lunch and a bake sale and fun things for the kids to do.

On Saturday, we’re headed to Oakland Christian Church on Route 10 for our favorite Brunswick stew right after we help clean up the waterfront in Downtown Suffolk with our friends at the Nansemond River Preservation Alliance and the Izaak Walton League, who are sponsoring the event.

The river clean-up is from 9 a.m. to noon, and folks will gather in the parking lot behind the Burger King on Main Street. Hope we see you there!

Susan and Bradford “Biff” Andrews are retired teachers and master naturalists who have been outdoor people all their lives, exploring and enjoying the woods, swamps, rivers and beaches throughout the region for many years. Email them at b.andrews22@live.com.