Root to Rise

The worldly palate of Cameron Klass

By Jim Dodson     Photographs by Amy Freeman

Cameron Klass is a young woman forever on the move.

Hers is the kind of millennial wanderlust that has kept this 26-year-old crossing the globe over the past five years, a personal quest to learn about other cultures and countries from the grass-roots level, resulting in a passport that’s been stamped by at least two dozen different nations on four different continents. Her end game? Discovering food that not only sustains but also elevates the quality of human life.

The latest move from this peripatetic Greensboro native’s determination to help others comes in the form of a lifestyle cookbook filled with favorite recipes gathered from Klass’ world travels, promoting a naturally-sourced, whole-Earth approach to eating that works wonders for both body and soul, not to mention the health of the planet.

To hear her tell it, the 2011 Page High graduate had something of an awakening during her college junior year abroad in Reading, England, fueled by the month she spent at term’s end backpacking across Europe before her return to Ole Miss, where she was a marketing major and a member of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority.

Traveling on the cheap, sleeping in train stations and youth hostels, soaking up culture and food styles as she went, Cameron roamed from Barcelona to Florence to Croatia (“with many stops in between”), undergoing an epiphany in the process.

“That trip changed me,” she explains over an afternoon basil tea at Vida Pour Tea on State Street. “I’ve always been an independent person, someone who loved to camp with my family, enjoyed hiking and traveling on my own.” But after meeting so many different people and experiencing other cultures, something larger and more encompassing stirred awake in her. “I went home, resigned from the sorority and decided after graduation that I would travel as much as possible, learning from hands-on experiences.”

It helped to have a roommate, she adds, who was a nutrition major.

Her senior year at Ole Miss was spent deep-diving into food science and natural nutrition, learning the importance of cooking with fresh foods and reading ingredient labels. She also became a serious student of yoga — eventually earning certification as a teacher down the road. “I’d been a vegetarian since my freshman year. But learning more about the healing power of natural foods was eye-opening and exciting,” she reports. “Generally speaking, our convenient fast food culture promotes a very unhealthy and unstable lifestyle of eating. I wanted to be part of the solution to that.”

Eager to keep moving, during the summer of 2014, she landed a gig as an au pair for a family in Istanbul, Turkey. “My favorite times were days off when I went in search of local cuisine, inspired by the family cook, who made the most delicious vegetarian meals. On my own, I got to explore the city and its amazing markets and cultural sites, including mosques, meeting so many different types of people. It all opened my mind and broadened my outlook on life and left me hungry for more.”

Before returning home to Greensboro that Christmas, Cameron extended her travels to Poland, where, among other things, she visited the Auschwitz concentration camp and underwent yet another awakening. “That was such an emotional experience for me,” Klass says. “The lesson I took from that is that life is fragile and everything can change in an instant. The moment is now to change, to make your life better. I knew I had to keep going in my travels — to learn more.”

From there, she did a two-month stint working for a youth hostel in Valencia, Spain, followed by a month in Morocco, where she went on a camel trek across the desert, sleeping beneath the stars and sharing meals with nomadic families and picking up recipes as she went — including how to make Berber pizza by baking it in the sand. “I also discovered that the camel is my spirit animal. We’re both slow but steady and can cover a lot of ground with a smile on our faces. Also,” she adds with a laugh, “we’re both vegetarians.”

Upon her return to Greensboro, she resumed her yoga classes at Radiance Yoga and began teaching a 10-day class in detoxing the body with natural foods, cooking healthy meals for private clients — which funded the next chapter of her educational travels.

Five months in South America followed, beginning with the Galapagos Islands with her younger sister, Julia, before moving on to Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Colombia, exploring native cultures, eating in local markets, learning to cook the local dishes, visiting holy places, trekking in the Andes, camping on beaches. In Bolivia, she worked on a farm for two months, cooking, building plots, picking vegetables and harvesting coffee. She finished her time there by helping build a raft with Israeli backpackers and taking it down the Rio Verde River.

“If you are open to people,” she reflects, “they will open up to you. Everywhere I went I found people who were warm and receptive — eager to share whatever they had, including food and wisdom. It was deeply enriching.”

By the time she got home to Greensboro to do her 10-day detox programs and help out with her sister’s wedding, she knew it was only a matter of time until she returned to South America.

On the road again with her backpack, she worked at a youth hostel in Chile and trekked in the Argentinian high country (“They eat so much meat. I lived on peaches and bread.”) From there it was on to Europe to work at an organic veggie farm in Germany. “I loved that work — every morning in the garden, weeding and watching plants grow and cooking meals from food you have taken straight from the garden. There’s nothing healthier or more delicious than that.”

Her next step was Nepal for three months, where she trekked the Annapurna Circuit through the Himalayas and fell in love with the people and food of Nepal. She also did five days in a Buddhist monastery in Katmandu, a meditation course that further shaped her emerging consciousness. “The deep silence, the simple food — soup, bread — sitting on the floor, being with people who were so genuine and loving. It really did change my world.” A highlight was her visit to Lumbini, the birthplace of the Buddha.

Moving on to India, she took cooking classes and went to Varanasi, explored the Taj Mahal and visited Mathura, the birthplace of Krishna, continuing her pilgrimage to the sacred places where the Buddha became enlightened, first taught the dharma, and eventually died. Her travels took in the famous beach at Goa, the Ajanta caves, the teeming streets of Mumbai and Delhi.

Following another time home in Greensboro to teach cooking and study yoga, she returned to India to attend the International Yoga Festival at Rishikesh and took her yoga teacher training at Bhagsu, a small village where she heard the Dalai Lama speak several times and visited his temple. Upon returning to Bhagsu, where she continued cooking classes and yoga training — learning to make jewelry and dreamcatchers in the process — she began to formulate her own vision of a life of service in which she shared the wisdom of her travels through cooking and yoga.

On her way home, she stopped off in Spain to walk the famous Camino de Santiago, having made up her mind to start a business called Root to Rise. The name is taken from a common term in yoga in which one “grounds down through your feet and extends your arms over your head, lengthening your body and radiating energy.”

The name felt right, she adds, because her plan was to “ground down” after her nomadic travels in a place — Greensboro — where her own roots existed, with the purpose with helping the people of her home town “rise” to live their healthiest and fullest life.

“One important thing I’ve taken from all of my travels to such beautiful and amazing places is how close to the Earth people in those places live — simply and typically without the pressure of material life and a commercial culture that equates happiness with things you buy or own. They know where their food comes from, and that is almost sacred to them, a daily blessing.”

She pauses and smiles. “Basically, I learned that food is medicine for the body and soul. That it nourishes and heals — and affects everything you do in your life.”

And for this reason, Cameron Klass returned home with her mind set to put her worldly wisdom — and recipes — to use by integrating a healthy-living style of cooking, a weekly stall at the Greensboro Farmers Curb Market on Yanceyville Street, and a forthcoming cookbook that will feature recipes from her magical mystery tour of the planet.

Her longtime customers and yoga students are eager to get their hands on her Root to Rise cookbook, a project Klass envisions expanding into an interactive website with daily meditations, wellness information, food investigations, healthy-living news, grocery lists, in-season recipes and even travel tips.

“Everything in life follows a process of growing and learning,” she adds. “That’s why I am excited to share the wonderful things I’ve learned where my roots are.”

And we are glad to rise with her.


Serves: 6 sandwiches

Time: 25 minutes

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 yellow onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 (14 ounce) cans young jackfruit, rinsed and drained

2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar

2 tbsp. ketchup

1 tbsp. coconut sugar

1 tbsp. white vinegar

1 tbsp. red wine vinegar

1/2 tbsp. Dijon mustard

1/4 cup vegetable broth

1/4 cup water

1 tsp. cumin

1/2 tsp. onion powder

1/2 tsp. paprika

1/2 tsp. chili powder

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp. salt


6 Ezikiel burger buns

1/2 pineapple, sliced thinly

2 avocados, sliced

6 lettuce leaves

Heat 2 tbsp. olive oil over medium high heat, until hot but not smoking. Add the onion and garlic, sautéing for 5-7 minutes, until just beginning to brown. Add in the jackfruit, and remaining ingredients. Using a fork or potato masher, break the jackfruit into shreds. Add more water 1 tablespoon at a time if it appears dry. Lower the heat to medium and cook, uncovered, for 12-15 minutes. Stir occasionally to blend flavors.

While the jackfruit is simmering, toast the buns until golden brown. Cut the pineapple and set aside. Wash and pat dry the lettuce leaves. When the BBQ is ready, top on the buns, adding in pineapple slices, lettuce, and avocado slices. Enjoy!

Store leftover BBQ in the fridge for 2-4 days.


Serves: 4

Time: 15 minutes

4 large handfuls leafy greens

1 can chick-peas, rinsed and drained

1 cucumber, sliced

2 tomatoes, diced

1 cup green olives

1 avocado, sliced

1 cup organic sheep cheese, cubed

Salt and pepper to taste

4 tbsp. Cam’s Go-To Dressing

Divide the ingredients among four bowls and toss with the dressing. Enjoy!

Health tip: When consuming cheese, sheep and goat cheese is a better alternative for health and environmental purposes than cow cheese. Sheep cheese has high levels of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which reduces body fat, maintains muscle, and improves bone health. Goat cheese is more easily digested than other cheeses. And both sheep and goat farms create less of an impact on the Earth than cattle farms. They require less water, produce less waste and methane, and traditionally use more organic farming tactics.


5/8 cup olive oil

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1/8 cup water

1 tsp. dried basil

1 tsp. dried parsley

1/2 tsp. dried oregano

Salt and pepper

Place all ingredients in a jar and shake well. Keeps on the counter for 2 weeks.


Serves: 2

Time: 1 hour chill time + 10 minutes

1 (15 ounce) can organic culinary coconut milk, full-fat (refrigerate the can 1 hour or more before opening)

1/2 cup organic frozen strawberries (or berry of choice; if using fresh fruit, add ice)

1 tbsp. ground flaxseed meal

1 tsp. beetroot powder

1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Toppings: fresh fruit, organic unsweetened coconut shreds, dash of cinnamon, chopped nuts.

Place the can of coconut milk in the refrigerator 1 hour or more prior to making the parfait.

When you open the can, use a spoon to place the thick white part that has accumulated on the top in a blender. Add 1/4 cup of the liquid from the can of coconut milk to the blender along with all other ingredients.

Blend until smooth, stopping to scrape the sides if needed. To alter the consistency add more ice to thicken or more liquid/water 1 tbsp. at a time to liquify.

Divide among two parfait bowls and add your favorite toppings!  OH

Papadaddy’s Mindfield

Why We Teach

Because love trumps money

By Clyde Edgerton

After a recent day of teacher protest in Raleigh, a Buzz from the StarNews went something like this: “If they want more money, why do they teach?”

One answer: “To educate young people in such a way that America doesn’t end up with about 40 percent of its adults who think like you do.”

For some reason, I’m guessing the question-asker is an adult male — kind of irreverent in an annoying way, annoyingly pushy, laughing in an annoying way about being pushy. This guy, let’s call him Norman, probably has a boring, well-paying job, and loves to watch TV and collect, say, bicycle spokes. He made Cs in high school, finished two months of college, then dropped out because it was boring.

Today, his boring job pays a pretty good salary — for a person with the creativity of mud. He has health insurance and is going to retire as soon as possible so he can spend the rest of his life watching TV and collecting bicycle spokes. He likes quiz shows and action films — the ones that aren’t too complicated. He likes to bet on sports. He dreams of being a millionaire. He knows that greed makes the world go around. Greed makes people work hard. Teachers aren’t greedy, so they don’t work hard.

I had Norman pictured as about 40 years old, making maybe 48 to 54 grand a year, but I just now had a switch-glitch.

I had him wrong.

Norman is actually a multimillionaire who lives carefully, counting his money. He got some lucky breaks. He thinks of himself as cool — though he doesn’t collect bicycle spokes — he has no hobbies; he’s a little less creative than the first Norman. He does have two Thomas Kinkade paintings except one of them doesn’t have the little original spot of real paint. He has a cool Mercedes. He’s 62, and has had some face-work. Maybe a little too much — since he looks kind of like a 38-year-old who’s constipated.

He’d volunteer in a public school if he could find one that paid $1,200 per hour. But why should he spend even a second thinking about public schools? He has a portfolio. And a nice $920,000 yacht. He has a membership in a high-end country club. (Don’t get me wrong — there are people in country clubs without face-lifts.) His thought is: What is public education anyway but a place for poor kids? Like the children of teachers. He, like the first Norman, asks, “If they want more money, why do they teach?”

They teach because most of them love teaching. Love it in spite of a collapse of respect for what they do — in spite of a surprisingly large percentage of their country’s budget going for “leadership.” Whoa. In spite of bosses with a Bluetoothed ear who sometimes visit in schools that might well expel a student who refused to un-Bluetooth her ear. In spite of insane testing mandates from the government. In spite of people working around them for $11 an hour — with their state government and local school board rubber-stamping those poverty-making wages.

They love teaching. They are rewarded by the look in the eyes of a child who is excited about learning something — like, say, a new language, how to play clarinet, or how to solve a calculus problem. They believe that look in the eyes of a curious child might, with some luck, be morphed into a dream that does not depend on money for happiness, a dream that finds purpose in serving others, that creates a permanent curiosity about the world, a permanent respect, even love, for their neighbors — even neighbors who have far less than they do. The deep excitement in teaching and learning is water for a thirsty nation.

While it’s appropriate to say, “Thank you for your service” to a vet, it’s just as appropriate to say, “Thank you for your service” to a teacher. Both make our nation safe. Both have tremendous power — one to destroy, one to build.

If they want more money, why do they teach? To build student insight and character through knowledge, and thus make our nation better able to handle something as risky as democracy.  OH

Clyde Edgerton is the author of 10 novels, a memoir and most recently, Papadaddy’s Book for New Fathers. He is the Thomas S. Keenan III Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing at UNCW.

True South

Making the Cut

Not everyone qualifies for shelf space

By Susan S. Kelly

Not long ago someone said to me, “I’m cutting down on friends because I find it cuts down on expectations.” In the same week, my sister informed me that coffee table books are o-u-t. She knows this kind of thing because she lives in Charlotte. Both pronouncements indicated that, after hurriedly sweeping tables free of Irish Country Houses and Flowers for Entertaining and the like, I needed to take a good long look at my bookshelves.

Despite the fact that I’m an inveterate deleter — of photographs, recipes, clothes, emails (especially emails, and you would be too if your daughter had found the one in which you’d commented to your sister that, during your daughter’s semester in France, it was obvious that she’d eaten more éclairs than haricots verts) — I have bookshelves upstairs and down, in bedrooms, in halls, in the kitchen, in an armoire, in corner cupboards, even behind a desk against the wall where I can’t see the books themselves. Time to apply that neat-freak guru’s Does It Bring You Pleasure? dictate to my bookshelf contents.

First to go: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. I don’t care if it was my mother’s. I don’t care if it has Mark Twain’s personal signature on the flyleaf. Nobody likes that book. Nobody. The very title makes me think of my son’s comment that melancholy instrumental music always makes him think of summer reading requirements, i.e., depressing. I so get that, and so farewell to Cry, the Beloved Country, too.

Here go the various books penned by my Master of Fine Arts teachers, because I thought that they’d notice I’d bought them and mention to their editors that I was worthy of publication myself. Brown-nosing does not get you published. Maybe, in a pinch, you’ll get a cover blurb, but of course you have to get published first. Out.

Here’s the shelf that makes me think: What was that about? Meaning not the book’s plot, but why I ever bought it. Take Ellen Gilchrist’s books. I thought she was a tough Southern broad and that if I read her stuff, I’d grow up just like her. OK, so that happened; no need to keep. This row of Leon Uris books, when I was on a Jewish jag. Poof. Begone, Barbara Kingsolver. So long Stephen King’s The Stand, the only book I’ve ever read that caused me to shake my husband awake at 2 a.m. because I was so terrified.

Wait, what is Jonathan Livingston Seagull doing here? And Rod McKuen’s Listen to the Quiet? Remnants of the soulful ’70s get no shelf space. Yet what does it say, pray, that I can’t part with The Preppy Handbook? It says that I Instagrammed a photo of it and the number of people who responded that they still had a copy was astounding. What this says about me, or them, is something I’d rather not delve into too deeply. But The Preppy Handbook stays.

Never mind the defunct coffee table books; what to do with all these “little” books? You know, the kind that were gifts or you bought in a museum store. First lines of famous books. Last lines of famous books. The kings and queens of England. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water. Joan Walsh Anglund.

To keep: Eleanor and Franklin, because it was a U. S. History Prize, in high school, and I was so stunned that I won. I’m no history buff, but I’m very good at memorizing. Here goes Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. Don’t care that it was a college graduation gift. Don’t care that it’s a Pulitzer. It’s boring, and unlike Annie Dillard, I never was much given to introspection, much to my husband’s dismay. Because here is row upon row of his Jesus books, with sleeping pill titles like Christianity and Culture, The Beginning of Wisdom, The Love of Learning and the Desire for God. Lord, I rest my case. Guess I’ll have to keep the two-tome volume of Governor Reagan and President Reagan, since my spouse has never seen fit to even remove the shrink wrap cover.

During a stint as a librarian, I myself shrink wrapped my childhood hardback of Stuart Little because my daughter (see above) read the same copy aloud to me every night before bedtime while I played Tetris on Game Boy — and you’ve never read E. B. White if you haven’t heard it in an 8-year-old’s voice. Nor will I ever part with anything Tasha Tudor illustrated: The Secret Garden and A Little Princess. The four-volume edition of The Raj Quartet and Brideshead Revisited are keepers because I was so addicted to their versions on Masterpiece Theatre.

All Alice McDermott books stay. All Julia Glass books stay. All Jane Smiley books stay. All John Updike novels and short stories stay, if only for the heartbreaking, last-line comeuppance in “A&P” and the marital depiction of “Wife-Wooing.” My copy of William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! stays because it falls open naturally to the lines I’ve read so often: “Tell me about the South. What’s it like there. What do they do there. Why do they live there. Why do they live at all.” Here’s to the hard-drinking writers still trying to figure out their love/hate relationship to the South. I think I know one. Besides, don’t you love a great “hate” line? “Love Rebecca? I hate her!” Oh, Maxim de Winter . . . Rebecca, and all Daphne du Mauriers stay.

The $3,000 worth of bridge books stay. They’re an investment . . . that hasn’t matured.

I’m exhausted. Meaning I’m just going to pretend like Dr. Zhivago isn’t staring me in the face right beside Gone with the Wind. After all, tomorrow is another day.  OH

Susan S. Kelly is a blithe spirit, author of several novels, and a proud grandmother.

Wandering Billy

Old School

Ballinger Academy, downtown Eye candy and an ode to Dear Old Dad

By Billy Eye

“True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country.” — Kurt Vonnegut

Just weeks ago, I lost a very dear friend of mine. After a long and protracted battle, he finally succumbed to his wife’s demand that he not hang out with that bum Billy Eye anymore.

Perhaps as conciliation, my pal Caleb Gross, knowing how much I love a mystery, pulled up a Google satellite image of a large, manufacturing plant–sized building at the end of a winding, unpaved trail off Friendway Road near West Market Street. Caleb’s dad had lived in the Westwind Area neighborhood years ago, and that elephantine structure sequestered behind a row of mid-century homes had always fascinated him, being so completely out of place and long ago abandoned.

It has no discernible address, doesn’t seem to appear on any map, nor is the property listed on Zillow. Eye became intrigued as well, so we went urban excavating, motoring past the “No Trespassing: Violators Will Be Prosecuted” signs to steal a closer look. Caleb, by the way, is the drummer for our region’s banging-est punk band, Basement Life, whose latest album Devour is one of my all-time favorites. In addition to being a ferocious skin beater, Caleb’s a devoted father and hard-working professional.

What we discovered at the end of that dirt trail was a low-slung, one-story building fronting a Georgian Colonial-–inspired, four-story structure, a bit disheveled but totally intact, with unusually high ceilings. The windows weren’t broken — imagine that — but all entrances and lower floor windows have been boarded up to prevent egress. My first thought was, what a great event space this would make.

Surrounded by five acres of slightly overgrown lawn, there is no signage or anything identifying the property, but an adjacent athletic field suggested that this may have been a school of some sort. Sure enough, after asking around, it was Lady Katei Cranford who informed me that this was once Ballinger Preparatory Academy, also known as The Little Red Schoolhouse.

Attorney Max Ballinger and his wife Patsy bought this former preschool not far from their 100-acre Guilford College farmstead. After 12 years teaching at Sternberger Elementary, this was a dream come true for Patsy Ballinger, to be headmistress of her own academic enterprise.

Beginning in 1971, students attended kindergarten through 8th grade at Ballinger Prep, with class sizes ranging from 10–12 students. Under Patsy’s tutelage, pupils were immersed in a curriculum emphasizing geography, science, social studies, government, history, mathematics, as well as gaining fluency in French. Each day, students attended classes in the arts — music, drama, painting and creative writing.

It wasn’t unusual for Ballinger attendees to win the national Geography Bee. Students were encouraged to write books, many of which were published and achieved acclaim. Ballinger’s motto: “You don’t have to do it, You get to do it!”

First to arrive each morning and last to leave, Patsy directed and often times composed two dramatic or musical productions each term, insuring every child had a chance to participate in some way. Field trips afforded older students an opportunity to experience a variety of distant locales such as the Outer Banks, Williamsburg, Cape Canaveral, our nation’s capital, even white water-rafting down the New River.

When Ballinger Prep closed after the 2002 term, enrollment had dropped to just a few dozen, that year’s seventh grade class was just four students.

Caleb and I didn’t go as far as pulling particle board off the windows of the now vacant academy, not my style, but a visitor to this property in 2011 got a good look at the inside and discovered classrooms with desks and chairs in place, graded papers and a pair of glasses resting on a teacher’s desk.

On a related note . . .

Downtown the other day, on the corner of Elm and Washington, waiting for a light to change, I overheard a young man say to his wife, who was strolling their baby, “Look, there’s a candy factory. You want to go check it out?” They were referring to a building across the street from the Depot. “Don’t bother,” I told them. “There’s no candy factory there nor has there ever been.” They were puzzled, “Then why did they paint ‘Gate City Candy Factory’ in large letters on top of that building?” Beats me.

That brick, multilevel structure at 301 South Church Street, is currently home to The Experiential School of Greensboro, where, coincidentally, Caleb is hoping to enroll his 6-year old son this fall. This tuition-free collaborative for K-7 students opened its doors only last year, yet there’s already a waiting list.

The charter’s mission statement declares, “The Experiential School of Greensboro educates creative critically engaged citizens using an experiential curriculum that extends the classroom into the downtown Greensboro community.” That’s why you’ll occasionally witness a gaggle of youngsters taking part in a field trip making their way in a neat little row across downtown sidewalks.

A benefit concert for the school was held in May, “Songs of Peace and Community,” featuring many of the city’s finest singer-songwriters including Rhiannon Giddens, Laurelyn Dossett, Charlie Hunter and Molly McGinn, among others.

Meanwhile, talk about taking it back to old school, Caleb Gross and Basement Life have a show on June 8th at The Blind Tiger on Spring Garden, Eye’ll see you there?


I often wax nostalgic about members of the well-named Greatest Generation. Something about living through The Depression, World War II, the economic boom of the 1950s and ’60s, gave them an almost singular perspective, embodying the American Dream that subsequent generations squandered.

I was unexpectedly reminded of two friends of my parents, Tom and Leenette Wimbish (Wimbish Insurance) both departed, she just last year. Pulling a book from my library, an 8 x 7 pamphlet I’d never seen before dropped into my hands, a collection of poetry self-published by Tom Wimbish.

The final verse in his booklet, one entitled “My Dad,” is a clear-eyed portrait of the quintessential Depression-era Southern gentleman:

Standing straight and tall in the worldly wind,

Rigid in his beliefs, to the very end.

Arbitrate, not he; and need we ask,

An unwavering devotion to every task.

Love, he showed in a particular fashion,

Patience, he had as if on ration.

But, good he was in every pore,

His memory engraved forever more.

And, thus these lines thought somewhat sad,

Do honor and glory, my Dear Ole Dad. OH

Billy Eye is O.G. — Original Greensboro.

June 19 Almanac

One whiff of wild honeysuckle sends me down the bumpy dirt road, down the gravel drive, down to the back paddock, where the bay pony greets me at the gate, alfalfa hay tangled in her thick black mane.

As a child, summer mornings at the farm were sacred to me.

At the earliest light, while the air was still cool, we watered flowerbeds and drinking troughs, then took off bareback down the lush woodland riding trail.

Past the quiet creek, where water moccasins sunned on fallen logs, past the neighboring farm, where an ancient donkey wheezed in exaltation, on past the patch of ripening blackberries, I return to the place I first experienced the taste of wild honeysuckle, a place I return each June, if only in my mind.

This year, summer solstice lands on Friday, June 21.

And yet the sweetness of the season arrives unexpectedly — in an instant, in one delicious whiff, inside a single drop of nectar.

It is the month of June, The month of leaves and roses, When pleasant sights salute the eyes and pleasant scents the noses. — Nathaniel Parker Willis

Figs of Summer

June marks the arrival of the earliest blackberries and scuppernongs. Picking herbs at dawn for midday pesto. Fried squash blossoms and fresh sweet corn. The first ripe fig.

I’ll never forget the Devon Park rental with the young fig tree out back. “It’s never produced fruit,” the landlord had told me.

And yet, one June evening, after scrubbing and filling the concrete birdbath, there it was: a tiny green fruit.

I watched that perfect fig slowly ripen day after day, for weeks.

Just as a caterpillar emerges from cocoon-state completely transformed, one day my darling fig was purple.

Soon, it would be ready to harvest. One more day, I told myself.

But the next day, the birds had beaten me to it.

Take whatever wisdom you wish from this little memory. And as for you birds: I hope the fig was delicious.

Hand-picked Sweetness

In addition to the uplifting aroma of its summer blossoms, the honeysuckle is a plant of many surprising health benefits. (Add honeysuckle oil to the bath, for example, to soothe arthritis or muscle pain.) But what could be sweeter than adding homemade honeysuckle syrup to your favorite summer refreshment (iced tea, lemonade, sorbet, fresh fruit, you-name-it)? The below recipe stores up to one month in the refrigerator. Do make sure to harvest blossoms that are free from pesticides. And, if you make enough syrup, share the sweetness with a friend.

Honeysuckle Blossom Syrup


1 cup sugar

1 cup water

50 honeysuckle blossoms


In a small saucepan, combine sugar, water and honeysuckle blossoms.

Using medium to high heat, bring to a boil, stirring constantly.

Reduce heat and simmer for 3-4 minutes.

Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.

Strain into a jar; refrigerate.

No great thing is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig, I answer that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.  — Epictetus

Let There Be Magic

The Full Strawberry Moon rises on Monday, June 17 — four days before the solstice. Also called the Honey Moon, the Mead Moon and the Full Rose Moon, allow the brilliance of this June wonder to illuminate all the magic and potential of this brand-new season. And if you happen upon ripe wild strawberries for the occasion, don’t forget the honeysuckle blossom syrup in the fridge.

Sweet Dream

Dolce & Amaro is more than just a pastry shop. It’s the chance of a lifetime

By Nancy Oakley     Photographs by Mark Wagoner

What’ll it be? One of the dainty macarons in shades of pink and yellow or the bluish-purple cloud of cheesecake bearing a crown of fresh blueberries? How about a perfectly rounded puff coated with chocolate so shiny it would look just as at home displayed in a museum? Maybe a savory is the way to go — a salty croissant, whose delicate layers crackle and crumble at first bite. Or, you could answer the siren call of miniature pana cottas — vanilla cream, caramel and chocolate — standing sentry in a tray. Fantastical cakes beckon — one consisting of nutella and Chantilly covered in bright green pistachio icing with maraschino cherries on top, another, the “Marilyn Monroe” topped with bright pink lips. These visions of sugarplums — edible works of art — are staples at Dolce & Amaro Artisan Bakery, (which translates to, you guessed it, “sweet and savory”) tucked inside the Westover Gallery of Shops on Westover Terrace. But to the three men behind it, the operation, which opened last fall, is considerably more than a bakery; it is the culmination of a vision and an expression of their love of community.

“Together we have 75 years’ experience in the industry,” says Mikel Leka, the patisserie’s manager. “We” refers firstly to his cousin, Koco Tamburi, proprietor of nearby Osteria, which since 2013 has sated many an appetite with signature fare of Italy’s northeast Emilia-Romagna region and extensive wine list, and Embur Fire Fusion on Smyres Place, specializing in wood-fired pizzas with a Latin flair.

But what would an artisanal bakery be without a pastry chef? Rounding out the trio is the most recent transplant to the Gate City, Albano Barjami, the creative force behind Dolce & Amaro’s jewel-like confections.

Growing up together in Emilia-Romagna’s famed resort town of Rimini on the Adriatic coast, the three amici worked in various capacities in the food and hospitality industry, putting in long days during the summers. Come winter, when the tourist season slowed to a halt, they dreamed of another life, of opening their own place together.

Little did they expect their dream would take 28 years to achieve.

Tamburi worked around Europe, his last stint being in London, before he struck out for Miami in 2001. Years later, when his wife was offered a job with a local pharmaceutical company, Tamburi was all for a move. At the time, just after the financial crisis of 2008, “the food scene here was not what it is now,” Tamburi recalls. He instinctively sensed opportunity and began encouraging his compatriots to join him.

Leka’s trajectory was similar, with stints in Miami, then in New York and owing to his wife’s career move, Charlotte, where he managed a group of restaurants. “It is good to follow the woman!” Tamburi quips. Barjami, meanwhile, had been honing his chops, working with some of the rock stars among Europe’s pastry chefs — Rossano Vinciarelli, Leonardo di Carlo, Luigi Biasetto, Antonio Guerre— teaching at international exhibitions, and becoming certified in the art of preparing “biologica” pastries.

Loosely translated as “organic,” it carries specific implications that its American counterpart (often a marketer’s catchall phrase) does not. As in, mandatory three years’ training to become a certified “bio” chef, and tightly restricted ingredients. But having jumped through the rigorous culinary hoops in his native country, Barjami is able to whip up sugar- and gluten-free — and utterly delicious — options. The tantalizing macarons, for example, are made with almond flour. Other sweet treats might contain barley malt or rice flour. Glazes are derived from concentrated fruit. He explains that it’s tough to get the proper consistency for the items, some of them taking as long as two weeks to prepare. “It’s a constant balance,” he says to avoid pastries that taste like cardboard. Given their short shelf life, diners with special dietary needs will have to order the pastries in advance (though there are always sugar-free biscotti in one of the bakery’s cases).

But if you’re not among the gluten- or sugar-free crowd, then feel free to indulge without too much guilt, because, as Tamburi allows, “Here, flavor is First Place, not the sugar.” Sure enough, a Pateria Napoletana, a traditional Napolese Easter pastry consisting of wheat, egg, ricotta, orange-flower water, lemon and bits of candied fruit gradually unfolds on the tongue, revealing each component — tasting notes in a symphony, as it were. One reason Barjami’s pastries are so flavorful? “We don’t want to sacrifice integrity for taste,” Tamburi allows. So, they import as many ingredients as possible. “Pistachios . . . the best in the world are from Sicily,” he continues. Butter comes from Normandy. For the chocolate éclairs and other items, only 87 percent cocoa will do. Molina Colombo flour, which isn’t overly processed. “We are what we eat, we believe, and if we eat something valuable, beautiful, approachable . . . definitely, we are going to be a better person,” he says. He also applies his philosophy to the menus of Osteria, giving diners healthier options with imported authentic Italian ingredients.

That sense of community is the beating heart of Dolce & Amaro, where Tamburi hails a couple of customers who’ve stopped in for cappuccino and brioche. Barjami is ever experimenting, blending culinary traditions of his native home with others, from a tiramisù cheesecake containing ricotta and cream cheese, to the French-inspired éclairs and brioches the bakery’s clientele have come to appreciate. Tamburi describes the offerings as “modern,” rather than regional, flashing a series of photos on his smartphone from a recent food expo in Milan to prove his point: The sleek, colorful, sculptural tarts of Sal de Riso, Italy’s top patisserie, look as though they were plucked from Dolce & Amaro’s display cases.

Even so, customers frequently come in, looking for sfogliatella or babà au rhum — not part of the original concept, as Leka discovered when the bakery opened last fall. “They were like, ‘What is an Italian bakery without sfogliatella?’ But pastry evolves like anything else, you know?” He shrugs while casting a glance at the case that contains, yes, the popular signatures of Naples, and a few rows over, some treats made of — what’s this? Peanut butter?

The customer is always right, as Tamburi, who knows Southern palates all too well, acknowledges. “We have to listen,” he says. “That is why a man has two eyes and one mouth.” The better to spread love — sealed with the “kiss” on a Marilyn Monroe cake.  OH


Nancy Oakley, the senior editor of O.Henry.

Life of Jane

Just Fine Dining

Does shopping at the grocery store count as a cooking skill?

By Jane Borden

The origin stories of celebrated chefs are often anecdotes about techniques passed through generations or revelatory meals experienced while traversing France. My culinary genesis tale: Nathan and I looked at our weekly schedules and realized that if we wanted family dinners with our daughter, who was now old enough to eat actual food, then the task of preparing said food would fall to me. I became a cook by default. Très inspirante.

We had a secondary goal to improve the caliber of dinner. Up to that point, our child ate purées from pouches, and Nathan and I grazed on hummus and carrots. No one ever ate well. Now we do eat together. But I still wouldn’t say we eat well.

I always assumed I‘d be a great cook. My mother is. She made delicious family dinners every night of my childhood in Greensboro. I’m making bland fuel that my husband chews and swallows anyway, because he is a good Midwesterner. Consistently, in response to my apologies or doubts, he says, “I think it’s just fine.“Just Fine: Wasn’t that the title of Bobby Flay’s biography?

Further, my mother made it appear effortless. Delicious meals simply appeared every night. Actually, I wasn’t allowed in the kitchen while she cooked, so I can’t say for sure, but she didn’t require three martinis to get through it, which is kind of where I am and, come to think of it, is maybe the problem.

All of my life, I figured I was a natural chef waiting in the wings and whenever I actually put spatula to pan, my innate talent would float to the top like a perfectly cooked shrimp. This is why people are reluctant to learn new skills. Inaction enables the harboring of delusion. Also, I cooked shrimp last week and overdid them. But Nathan said they were just fine.

If I actually were a “natural,” would I have waited until the age of 40 to pick up a pot? Then again, I had an excuse for that too. It had more or less been my sister Tucker’s path. No one expected Tucker to inherit Mom’s prowess because Tucker lived in New York and either ate out or ordered in every meal. But as soon as she moved to Raleigh, she turned into Ina Garten. In addition to parenting two children and working full time as an executive at a bank, she makes homemade stromboli. I can’t even pronounce stromboli and she can talk on the phone while she makes it. She’s in some kind of domestic honor guard. Meanwhile, when I heard feminists talk about having it all, I thought “it” meant a personal chef.

Maybe there is voodoo at play, and in order to become a cook like my mom, I too must move back to North Carolina. Except, if I’m being honest, my style of cooking was indeed inherited genetically — from my dad. His kitchen claims to fame include microwaved scrambled eggs and tapioca pudding from a box. In retrospect, I should’ve seen this coming, considering how many times I have defended him . . . or was it Julia Child who once said, “Of course microwaved eggs aren’t as delicious, but you only dirty one dish!”

To be fair, inheriting my dad’s sensibilities hasn’t left me bereft of culinary skills altogether. First, I have expert leftovers strategy. No food item goes to waste in my home, based on systematic rankings determined by frequent inventories of pantry and fridge, to assess what will rot first. This will serve me well in an apocalyptic future, or in the present whenever I want to feel environmentally smug. Second, I know how to handle (attack) a buffet. And third, I can locate and politely capitalize on every sample station in any fancy grocery store. Come to think of it, these are all strategies for eating. Basically, I’m saying that I’m really good at eating.

Feeding is harder. And yet I persist. Because dinner demands to be made and, according to our schedules, I’m the one to do it. So far I have three dishes in my arsenal:

• Instant Pot salsa chicken. Dump a jar of salsa on two chicken breasts in the instant pot and cook for 18 minutes. On the gas range, cook quinoa and chopped cauliflower in chicken broth. Shred chicken with a fork. Amazingly, it only took me a dozen times to perfect this.

• Turkey spaghetti. Sauté onion, add ground turkey until browned, dump in a jar of spaghetti sauce, add chopped mushrooms on top, and simmer for 12 minutes. On the range, cook whole wheat pasta. This one I should have mastered earlier, but I kept insisting on buying the cheapest tomato sauce.

• Stir fry. Sauté chopped tofu until brown, add vegetables, dump in a jar of teriyaki sauce, simmer.

Usually, my daughter says, “This is not my taste.” It is adorably polite and infuriatingly accurate. That’s when Nathan will say, “Honey, I think it’s just fine,” and his voice sounds like winds rushing over the Indiana plains. But hey, imagine how much my husband must love me when I’m definitely not reaching his heart through his stomach.

Although each rendition is not guaranteed to be better than the one before, like the arc of human history, things are bending in a positive direction. Sometimes, my daughter will say, “Mama, you made the best dinner ever,” and my heart swells. Then I remember that the key ingredients in each dish came in a premade sauce. Ah, the classic French technique of le dumpée du jar! C’est magnifique (ou du moins, facile). That’s right, I speak a little French. Maybe I should develop a recipe involving a bottle of French dressing.

Even if my daughter will never say, as I can, that her mother is a great cook, I am still able to create joy around food — not the preparing of it, which is a nightmare from which I won’t wake until she leaves for college —but rather when we shop for it. This I also inherited from my parents. I remember making fun of how excited they were for grocery runs on the weekend. It was like a date for them. I get it now. But for me, it’s a date with my daughter. We talk about it all weekend long until it happens. While we shop, she sits happily in the cart, munching on free samples — atta girl, way to be a Borden — and we take hug breaks on the freezer aisle when she gets a little cold. Sometimes, like a bad boyfriend suggesting scary movies, I make a second loop down the freezer aisle just to get another hug.

I am really good at grocery shopping. Why shouldn’t that be an innate cooking talent? It takes experience and insight to know which premade sauces complement which food items. My daughter sees a woman who is skilled at choosing and using jars. And if she inherits anything from her dad, she’ll think that’s just fine.  OH

Jane Borden makes the best Instant tapioca pudding in all of Los Angeles.

From Russia, With Love

Instagram tastemaker Guyla Lloyd creates a new home and life in Greensboro

By Maria Johnson     Photographs by Amy Freeman

Gulya Lloyd stands at her kitchen counter, swaddled in the sounds of a peaceful spring afternoon. A kettle of water simmers on the stove. A breeze sighs through an open window, nudging the white lace curtains that Gulya made. Her husband, Rob, taps on a laptop nearby. Their rescue dog Sonny pushes kibble around his dish with a soft metallic scrape. Birds trill from a stand of bamboo outside.

“For now, I make pancake,” explains Gulya, who spent her youth in the Russian republic of Dagestan. “Pancake very easy. This is Russian tradition. Every day. Every week.”

Her Instagram followers, all 15,000 of them, see lots of thin pancakes, stuffed and styled in endless variety on @Gulya_Lloyd, her Instagram page, where she fuses her love of photography, cooking and home design. Her style is distinctive, knitting together cottage and country elements with the Danish idea of hygge (pronounced HUE-guh), which translates to “cozy.”

But Gulya’s home is not a trendy copy lifted from magazines or Pinterest; it’s the ongoing expression of an artistic person who won’t rest until she creates what she sees in her mind and feels in her heart.

Like these dessert pancakes — crepes, basically — which soon will be stuffed with sweetened sour cream and juicy strawberries.

She pours two cups of milk into a glass measuring cup, cracks an egg into the liquid, and dips the tip of a sharp knife into a jar of crystalized vanilla. She extracts a small triangle of white powder.

How much is that?

She shrugs. “My eyes measure.”

A pinch?

“Pinch vanilla,” she agrees.

She pours in a thin ribbon of vegetable oil and whisks the mixture, then reaches for a canister. “Flour, maybe one cup and half,” she says.

She sprinkles a tablespoon of sugar over the cup and reaches for a box of salt. “Pinch salt,” she says, happy to deploy the new word.

She whisks more. “Sometimes people use mixer,” she says, her hand whirling.

By now, Sonny is scratching his own back, wiggling belly-up on the natural-colored jute rug in the middle of the kitchen floor.

Wait a minute. Wasn’t white-washed table on that rug a few days ago?

Gulya nods and points to the table, which is now positioned under a nearby window. Rob, freshly retired from 26 years in the U.S. Army, chimes in from across the room.

“Two weeks ago, the table was this way,” he says, aligning his hands with the short axis of the room. “Now, it’s this way.” His hands pivot 90 degrees. “Two weeks from now, who knows?”

“I’m always change,” says Gulya, her brown eyes smiling.

The biggest change in her life happened three years ago, when she married Rob.

They met through family. Rob’s brother, also a U.S. Army officer, is married to a Russian woman, and her mother worked with Gulya in the office of a Moscow construction company.

The mother talked up Rob to Gulya.

The sister-in-law talked up Gulya to Rob.

Neither was very interested. Gulya was 36. Rob was 47. Both were confirmed singles focused on their jobs. They enjoyed traveling and living independently.

They reluctantly agreed to start an email correspondence in February 2014. They wrote in their native languages. It did not go well.

Gulya ran Rob’s emails through a Google translation program. They made no sense to her.

“I say, ‘What you talk about?’” she remembers.

He processed her emails with a military translation program. In one email, Gulya asked Rob about the qualities American men typically like in women.

The military translation: Did Rob like protected sex?

Rob, a native of northwest Texas, was taken aback.

“I was like, ‘Well, maybe. Eventually. But not from the get-go.’”

No, this would never work.

Gulya plucks the kettle from the stove and measures two tablespoons of steaming water.

“Hot water is secret. Hot water makes a little bit of that,” she says, touching the eyelets in the lace curtains.

Air bubbles? She nods.

No baking soda or baking powder in these pancakes?

She grimaces, clenches her teeth and taps her incisors.

Those ingredients set her teeth on edge?

She nods.

They met for the first time in August 2014.

He tacked a side trip to Moscow onto a vacation to Germany.

He and Gulya had a good time, but communication was difficult, and they were always in the company of her friends.

They were alone, for the first time, at Christmas later that year when Gulya visited Rob’s brother and sister-in-law in South Carolina. Gulya gave Rob a book of pictures she’d taken in Moscow.

“From Russia, With Love,” it was titled. The last page bore a message: “To be continued.”

Rob, a civil affairs manager who’d served in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan and was posted to his last assignment at a reserve unit in McLeansville, North Carolina, had resisted Gulya’s invitations to Skype. After the meeting in Charleston, he decided video conferencing would be OK.

“I went to the dang Apple store and bought an iPad,” he says.

Gulya turns up the flame on the gas stove and pours olive oil into a nonstick pan. She ladles in the batter, swirling the pan until the liquid thins to an 8-inch round. Bubbles appear and pop, making eyelets in the pancake.

Gulya points to them with her spatula and smiles. The effect of hot water.

How old was she when she started making pancakes?

Sixteen, she says. That’s when her father threw her, her mother and her brother out. They stayed in Dagestan, she continues, but they had no money, and she was bullied by schoolmates.

“They say, ‘She is not nice girl because her mama and papa divorced,’” she recalls.

Her mother took her and her brother to Moscow.

“She say, ‘We will work. We will be OK,’” Gulya remembers.

Late at night, Gulya baked bread. In the morning, she carried it to a store to sell. When she needed more money, she made honey cakes for weddings and parties.

She baked her way through university, where she took degrees in biology and economics.

The family lived in a series of 11 apartments. Gulya painted and decorated them, but landlords often evicted her family so they could rent the improved properties to others for more money.

Finally, she bought her own apartment.

“It could have been in a magazine,” says Rob, recalling his visit to Moscow.

There, as here, her palette was light and soothing: Whites, creams and beiges, fair woods and fibers, pale silk flowers, small collections of silver, copper, brass and porcelain.

Bold colors and dark lines played second fiddle.

“I say, ‘No dark color!’ I want light, light, light!” she says.

“She’s had some dark areas in her life,” explains Rob.

He proposed one year, to the day, after they began corresponding. They were married by a justice of the peace in Fayetteville in September 2016. The following February, they repeated their vows at a church wedding in Texas. With military precision, the church nuptials occurred precisely two years after their engagement and three years after their first communication — on “17 February,” as Rob puts it.

Their first year together was not as orderly.

Gulya spoke only a few words of English. They communicated with gestures and translation apps on their cellphones. On Gulya’s first morning in this country, Rob went to work and she slept in. When she woke up, she went to the refrigerator to see what she could find for breakfast.

“Zero. Only one bottle beer,” she says.

She went back to bed.

When they went grocery shopping, she asked if he liked grapes. Nope, he said. Yogurt? Nope. He missed what she was trying to tell him.

He cooked what she describes as “crazy food,” like ground beef with chopped bell peppers, ketchup and beer.

She refused to eat. She felt sick and hungry, emotionally and literally.

“We were communicating, but not really communicating,” Rob says.

Gulya called her aunt in Belarus, who advised: “He not understand what you want. You tell him.”

At the same time, Rob followed the counsel of an Army chaplain and his mom, who told him essentially the same thing: ‘‘Boy, don’t screw this up.’’

He started asking Gulya what she wanted.

She longed to cook the foods she liked: fresh bread, homemade yogurt, salmon, soups, couscous, sweet and savory rice, stuffed grape leaves and cabbage leaves, meat and potatoes in pastry pockets, sushi, fresh ravioli and pasta. Gulya had absorbed some recipes on her travels to Thailand, France and Dubai.

Then, of course, there were the desserts that her bakery clients and co-workers had loved in Moscow: layered honey cake, fruit-stuffed pancakes, pies, bundt cakes, fruit-nut-and-caramel bars.

Sometimes, Rob shared her desserts with his co-workers, who joined the chorus: “Boy, don’t screw this up.”

Together, he and Gulya made a budget and saved money. In December 2017, they ditched apartment living and bought a house: a 1960s three-bedroom ranch in Greensboro’s Sedgefield Lakes neighborhood. Empty for a long time, the for-sale-by-owner home had been painted and updated inside and out.

Slowly, Rob and Gulya are transforming the home to a warm and unique place. They shop at their favorite stores — Hobby Lobby, Michaels, The Red Collection, TJ Maxx, Ashley Furniture, and Gulya’s favorite, World Market.

“World Market need pay me!” she teases.

They acquire little by little. When Gulya wanted some colorful Polish dishes at World Market, they bought a few plates, snared a coupon for spending a certain amount, and waited until Rob’s next paycheck to buy more.

“That’s what I really love and respect about her — she understands that life is not a race. It’s a walk, step by step,” he says.

He admits it took him a while to be comfortable buying furniture and accessories that weren’t absolutely necessary. “Initially, I was like, ‘Geez, we have to save our money.’ I grew up with the basics,” he says. “As long as you had a roof over you head, and food, it was good. I was kind of a black-and-white guy.”

Gulya grew up in a spare situation, too, but she could look at a space and see what it could be — in full color. “I say, ‘I see in my head. It will be nice,’ ” she says. “I’m vision person.”

Gradually, she convinced Rob.

“When I saw the outcome, I was like, ‘Oh wow, this is nice,’” he says. “Now, I say, ‘Hey, you know what? If it makes you happy, and it doesn’t break the bank, let’s do it.’ Her vision is a gift I envy.”

Along the way, he has gained confidence in his aesthetic judgment. “Now, I’ll pick up things at the antique store and go, ‘What about this?’” he says.

He admires Gulya’s ability to renovate second-hand items.

She brushed white paint over a wooden coffee table and grouted the top with blue-and-white tiles, completely changing the tenor of the piece. She polished tarnished silver bowls and pitchers — bought in boxes of odd lots — and arranged them artfully on an étagère. She purchased antique German teacups, glued them to rustic wooden trays from Walmart, and hung them on the kitchen wall for a cheerful display.

After Rob contributed three days of sanding, she lightened his “bachelor brown” bedroom suite to leaven their guest room. She sewed curtains for several rooms. She used fabric scraps to make seasonal decorations.

“I’m start 6 a.m.,” she says. “All day, I’m without stop.”

On their back porch, she cultivates geraniums, coleus and zinnias for color, basil for the table, and a money tree for financial good fortune.

“All the other plants can die, but that one had better survive,” Rob jokes.

For her Instagram page, which she started last year, Gulya uses all of her domestic ammunition — food, flowers, furnishings, tableware. She positions and repositions, shoots and reshoots, styles and restyles with an eye to the right composition and light. She deletes hundreds of pictures that don’t meet her standard.

“Maybe some people like it, but my eyes do not like,” she says.

Many of her Instagram followers live in Russia and other countries.

“I have a lot of messages,” she says. “People send me pictures of their room and say, ‘Gulya, help me!’ I say, ‘In different country it’s hard to help.’ ”

Where is she heading with her skills?

Maybe she’ll conduct classes in baking and design. Maybe she’ll work for a decorator or photographer. Maybe she’ll go to culinary school.

“I’m open,” she says, smiling and shrugging.

Most likely, she’ll do what she has always done — go where life takes her and make it as beautiful as she can.

Twenty paper-thin, brown pancakes — that’s what the recipe made. They’re stacked densely on a small plate. One by one, Gulya peels them off and slathers them with sour cream kissed by powdered sugar. She slices fresh strawberries, stripes the bleeding hearts across sour cream, rolls the pancakes into spirals, and stacks them in a triangle. Many rolls make up the triangle’s base, fewer make the next layer, and so on. She frosts the mountain with the remaining sour cream.

Last year, she visited her mother and brother. Her mother asked her if she missed Russia.

Of course, she said yes.

When she got back to Greensboro, the refrigerator was empty. So was the freezer she’d stocked for Rob. But her creations were still there, and her husband was still there, happy to see her. Gulya felt something she could not tell her mother.

She was home.  OH

Maria Johnson is a contributing editor to O.Henry.

Salted Salmon


1 pound salmon

1 teaspoon sugar

2 tablespoons coarse-grain sea salt

2 tablespoons bourbon or cognac

2 sprigs fresh dill, chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

Lemon wedges for serving


Rinse salmon with cold water; pat dry with paper towel. Place salmon in large glass dish.

Mix together sea salt and sugar; sprinkle evenly over top and bottom of salmon.

Pour the bourbon or cognac on top of the salmon; sprinkle with fresh dill.

Tightly cover the dish and refrigerate for 2 days, turning the fish after the first day).

To serve, place the salmon on a cutting board, pat dry with paper towel. Slice the salmon into small, thin pieces. Drizzle with olive oil. (If not serving immediately, transfer slices to glass jar or jars, add the olive oil and refrigerate until ready to serve.)

Serve with lemon wedges, if desired.

Stuffed Tomatoes


2 tablespoons butter

1 onion, finely chopped

10 small tomatoes

1 pound 85 percent lean ground beef

Salt and pepper to taste


In medium skillet, over medium heat, melt butter. Add onion and sauté until golden, 5-8 minutes.

Stir in beef; cook, stirring, until browned, and liquid mostly evaporates. Season with salt and pepper.

Cut off the top off of the tomatoes and scoop out flesh into an oven-safe dish, leaving a shell for stuffing. Stuff the tomatoes with the meat/onion mixture and place on top of the tomato flesh in the dish.

Cover dish with aluminium foil (do not add water). Bake in preheated 350-degree oven 30 minutes. Remove foil; return dish to oven and cook until the tomatoes are golden color, 10-15 minutes. Serve hot.

Pancakes with Strawberries


2 cups whole milk

1 egg

1 tablespoon sugar

Pinch salt

2 tablespoons vegetable oil or olive oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup flour

1/4 cup hot water

2 cups sour cream

Confectioners’ sugar to taste

Chopped fresh strawberries (rinsed first, and patted dry)

Mint sprigs to garnish

To prepare pancakes, using a hand mixer on low speed, combine first 8 ingredients in medium bowl until smooth.

Rub a small skillet lightly with oil and heat over medium heat. When hot, spoon enough batter in pan just to thinly cover entire bottom of pan, rotating skillet to distribute batter evenly. Cook until light brown; flip and cook other side. Repeat with remaining batter. (Entire amount of batter will make 20–24 pancakes.) Let cool.

To assemble pancakes, combine sour cream with about 1/4 cup cofectioner’s sugar (or more if you prefer a sweeter mix). Spread 1 tablespoon of mixed cream down the center of pancake; top cream with some of the chopped strawberries. Roll up pancake. Repeat with remaining pancakes, cream and berries.

To serve, arrange a layer of rolled pancakes on a serving plate; spread thinly with cream. Repeat layering to form a “pyramid” shape. Garnish with fresh mint, if desired.

Note: You can use other fruit as well, such as peaches, apple, pineapple, etc.


Free For All

EMF continues to broaden its appeal with concerts gratis to the public

If you thought classical music was out of your class, here’s your chance to elevate your status with no strain on your wallet. For the second year in a row, the Eastern Music Festival presents its Pay What You Can orchestral celebration June 28. “We decided that first Friday night of the festival was a good introduction to the whole shootin’ works, the whole shebang,” says EMF Executive Director Chris Williams. “One of my board members said, ‘Let’s go find a foundation to support it.’ And the Mebane Foundation, which does educational work, said they thought this would fit beautifully, agreed to provide the funds so we could make that one concert free and open to everyone.” The Greensboro billionaire Allen Mebane, who made his fortune in textiles with Unifi, launched his namesake foundation to ensure that all children, “regardless of race or socioeconomic background, should have the opportunity reach their highest potential in school, in career, and in life.” That philosophy dovetails perfectly with the EMF’s goals of exposing young people to the arts through an intensive, hands-on learning process and attracting the audience to see their accomplishments in performance.

In this case, you get to see all the EMF’s orchestral musicians onstage in one night. The Faculty orchestra plays one big piece, then the two student orchestras will split a Brahms symphony with each playing two movements of the symphony. “You get three orchestras playing two pieces, for whatever you can afford,” Williams says. “Last year we tried it, we were very quiet about it, weren’t sure how it would work. It brought in some families, some students who had maybe not taken the leap forward into EMF yet, that had not come before because they were curious but not willing to commit. It got people interested and excited right away.”

To rev up the excitement, the EMF hosts a chamber crawl June 15, partnering with a handful of musical ensembles for an afternoon of free performances along Elm Street. “Last year we did eight performances in eight venues — plus a little party vibe at the end,” Williams says.

Otherwise, the rich array of concerts and guest artists audiences have come to expect from EMF will continue through next month. On July 14, the festival goes on the road to Boone for a one-night appearance at the Appalachian Summer Festival, an encore performance of the Eastern Festival Orchestra featuring pianist Awadagin Pratt. And a beefed-up, second-line soundtrack — a two-week program for euphonium and tuba, much like EMF’s guitar program — should put some pep in your step, ensuring a brassy summer kickoff for the venerable festival. — Grant Britt  OH


Food for Thought

(Chicken) Salad Days

There is nothing like chicken salad. Whether homey or haute, it can be the centerpiece of any summer meal

By Jane Lear

Aside from the “fiesta” or “Oriental” versions found at some chain restaurants, chicken salad has pretty much been relegated to the Nostalgia Department: suitable fare for tearooms, drugstore lunch counters and Southern porch suppers, circa 1955.

I don’t know why. I suppose people are afraid of the fat in mayonnaise — common to most recipes — or perhaps the technique of poaching chicken — ditto — sounds difficult. This should change. Chicken salad should become a trend.

I mean, if I had a restaurant — a little roadside café, say — I’d feature a chicken salad sandwich of the week. Or perhaps I’d serve nothing but chicken salad; if one of the whiz kids behind the grilled-cheese-shop fad wants to diversify, we should talk.

No matter what, though, I always keep chicken salad in my regular rotation at home, because it’s a great make-ahead family supper or, fancied up with tarragon and toasted walnuts, for instance, or with a curry dressing, a fabulous company meal.

In a perfect world, obviously, I’d always take the time to gently poach chicken breast halves, complete with bones and skin: Not only is that one key to flavorful yet clean-tasting meat (along with using a wholesome pastured bird), but the light broth is handy for moistening the salad (instead of more mayo) if it starts to dry out — a trick I learned back in my years at Gourmet.

Life has a tendency to get in the way, however, and I’m here to remind you that you can make delicious chicken salad from leftover sautéed or roasted chicken, or even a store-bought rotisserie bird.

For sheer speed and efficiency, it’s hard to beat that last option, so I’m always a little shocked when I meet people who are snooty about rotisserie, or spit-roasted, chickens, one of the greatest convenience foods on the planet. Have they ever been to an outdoor market in France? I wonder. The queue for poulet rôti should be a tip-off that it’s an honest, worthy substitute for a home-roasted chicken in many a French kitchen.

And in mine, too. I’ll often buy two on the way home in the evening — one for eating that night, with some harissa-slicked couscous and quick-cooked greens, for example — and the other for salad, later in the week. While it’s still warm, I’ll strip it of bones and skin, shred both white and dark meat, and combine it with the dressing. Honestly, anyone can do this.

As far as chicken salad recipes go, I like having a repertoire. Several old-school renditions are embellished with toasted slivered almonds and grapes, cut in half lengthwise. A famous one, which is rich and light all at the same time (aside from red grapes, almonds, celery and parsley, the recipe includes unsweetened whipped cream), was created by renowned Texas cook Helen Corbitt for the café menu at the Neiman Marcus department store in the ’50s. We also have Corbitt to thank for Texas caviar (i.e., pickled black-eyed peas) and poppy-seed dressing.

Other chicken salads in this genre rely on a one-to-one ratio of mayonnaise and sour cream, and green grapes instead of red. In general, this sort of chicken salad is utterly predictable and absolutely delicious. You’ll want to serve it on a bed of soft-leaf lettuces, and on your mother’s china. A side of steamed asparagus and maybe some Parker House rolls and good butter would make everyone very happy.

Lately, though, I’ve been relying on supermarket staples — in particular, Major Grey’s mango chutney and dry-roasted nuts — as well as a picked-up-on-the-run rotisserie bird to put a chicken salad supper on the table fast. What takes this combination out of the Coronation Chicken Salad realm (first made for Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation lunch in 1953, it’s been popular in Britain ever since) are the additions of cilantro, basil, mint, and lime juice for freshness and verve, as well as large, voluptuous leaves of butterhead lettuce, for making Southeast Asian-style roll-ups.

Fast-Track Chicken Salad with Mango Chutney and Cashews

1 medium red onion, chopped

1 jar Major Grey’s-style mango chutney (8 to 9 ounces), mango cut into smaller, bite-size pieces if too chunky

½1/2 cup mayonnaise (I’m a lifelong fan of Duke’s)

Fresh lime juice, to taste

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

1 rotisserie chicken (about 3 pounds), skin and bones discarded and meat shredded

2 to 3 celery stalks, chopped

Dry-roasted whole cashews or peanuts, coarsely chopped, to taste

For the roll-ups

1 or 2 butterhead lettuces such as Bibb, leaves separated, left whole, washed, and spun dry

Handfuls of fresh cilantro, basil and mint sprigs, rinsed and dried

Sliced radishes and/or seedless cucumber, optional

1. Stir together the onion, chutney, mayo and lime juice in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. (Go easy on the salt if you’re going to be adding salted nuts.) Gently stir in the chicken until thoroughly combined. Give the flavors a chance to mingle for 20 or 30 minutes.

2. Just before serving, gently stir in the celery and nuts. Spoon the chicken salad onto a platter and arrange the roll-up fixings (lettuce leaves, herbs, and vegetables) around it so everyone can serve themselves. Your mother’s china, optional.  OH

Jane Lear, formerly of Gourmet magazine and Martha Stewart Living, is the editor of Feed Me, a quarterly magazine for Long Island food lovers.