Greetings from Carrboro,
We couldn’t just pick anywhere on the farm. So we waited in the shade. The girl running the stand told us that the man would be right back and asked did we want a Coke. It was early enough that she was just walking out the baskets of fruits and vegetables and arranging them neatly on the homemade display tables. The handwritten signs that hung from the rafters swayed with the air from the old ceiling fans.
The pickup was an odd green color. And dust swirled when he stopped in front of the stand. The guy told us to hop in and then yelled some kind of information to the young girl. My mother got in first. Windows down, we pulled out onto the road. A half mile later, he pulled off the road, got out, unlatched a wooden gate, and drove through. We bumped along for a bit through the rows of peach trees until he stopped. He grabbed baskets from the bed of the truck and handed them to us. The rows that we could pick from were marked with little orange flags. An hour later he drove us back to the stand where the peaches were weighed and we paid for them.
My mom and I picked a lot of peaches. And I ate a lot of peaches. One row was my favorite. Hands down. My mother’s favorite was always a Georgia Belle. Her father’s was an Elberta. It took a moment for me to digest my dismay when the farmer told me that my chosen peach was a Jersey Queen. A what? This was York, South Carolina – peach country. Why was a farmer here growing a peach from New Jersey? And why was it delicious? They had pollution and big highways. Certainly my image of New Jersey didn’t provide any space for peaches. Peaches were southern. Dammit.
Over the years Acme has had a lot of customers. Many I remember fondly and others that I, well, remember. A lot of water has gone under that bridge since 1998. A lot. But that first week we were open – it was cold and February – a tornado sat down at the bar. And I say that in the very best way imaginable. Now. If someone could ever be the exact opposite of a wallflower, that would be her. Either in 1998 or 2023. She said what she thought. Still does. Period. Martini could be colder. And, c’mon, put a tomato on that burger. She was unapologetically about as Southern as a polar bear. I finally got her point when she brought in a tomato and put it on the bar. “Harris Teeter” was all she said. Maybe that’s where the idea for the Tomato Festival started?
And with time I understood that she wasn’t criticizing my newborn restaurant. She was trying to make it better by saying the things that she felt needed to be said. Karen was being Karen. And I figured out that her persistence was kindness, her patronage, friendship. And her energy is certainly contagious. I’ve learned so much from her over the years. And I’ve laughed a lot with her, too. Lucky for me, Karen McFadden moved to Carrboro from up north the month we opened and I can unequivocally state that this restaurant is better for it. There’s no doubt that she’s left her mark.
When you walk into Acme there’s a wall of framed Tomato Festival posters. Kind of hard to miss. But you should all know that is 100% Karen. She’s framed each poster for 20+ years. Like clockwork. So if you come into the restaurant, check out the wall and her Acme legacy. And last night when she had dinner on the first night of the festival I made sure there were 3 slices of tomato on her burger. See Karen, I listened.
So I guess some things never change. This southern boy really does love a Jersey Queen. In a pie or laughing at the bar. They really are the best.
Well, that’s all the news from Carrboro. The staff at Acme look forward to serving you soon.
The Staff at Acme