Sold on Soul Food Saturday in Aberdeen
When President Obama campaigns in Asheville, he hits 12 Bones Smokehouse for heavenly ribs.
Should he or any candidate stomp through the Sandhills, UPro would be the logical place for authentic, homemade-from-scratch, full of heart and soul food.
Ribs, no. Chitlins, absolutely.
Of course the Secret Service might have a problem. This Aberdeen hole-in-the-wall has a storefront and only two booths.
On Saturday, newcomers will find it by the line extending down West South Street, where Kenneth and Sherrill Collins, their three sons and Sherrill’s mother, Ruth McCrae, have mounted UPro’s third annual Soul Food Day.
“Oh, it smells so good in here,” says Marvin Randall, drawn in for lunch on Wednesday.
That would be pork chops frying, cornbread baking and Collins’ signature collard sandwiches: hand-cut fresh collards cooked down, heaped (with or without bacon) between two rounds of fried cornbread.
“You can’t find those anywhere else,” says regular Art Parker, owner of Aberdeen Exterminating. “I’m an old Southern boy. That’s the kind of food I grew up on.”
A Black History Month story in The Pilot about soul food, UPro and the Collins family received a passionate and emotional response. Customers awash in memories practically stampeded the tiny take-out counter.
Kenneth Collins recalls one man saying, “This reminds me of my mama. If I didn’t know better I’d think she was in the kitchen.”
Collins, with a culinary degree from Sandhills Community College, is a stickler for doing it Mama’s way: He cuts up potatoes for old-fashioned potato salad, chops vegetables, and concocts seasonings that make his food sing. He even prepares healthy salads to order – no iceberg, nothing from a bag.
Time-consuming prep prevents more restaurants from offering soul food, Collins says. His mother-in-law, Ruth McCrae, a storied West End cook, makes banana pudding for the restaurant with boiled custard and meringue, not Jell-O and vanilla wafers. Her chicken and dumplings are legend.
Saturday’s Soul Food event will be take-out only. Meals include one meat, two sides, bread and tea for $7.81. With McRae’s desserts: $9.96. Choose from chitlins, fried chicken, pork chops, fried fish, baked chicken. Sides are collards, beans, slaw, limas, cabbage, rice or mashed potatoes with gravy, potato salad, baked macaroni, stewed tomatoes with okra.
And, of course, collard sandwiches.
Collins hopes to expand and the market appears to be there. “It’s a lot of work but the response I get from customers gives me so much joy,” he says.
Contact Deborah Salomon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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