Amy Pollard Gaw has taken a brilliant idea for a book, executed it well and created a wonderful volume that’s as full of delights as an Outer Banks seafood chowder (a recipe for which is included, by the way).
Gaw is a journalist and “reformed restaurateur” who lives in Poplar Branch, in Currituck County just north of the Wright Memorial Bridge that takes traffic from the north to the Outer Banks. She owns and operates an artisan sea salt business.
Blending her impressive reporter’s skills with her appreciation for good food, she has come up with a book that should appeal to anyone who has fond memories of Outer Banks vacations, anyone who appreciates well-researched history and anyone who loves to cook and eat.
The “lost” restaurants she writes about are ones that flourished for a time along the land of sounds, ocean, rivers, beaches, marshes and shifting sands stretching from Lower Currituck to Ocracoke island, but are now gone, for whatever reason.
Gaw provides context for the stories she tells about these memorable restaurants as she succinctly outlines the history of the development of tourism and places that fed the tourists, from the early days of boarding houses and luxury hotels through the boom of family restaurants, from elegant dining to distinctly casual.
She’s thoroughly researched each “lost” restaurant she features, often talking to people who owned them, worked there or were frequent customers, and including photos. She tells what she learned in an engaging way that brings the history to life. These are lively stories of a special place and a not-so-distant past, not dry accounts.
For most of the restaurants, Gaw includes some information about why they no longer operate, whether they were swept away by a storm, sold to someone who changed things, demolished in the name of progress or closed for some other reason.
The recipes she includes would justify the purchase of the book even without all the rest. Many take advantage of the bounty of fresh seafood along the Outer Banks, including one for the traditional Outer Banks clam chowder. Gaw even details the fine art of cleaning soft-shell crabs. Some recipes are creations of people who brought foods from other regions and countries to their restaurants. And there are recipes for some of the down-home country food of the region, including collards with cornmeal dumplings. A recipe index makes things easy.
Browsing through this book will bring back memories of carefree days on the water or beach and relaxed evenings with good food and friends. It will also make you hungry — and, if you’re so inclined, it can help you do something about that hunger.