In which we drive to Chapel Hill, deliver the loom, and meet Emsenn, ending with a celebratory dinner at Vimala's.
Driving to Chapel Hill
Breakfast was a trying experience. Cracker Barrel, like most food service, is having problems hiring anyone because they don't pay enough. I had to send back my meal, which I've never done at a Cracker Barrel before. The turkey sausage was burned, the hash brown casserole was flat and over peppered, the grits were cold, and the biscuits were badly made, crumbly, and tasted like uncooked flour. The manager on duty got it sorted and took my meal off our bill, which saved them from a one star review. I tipped the server ten bucks cash and advised her to look up the IWW website.
- WanderingBeekeeper - On the road later than planned but we're moving. Leaving Wilkes-Barre and heading south. #LoomRescue
Never a good sign when one of the cars is pointing the wrong way.
- WanderingBeekeeper - Coming up on Frederick, where we will leave state road 15 and pick up I270, the Washington National Pike. It's a slightly longer route, but it avoids toll roads. I'd have to do the numbers to see if we saved enough on tolls to justify the fuel expenditure. #LoomRescue
- WanderingBeekeeper - Between various delays, we are now looking at a 6:30 arrival time. We're working on trimming that down a bit. #LoomRescue
- WanderingBeekeeper - Hung up in a traffic jam that goes all the way from Dumfries to the Rappahannock. There's only so many times you can turn up "Stuck in my Car" by the Go Go's. Dang it, I want Vimala's for dinner, not whatever is open at midnight. #LoomRescue
- WanderingBeekeeper - We are coming in to Richmond at 4pm on a Friday. This is not going to go well. The travel estimates I was working from did not include significant delays from heavy traffic and road construction. #LoomRescue
- WanderingBeekeeper - We are about an hour and three quarters out from the destination in Chapel Hill at this point, so an ETA of maybe 7:15. The good news is that Vimala's is open until 10. #LoomRescue
- WanderingBeekeeper - North Carolina achieved. #LoomRescue
Unloading, Delivery, Mission Successful
Following the unloading, we made our way to Vimala’s Curryblossom Cafe. After figuring out parking and where the entrance actually was, we arrived at 7:40, to a sign that said the current closing hour was 8:00. I apologized to Vimala for arriving so close to closing, and asked if she was still seating. She said of course, showed us to a table and pointed out the contactless ordering instructions, and said to not worry if the system said our food would be ready tomorrow, the kitchen would make it tonight if we got it in quick.
After a very brief perusal of the menu, I went with the Hyderabadi Eggplant Curry Meal, with a chapati on the side, and my spouse with the Kerala Beef Meal, specifying no rice. The presentation speaks for itself [PHOTO]. The peanut-based gravy with big wedges of roasted eggplant reminded me of a dish I had in Delhi, at a five-star dining club the senior manager took me to. Such a wonderfully savory and hearty dish, and contrasted beautifully with saffron rice topped with carmelized onions. The accompanying pickled cabbage, raita, and dal were all likewise seasoned with an expert hand, teasing out flavors and contrasts with consummate skill. My spouse raved about her slow-cooked beef dish, and the contrast it made to the same raita.
Now, you’d think all of this would be justification enough, such a sumptuous meal after the effort we’d just completed, but no, Vimala’s, and Vimala herself, has a special place in the community. I’ll just link this report from the Daily Tar Heel and let you peruse it at your leisure. I’ve been following Vimala on FB since July of last year, when her determination to build a better community for everyone ran into someone else’s determination to be hateful and destructive. Here’s the account from the Cafe’s FB account:
Before Vimala’s Curryblossom Cafe launched a community-funded brick-and-mortar shop in 2010, we ran an underground community kitchen out of our home for 18 years, with a commitment that we would turn no one away for lack of money. We have served meals at countless demonstrations, rallies, vigils, and social and environmental justice conferences. During the pandemic, we have fed neighbors and frontline workers. We have always represented and held space for movement-building and community work.
On Thursday, July 23, 2020, we arrived early to begin work at our restaurant in Chapel Hill and discovered a pile of ashes under the gas meter and a vivid trail of burnt gas or oil out to the street. Thankfully, no one was hurt and little significant damage was accomplished. There is an investigation underway into whether this was a planned act targeting Curryblossom.
If the intent was to set a fire, we can’t claim to know the message our unfriendly visitors were trying to send. That said, it is possible that we are being targeted in response to our outspoken progressive values, our support for immigrants and refugees, or the Black Lives Matter sign prominently displayed in our window. Supporters who have been with Curryblossom for the long journey know that in the past the restaurant has been targeted with hate mail, racist vandalism, and threats during periods of white supremacist upsurge, emboldened by the highest offices of this nation.
While we cannot draw any conclusions about exactly what happened or who did it, we thought today would be a good day to share what we believe. We affirm the dignity of all migrants and we know no human being will ever be illegal. We are committed to the fight for reparations and we know that Black lives matter. We believe in indigenous sovereignty and we pledge to care for the land we inhabit.
Our central tenet is that food is a human right, along with housing and healthcare, along with clean air and fresh water. Hatred and fear come from a place of perceived scarcity and lack that are created by the current system of greed, and we are committed to continue to feed people in the name of human rights and abundance.
This is the time to express all of our commitments loud and clear. Speaking out against the powerful systems that would harm our communities may come with painful consequences. We were moved by the recent courage of the family owners of Gandhi Mahal in Minneapolis, Hafsa and her father Ruhel Islam, who spoke of the property destruction at their restaurant and affirmed the value of Black lives over property.
We have faith in divine protection. And we trust that our beloved community will care for us, in a web of mutual care and interdependence. We will continue to move in Southern legacies of healing and transformation.
This is a time when we are all called to take risks to move to the side of love and to unequivocally act on the side of justice. Will you join us?
[Photo is from this day five years ago at a Raise Up! Fight for $15 rally on Thursday, July 23, 2015]
So, if you’re in the Chapel Hill / Carrboro area, do try to make time for the Curryblossom Cafe. The food is magnificent, the chef is a force of nature, and you’ll be supporting the community and the local farmers who supply so much of the produce and meat.