Up until my mid-to-late twenties, I grappled with the fact that I was born and raised in North Carolina and wasn’t living in a bustling metropolis like the majority of my friends. I was a 25-year-old millennial (I’m still a millennial), who thought success waited for me in a glitzy PR firm nestled deep within a concrete jungle. It took a minute, but I eventually fell madly in love with the Tar Heel State and its diversity, from its people, topography, and foodways.
Anyone who is familiar with North Carolina knows that you can drive from the mountains to the sea, enjoying different cuisines and experiences in Western NC, the North Carolina Piedmont, and Eastern NC. You’ll finally understand that there is a difference between ketchup-based barbecue (Western NC) and vinegar-based barbecue sauce (Eastern NC). You’ll llearn that folks pledge allegiance to one or the other. There’s even a difference in cornbread styles: baked in an iron skillet or fried. All of this to say, food culture runs deep in our veins and has been influenced by Native Americans, African-Americans, Europeans, Indians, etc. And now, there’s a new event in Asheville, Chow Chow, that will highlight the diversity of Western NC’s culinary landscape.
Spending an ample amount of time in the North Carolina and West Virginia mountains as a child, I always look for an excuse to head to the hills. When Chow Chow was announced, I found it and immediately wrote the excuse on my calendar. There’s something magical about the North Carolina mountains that sparks creativity and rejuvenates the soul, and Chow Chow believes in this meaningful expression that makes their corner of Appalachia unlike anywhere else in the world.
From September 12-15, Chow Chow will feature the diversity of Asheville’s food, from their traditional Appalachian roots to modern takes on historic foods and culture of the region, to the ways immigrants and various ethnic backgrounds influence their cuisine. Along with honoring the culture and traditions of their food and agriculture heritage and Asheville’s creative makers, the creators of Chow Chow are focused on inclusivity and sustainability.
I wasn’t surprised that the creators of Chow Chow wanted the signature event to be accessible to all in the local community, seeing that some of the creators include Katie Button, Chef and Owner of Cúrate and Button Co. & Bagels, and Connie Matisse, Founder/Chief Creative Officer of East Fork Pottery. Both Button and Matisse are champions of equality and equity in the Asheville community and beyond. All too often, the people who grow, cook, and serve our food, don’t have the means to attend curated food events. But, Chow Chow wants to change this by including programming that is more affordable. Talk about a food festival with heart. And like the deep rooted heart of the Appalachians, Chow Chow’s heart goes even deeper.
The signature event is partnering with MANNA FoodBank to raise money for the nonprofit and to shine a light on the organization’s initiatives to end hunger. One out of four children in Western NC are food insecure and one out of six neighbors struggle to put food on the table. All in all, North Carolina is the 10th hungriest state in the nation. One of the great things about Asheville is that the community shows up for each other, especially the chef community. Chow Chow will provide programming and education that focuses on access to affordable and healthy foods, supported by cooking demos and farmer/chef initiatives. They will also work with MANNA to capture unused food product at the festival and redirect it to those in need.
With festivals like Chow Chow, I am grateful that I decided to stay put in North Carolina. I traded city streets for winding mountain roads and the salty ocean air. But, I didn’t lose out on opportunities to experience unique culinary experiences, as I am surrounded by talented chefs and beverage pros and diverse foodways. I chose a state where there are people who care about inclusion and change. If you are curious as to what Asheville, and North Carolina in general, has to offer, I highly recommend you attend Chow Chow.
Events with tickets still available include: