Living Vegan In Charlotte, NC

Embarrassing Veg News From The DNC

Ok, now for the really embarrassing veggie DNC news … what made us look like idiots in front of the veggie world ….

(drumroll please) …. The Charlotte Observer!

First up – The Observer’s food critic Helen Schwab and her recommendations of places to dine.  Helen’s been writing restaurant reviews for The Observer for the past 100 years (ok, so I am exaggerating – but only slightly) and it’s easy to predict the restaurants she likes. They’re pricey, pretentious, with few if any veggie options and usually feature what I consider “excessively cruel” meats like veal and foie gras. (The two restaurants she recommended in my area of town, Zebra and Barrington’s, don’t even have ONE token vegetarian – much less vegan – main dish! And both feature – you guessed it – veal and foie gras.)

Helen rarely recommends ethnic restaurants (which are more likely to have veggie options) and when she does, it’s those restaurants that are so pricey and trendy and Americanized they hardly count as ethnic anymore.

And she rarely makes note of vegetarian/vegan options (or gluten free options, which are also a big concern to many these days).  When she does, she usually gets it wrong.

Case in point:  Copper, an expensive Indian restaurant doing big business because the dishes are geared to an American, not Indian, palate.  Lots of meat, tons of seafood – and all of it very, very mildly spiced.  Of course, Helen loves it, and adds, “Note to vegetarians … you’ll find some out-of-the-ordinary options.”  Maybe so, but let’s also note Copper has far, far fewer vegetarian options than any other Indian restaurant in Charlotte!  And when vegetarians go to an Indian restaurant, they’re expecting a looong list of vegetarian options.

Helen also makes the mind-boggling ignorant statement, “Servers sometimes know that methi uses fenugreek.”  Sweetheart, methi IS fenugreek!

I’m not meaning to rag on Copper.  They’re going after a certain segment of the market, and succeeding.  (And, like most Indian restaurants in Charlotte, if you want a vegan dish they are more than happy to make you one.)  But it’s time for The Observer to put Helen out to pasture.  I cringe at the thought of vegetarians and vegans coming in for the DNC and taking her dining suggestions.   Fortunately, both Charlotte Magazine and Creative Loafing have much better food critics … who often give vegetarian pointers … and then there’s always Google reviews and Yelp.

One last note about Helen and her disparaging attitude towards vegetarians … in her summary of Lupie’s Cafe, she recommends “Coughing hot chili (with meat, beans, vegetarian soy whatever-it-is).”  Yep, vegetarian soy whatever-it-is.  Pretty much says it all, no?

The other way The Charlotte Observer embarrassed vegetarians and vegans?  (And pretty much everyone else in Charlotte?)

By proclaiming, “Charlotte is known for LIVERMUSH.”

Livermush?  Really, Elizabeth Leland?

I know Charlotte is a meat-eating city, with most of our Christian churches hawking BBQ at least once a year, but … livermush?


For those that don’t know, livermush is made from pig’s liver, cornmeal, spices, and “head parts” (like snouts and lips).  It’s believed to have been brought over to NC by German settlers and gained popularity during the Civil War, when Southerners had to make food or anything resembling food stretch just as far as possible.

My mother ate livermush growing up – keep in mind, my mom is 77 now!

I remember my mom making me a livermush sandwich just once growing up – with mayo on white bread, served with a glass of powdered milk.  I threw it up.  At the table.  On the table.  And I didn’t even know it contained “head parts.”

That was 35 years ago.  I do not see livermush in the grocery stores (of course, I’m not looking, but I do know it never appears in the Harris Teeter weekly ads).  I do not see it on menus when I go out to eat. None of my friends eat it.  In fact, most people my age do not even know what it is.  The people who remember it tend to be the 65+ crowd.

But Elizabeth Leland proclaims, “Folks in these parts swear by livermush and grits.”  FOLKS?  These parts?  Who talks like that?!!

She also writes, “I left Charlotte in search of the delicacy and ended up 45 miles away in the town of Fallston.”  45 miles away in Fallston.  Yeah. Not exactly the Charlotte-metro region.

She then watches Fitzhugh McMurry make livermush.  (He just happens to be 72, by the way.  Coincidence?)  And, “The only place you’ll find Fitzhugh McMurry’s mush is in the meat case at McMurry Store and Farms on NC 18 near the only traffic light in Fallston.”

Kathleen Purvis, food editor for The Charlotte Observer – who seems to be the only one at The Observer with sense – says, “It’s a rural thing. It’s not a city thing.” Right.  RURAL.  Charlotte is not rural anymore.  Hasn’t been for a long, long time.  In fact, Charlotte is the 17th largest city in the United States.

So, anyway, THAT is the impression The Charlotte Observer gave to everyone coming into town for the DNC Convention.

That folks in these here parts just love veal and foie gras.

And livermush.

English: A pound of sliced, pan-fried liver mush

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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7 Responses »

  1. Wow, livermush. I’ll have to ask my in-laws about that. We were in NC the week before and right after the DNC so we missed the craziness. We’re down there several times a year to see my husband’s family. I’m so excited to find your blog.

    • Thank you, Linda! I’m excited you found my blog. Yes, I think livermush used to be popular here, a long time ago, but I certainly don’t think livermush is what is defining us now! Charlotte has come a long way and if there is still a diner or two that serves livermush, I wish the Charlotte Observer would balance that out with places like Bean and Fern and Zizi’s, and vegan meal delivery services like Nourish, and all the other restaurants around here that are serving health-conscious food, even if it isn’t predominantly vegetarian or vegan.

  2. You said, But Elizabeth Leland proclaims, “Folks in these parts swear by livermush and grits.” FOLKS? These parts? Who talks like that?!!

    I feel insulted being from Charlotte. How dare you talk about us like we are a bunch a stupid hillbillies. I for one respect NC heritage, my family was in NC from the very beginning and YES I say FOLKS! I love Livermush, grits and I’m not 77 years old! If you don’t care for the way talk or what we eat….good for you, keep it to yourself and stop with the condescending insults !

    • First of all, Patti, I am a native Charlottean. I was born in Presbyterian Hospital. My mother and her family for generations back lived in Charlotte, and my dad is from Belton, SC. You say your family was in NC from the very beginning, so I guess as a Native American Indian you do go a little further back than I do … but I as a native Charlottean I feel I do have a right to say what I want about the city I have lived in for almost my entire life. And I did think The Charlotte Observer’s article was derogatory and unflattering to Charlotte and that’s why I spoke out against it.

      Second, read the blog post again … I NEVER said anything about grits. In fact I love grits.

      Third, I will stand by my statement very few people in Charlotte use the term “folks” unless they are (a) older (b) trying to being colloquial and cutesy, or (c) rural. I’m not going to be so unkind as to say “uneducated” but you have several significant grammatical and punctuation errors in your very short post. (“a bunch a stupid hillbillies?”) Sorry, that’s not a typo – that must be how you believe “of” is spelled.

      Fourth, this is a VEGAN blog. Look up the word VEGAN in your dictionary if you don’t know what it means. VEGAN. VEGAN. If you love livermush, you probably shouldn’t be reading vegan blogs. There are many other blogs out there that would be better suited for you.

      However, thank you for taking the time to read my vegan blog post (I’m CURIOUS how you stumbled across it?) and creating a WordPress ID just to comment on my post!!!

  3. I am from the mountains of North Carolina and I eat livermush I am not in my 60’s I can understand your frustration and anger feeling vegetarians and vegans are being insulted. Something to consider your remarks about people who eat livermush is also insulting to anyone who eats it. You make us sound inbred and ignorant but when you point a finger at someone your other fingers are pointing at you. I am educated and even have a college degree. … you don’t know as much as you think about livermush. The factory in marion nc uses meat from legs of pig and do not use lips and snouts. Read what you wrote again and apologize to all the people you insulted.

    • Thank you for taking the time to respond. I’m not sure how you took away I thought people who ate livermush were inbred or ignorant, or did not have college degrees. My mom is actually a big fan! (And I’d never dare to call her inbred or ignorant – dang, she’d wallop me one!)

      Rather, the article was meant to be criticizing The Charlotte Observer and its extremely-out-of-touch food critics. We had the DNC Convention in the diverse city of Charlotte which is headquarters to many international businesses and home to many diverse restaurants – Thai, Indian, Ethiopian, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Mexican, German, vegetarian, vegan. Yet, the Observer chose to ignore all the vast diversity here in the city and focus on presenting Charlotte as an “oh-shucks, golly-gee, small rural Mayberry town eating livermush” …which does not truly represent Charlotte at all. Within Charlotte city limits, not a lot of younger people eat it, and it’s not a common menu item at restaurants! Even Kathleen Purvis agreed, “it’s not a city thing, it’s a rural thing.”

      I did read what I wrote again and I won’t apologize. I don’t think Livermush represents the city of Charlotte but I agree it might the rural parts surrounding the city. Had the Observer focused on a more global viewpoint, showcasing the diversity here in Charlotte in addition to livermush, I might have felt differently.

      As far as the Marion plant, I don’t know what they use. I was going by what was traditionally used.

  4. Your voice, and opinion, is your right and I respect your right to say what you need to say.

    I am a NC native, not Native American, born in Shelby which is near Charlotte. I occasionally eat livermush but only because it is delicious, part of my childhood and I have fond memories of eating it growing up in the Piedmont of NC. Most of the time I am a vegetarian and have been for 20 years and I share your feelings about how the writer missed an opportunity to speak about a diverse restaurant scene in and around Charlotte.

    The way you wrote your article seems to be from the perspective of youth or younger people and what younger people may desire to eat. Your caricature of anyone who says ‘Folks’ shows that your perspective is completely myopic, seen through eyes that are not inclusive of the culture that surrounds Charlotte… which is hypocritical because the crux of your story is all about the lack of a fair representation of vegetarian and non-vegetarian eating options as detailed by the Charlotte Observer. You seem to be saying that restaurants that are ‘pricey and pretentious’ do not cater to you nor your readership… which is OK because you are free to eat anywhere you please. My main issue with your divisive article is that you don’t seem to value other cultures, even though you list ethnic foods as something you wished had been better represented in the article. Again this is hypocritical.

    Cut Helen Schwab a break… she is doing her job and writing from her perspective. Nowhere in her article did I read any divisive language nor disparaging remarks about young people. You could learn a lot from observing children in a playground to learn more about how to get along with others and be accepting of ALL cultures, ALL people young and old. I restate that you have every right to voice your opinion… you just need to learn to respect EVERYONE when you speak.

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