An inn in Bryson City knows the secret to an inviting meal.
No one ever has to pass a dish. That’s the beauty of a lazy Susan. The fried chicken out of reach? Give the Susan a spin. The green peas? Spin it again. The carrot custard? Spin, spin, spin.
But manners are important. The other guests seated around the table want to eat, too. They’ve come to the mountains, to Bryson City, to the Hemlock Inn, perhaps mainly to eat.
They may have heard how local ladies cook the meals. Fatback seasons the green beans. And the chicken fries in a cast-iron skillet.
They may have heard about the lazy Susan tables. There are five tables in all, each spacious enough for 10 or more guests and a full spread of food.
The tables hold two meals a day. Breakfast at 8:30 a.m. Dinner at 6:30 p.m.
Innkeepers Mort and Lainey White often see familiar faces at these meals. Lainey grew up here. She was 12 when her parents bought the Hemlock Inn from the couple who built it in 1952.
Lainey’s family moved from Georgia and inherited some of the inn’s traditions: the lazy Susan tables and a blessing before every meal.
Then Lainey’s parents added their own touches: pewter dinnerware and recipes that are now well known.
By the time Lainey and Mort started running the inn in 1987, guests knew when their favorite dishes would be served. On Thursday nights, fried chicken and carrot custard. On Wednesday and Saturday nights, country ham. Also on Saturday nights, Lainey’s grandmother’s chocolate cake.
Occasionally former guests call to ask if there’s an open seat for dinner. They say they can’t stay the night but will pay to come and eat. Lainey and Mort usually tell them to come on. They welcome them to sit at a table and spin the lazy Susan. All they have to do is share.
Jeffrey Turner is an assistant editor at Our State magazine. His most recent stories were “Mount Olive” and “Clams from the Cape Fear” (January 2013).