What do pickles, soda, and donuts have in common?

Published 6:04 pm Thursday, December 14, 2023

North Carolina is home to many wonderful things.

Much of the state is known for its natural beauty, including the Appalachian Mountains to the west and the Outer Banks to the east, and everything in between. Taking a drive anywhere through the state – and especially here locally – is a visual treat.

Our state has also been home to many famous people who have left their mark on society in one way or another. Andy Griffith, for example, was an actor who portrayed small-town life on the small screen for many years. And anyone who watches basketball is familiar with Michael Jordan and his incredibly successful career in the sport.

But along with nature and people, North Carolina has also been the birthplace for many things too. We were “first in flight” after the Wright Brothers successfully flew the first airplane at Kitty Hawk, forever changing the way we travel and connect with each other.

But perhaps my favorite things rooted in North Carolina are the foods. I do always enjoy a good meal, and there’s a sense of pride when you get to include things that were first created in North Carolina.

I recently read an article from WRAL which detailed a few examples of “iconic food brands born in North Carolina.” I’ll share the highlights and a few of my own thoughts:

Cheerwine was created in 1917 by a Salisbury pharmacist, L.D. Peeler, who was experimenting with recipes that used black cherry syrup. Eventually, he created the soda that you can find on local grocery store shelves today. He originally wanted to call it “Cherrywine” (which makes sense, considering the main ingredient), but changed it to Cheerwine in 1926.

Personally, I’ve never been a fan of the drink myself, but when people talk about specific North Carolina food and drink, this one is always the first that pops in my mind. Perhaps it’s because of those brightly-colored cans.

While Cheerwine is mostly just a regional drink, North Carolina was also the birthplace of another popular soda that is sold all around the world now.

Pepsi was created by a New Bern pharmacist, Caleb Bradham, in the late 1890s. (Sidenote: why were all these pharmacists always the ones creating drinks??) He originally called it “Brad’s Drink” but later changed it to the more memorable “Pepsi-Cola.”

The Pepsi name apparently came from “dyspepsia,” which means indigestion, because Bradham thought his new drink would be healthy enough to help with digestion. I’m not a medical professional, but I think the drink is not nearly as helpful today as Bradham might have hoped.

I gave up drinking soda years ago, but if given the choice between Pepsi-Cola and Coca-Cola, I would choose Pepsi every time.

In the world of donut-making, Krispy Kreme is one of the top contenders. It got its start in 1937 in Winston-Salem with a man named Vernon Rudolph. He loved baking and had a secret donut recipe from a New Orleans chef, so he opened his donut shop to share the tasty treat with more people.

Since then, Krispy Kreme has become a popular place to buy donuts. You know they’re going to be hot and fresh if the light is on as you drive by. I always enjoy a good donut from Krispy Kreme, whether it’s the simple glazed version or one with a delicious filling. And you never know where a Krispy Kreme donut might pop up: I even found a busy shop while I was visiting Japan. It was a nice little taste of home!

Winston-Salem is also the home of another well-known food item: Texas Pete Hot Sauce. In 1929, a barbecue stand owner, Sam Garner, came up with a hot sauce recipe for customers who might want to add a kick to their meal. With his sons, he tested out a variety of chili peppers and spices until he came up with something great.

If it’s from North Carolina, why’s it called “Texas Pete,” you may ask? Apparently, a marketing advisor thought it would remind people of the wild west. Which I suppose is fair, because I don’t associate our state with cowboys either.

If you like pickles, then you’ve probably purchased many a jar of Mount Olive Pickles over the years. The pickle company was founded by Baxter Finley in 1926 in, you guessed it, the town of Mount Olive. Today, they offer almost any kind of pickle you can imagine along with other pickled goods (like peppers and onions).

The business is such an integral part of the town that they host an annual “pickle drop” on New Year’s Eve. What better way to kick off a new year than to watch a giant pickle fall out of the sky, right?

Lastly, these two aren’t specifically foods, but they are popular restaurant chains that got their start in North Carolina: Cook Out and Bojangles.

Cook Out originated in Greensboro in 1987 when Maurice Jennings opened the first location. Today, you can choose from over 40+ milkshakes when you order, or enjoy a variety of fast food from a “Cook Out tray.” (I personally enjoy the chicken quesadillas!)

Bojangles got its start ten years earlier in 1977 in Charlotte, thanks to Jack Reynolds and Richard Thomas. Now the fast food restaurant known for chicken and biscuits has expanded to multiple locations in several states, and is still growing. I’m happy that Ahoskie’s location recently was able to reopen. (But everyone else is happy too because the drive-thru lines have been so long that I still haven’t revisited it yet!)

These are just a few examples of the most well-known food brands, but there are plenty more that innovative people in our state have created over the years too. Which ones are your favorites?

Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at holly.taylor@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7206.