We took a quick trip to Oriental on our way out of Beaufort. And then home via New Bern.

There is so much to love about this grandest of all colonial capitals. There are people from here I love. There are memories of days off from working at Camp Seafarer. There’s a cute story of our first born as a toddler running full force into a light pole and getting the most beautiful stitches right in the middle of his forehead only for the scar to rip open within an hour of having them removed (because I didn’t follow my gut).

But I think now I will probably associate this very cool town with food stamps for hot food. Yes. That’s correct! Food stamps for restaurant food.

Upon the recommendation of one of the people from New Bern whom I love, we ate at Stingray Cafe. The food was very good. The waitress was so very kind (and clearly frustrated with the service). The prices were very reasonable. We didn’t even make the kids split plates. The only typical complaint was slow service… Why? Because, according to that cute and smiling waitress in her Chiquita headwrap and snug-fitting denim capris, “the kitchen is pushing out EBT food when they’re supposed to make ours priority.”

Had we known that one half of the restaurant, the half on the corner, was serving restaurant meals in exchange for EBT (food stamps), we never would have given Stingray Cafe our business. We could have picked up and left. Very true. At 7pm with 5 starving, glowingly sun-kissed, exhausted kids. We could have. But we didn’t. We instead asked a blessing over our meal and for our safe travel and watched our tax dollars at work.

The punk kid in designer clothes tossing a full beverage in the street and constantly interrupting his waitress mother. Patrons from “the EBT side” wanting their tartar sauce. Stat. A handful of over-sat waitresses redirecting a brightly tattooed, wrinkled woman with multiple piercings to the “EBT side.”

It is bad enough that Frosted Mini Wheats and Kraft Deluxe are on the list of EBT and WIC foods. But restaurant food?

Despite my extreme chills (it was cold in there!) and lack of appetite, I quickly googled (on my free-enterprise-paid-for-iPhone) “EBT for restaurant food in NC.” I learned that it is acceptable to exchange “take-out” foods for EBT – as long as the food is not served where it is prepared. So the restaurant had tables and chairs on the sidewalk and not-anywhere-near-destitute people with $150+ Nikes, glittered and gemmed nails and hair did, clean, crisp clothes, and loads of tattoos were crowded around wrought-iron cafe-style, two-top tables with styrofoam take-out boxes and cups filled with tonight’s catch. Served fried ONLY. where are the enviro-nazis and freak-eaters when you need them? Not at Stingray Cafe.

My Husband asked a little further when he paid with cash. He learned that the EBT allowances were doubled because of “disaster relief.” Remember Hurricane Irene? Yes. There is no doubt the 9 feet of water wreaked havoc on this town. We saw that. But somehow I think there’s a way to at least double the Frosted Mini-Wheats and the Kraft Deluxe. But no…

All while the river was just three blocks away in one direction and maybe that many in the other. Teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for life. Hand him a fried platter with two sides and a large tea and he’ll be back for more tomorrow. Adding to the weight of Atlas who is shrugging mightily.

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