By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on November 2, 2013 11:11 PM
Mum adds a layer of icing to one of her homemade strawberry cakes, a favorite among customers at JoJo's Tea & Coffee Shop. Mum started cooking for the restaurant as a favor to her daughter, JoJo, but was only supposed to make cakes. In the weeks since, she has filled a menu and offers daily specials.
A little girl walks into her mother's kitchen and begins to dream.
It has been more than 30 years, but JoJo Morris can still see all that unfolded when the "camera" zeroed in on her.
"I always used to watch the cookery programs and I used to sometimes pretend, in the kitchen, that I was cooking stuff and I was being filmed and it was going to be on the telly," she said.
There was just one problem.
"When (JoJo) was little -- and she's still the same now -- she did not like her hands with any gunk on them," her mother, known around Goldsboro as "Mum," said. "One day, when she was about 2, she came in the kitchen screaming, 'Mummy, Mummy, Mummy.' She had been playing in mud and some of it stuck to her hands."
Cooking, it seemed, would not be in JoJo's future.
When Mum was a little girl growing up in the U.K., she had a dream of her own.
Somehow, she thought, she would make it to America.
"In my era, America was this great big wonderful place," she said.
Neither had any idea that one day, both of their dreams would, in a way, come true -- that together, they would run a restaurant in an American city they would visit and come to call home.
They had no way of knowing that Mum would put her fare on her daughter's menu -- that the residents of a small eastern North Carolina town would rave about the sounds and smells billowing out of their kitchen.
An English woman falls in love with an American airman stationed in her home country.
She follows him to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base and they retire in Wayne County.
But "Auntie Mish" would not be the only member of her family to make a home there.
Her sister, Mum, came over in 1994.
"For a three-month vacation, believe it or not," she quipped.
She liked it so much that she applied for a six-month visa.
But something happened on her second trip to the States she did not expect.
She, too, fell in love.
"And that's that," she said.
JoJo's brother was the next to follow the script.
And the woman realized that she was beginning to miss living alongside the people she loved.
"We're kind of a close family, and there was becoming less and less of us back in England," she said. "If you want to talk about countryside, history, architecture, culture -- all those kinds of things -- England has a lot more going for it than the majority of America.
"But I think when you get older and you've been without family, I think you find that the most beautiful place to live is where the people you love are. That's what it is for me."
So she told her boss -- JoJo worked in a "very stressful" corporate sales job -- that she was "burned out."
"I didn't really want to do that anymore," she said.
And when he offered her a six-month break, she took it in Wayne.
"I came over here in June of last year on a six-month visa," JoJo said. "I just kind of decided that I would like to stay."
So she went back to England and quit her job.
She sold her houses and "pretty much all my possessions."
She applied for another six-month visa.
"I thought, 'Well, I'll figure out when I get there what I'm gonna do, but let's just get over there with the intention of staying,'" JoJo said.
Now in America, she met with an immigration lawyer -- a woman who told her that the easiest way to gain residency was to run a business.
"I thought about buying into some other businesses ... and buying and selling houses," she said. "But then I said, 'It would be so lovely just to run a little tea and coffee shop. Nothing stressful. Just a place where people could come and hang out -- maybe eat some cake.'
"I kind of knew I wanted it to be calm and stylish and not like a diner -- but not like a fancy, prissy tea house either. It just all started to take shape as we went along."
Mum was sold.
"So I said to Mum, 'Do you mind coming in and cooking some cakes and stuff?' She said, 'Sure. ... We can do Victoria sponge cake,' you know, things Mum knew how to cook -- that she's always cooked. But then every day, it was kind of like, 'Well, if I'm gonna do that, I might as well do some sausage rolls, because those are easy to make' ... and every other day, she was adding something else on. The menu kind of just grew."
And today, JoJo's Tea & Coffee Shop is one of the most popular destinations in downtown Goldsboro.
Mum is still surprised that her childhood dream came true.
"We thought, 'Oh, we'll never make it to America.' And a lot of people think that nowadays," she said. "Never did I imagine that I would be living here and cooking for the public."
Her daughter can't believe it, either.
"I always dreamt, from a little girl, of living here," JoJo said. "I wake up and I go, 'This is what I dreamt of as a little girl. I'm actually living what I dreamt of.'"
To JoJo, the restaurant is about far more than a passion project realized.
It is about more than joining the fabric of a growing downtown.
For her, it is a chance to relive her childhood alongside the woman that made it so memorable.
Whether it's hearing -- from the dining room -- Mum shouting, "Where's me bloody knife?" in the kitchen or taking in the aromas associated with the shepherd's pie, Queen Victoria sponge cake and jacket spuds she grew up eating, every day is a chance to go back to those times when everything was as simple as only the earliest years in life can be.
"Food, I think, is a very powerful, soulful thing," JoJo said. "For you guys, it's this fancy English stuff, but to us, it's just good old-fashioned home cooking."
"I love my kitchen. It's not like work for me," she said. "And all my food is comfort food. Everything is made with love."