This morning, my mother asked me how the food had been on the road. I told her how lucky we’d been and that we hadn’t yet had a bad meal.
It started when, a couple of hours after I chatted with her, we stopped at the Sonic Drive-in , a fast food drive-in joint which Skip had a hankering for since It evoked some nostalgic flashbacks to his past.
As we sat in our car, munching on the foil-wrapped “crunchy” ( the delicate way of describing “fried”) chicken sandwiches, we agreed there are some things you only do once (or, in his case, once again).
Then, this evening, after landing in the Mississippi town of Kosciusko (known as Oprah’s birthplace), we found ourselves immersed in a dining experience one can only describe as horrible (actually we are both completely speechless for the right words…). The place, blandly called “A Place for Fish,” was brighter than a bathroom and offered a “seafood buffet” which presented nothing recognizable and, anything that looked somewhat familiar was deep fried and sitting limply in a lukewarm chafing dish (even the salad bar had a dish of mini marshmallows).
Having decided that nothing on the buffet appealed to me, I tentatively ordered the small fried oyster plate. The server trotted over to the buffet, grabbed a styrofoam plate and loaded my dish right from the same selection! Trapped in this place with no unobtrusive escape, we forced ourselves to eat something, smiled politely at the other patrons and hostess (all of whom were the size of double-wide trailers) and hot-footed back to the room to mix a hefty gin and tonic.
When we departed on our trip almost two weeks ago, we were fully prepared to find ourselves confronted with dishes that made us hesitate before ordering. But, until today, we have been really fortunate on the dining front.
There have been some particularly notable meals that will remain in our memories. Such as the Saltus River Grill in Beaufort, SC where the fresh oysters were fresh and succulent, the seafood delectable and the pecan pie enough of a memory to make me salivate at the thought of the light, fluffy crust and fine slivered caramelized ginger atop a bed of vanilla anglaise.
Then on the other extreme, how can we forget (at least, how can Skip forget?) Hoss’s Deli in Newport News, VA. Sure, the seafood salad was excellent but the memorable part was quite possibly the young, well-endowed, mini-skirted waitressed who leaned welcomingly across the bar to take our orders.
We’ve eaten in a drug store in Lake City, Fla and experienced fine French fare at 39 Rue de Jean in Charleston with horse–drawn carriages clip-clopping on the street outside.
We’ve even created our own breakfasts – packaged waffle mix which turned into delicious browned treats at our hotel bar and grits in a bag that, when mixed with water, butter, salt and pepper were, for me, a yummy reminder of southern fare.
And one of Skip’s memorable moments was at the Holly Ridge Smokehouse in NC where he believed he was ordering a chicken sandwich and ended up with a huge plateful of fried chicken with three sides (one of which was collard greens). I indulged in the fried oyster sandwich and was very happy.
Then, of course, there has been lots of good ole southern hospitality. Not just in the restaurants and hotels, but among our friends whom we dropped in to visit along the way.
On Thursday, we called Skip’s buddy and former client, Tony Greene who, within hours of our call, invited us to his home where he and Susan entertained us before we hit the road.
And, last night, we arrived at the home of Tom and LaVoe Mulgrew where they graciously hosted us and presented our first home-cooked meal in quite some time. Between the delicious dinner and the slab of blondies made by their friends, Elizabeth and David, they made us feel so much at home – and their pooches, Harry and Charlie gave us some creature comforts we’ve missed since leaving Gracie behind.
As we continue to meander and keep an eye out for gastronomic delights – and pray not to find more like today’s unsatisfying fare – it does make me think that this trip from coast to coast is, for me, partly about travelling “from meal to shining meal”.
I think George Bernard Shaw said it best — “There is no sincerer love than the love of food”