July 17, 2005
the southern test
I learned this lesson the hard way. I took a car trip from Tacoma, Washington to Savannah, Georgia. That trip was quite an education.
I rode with Recondo 32 and we stayed on the back roads and saw just about every small town on the map along the way. While out west and in the midwest, we ate at small diners when we saw a bunch of pickup trucks in the parking lot around lunchtime. The food usually was very good. But if you ordered iced tea, it sucked. Weak, watery cat-piss.
We didn't find a damn place that knew how to cook grits for breakfast, either. Washington State, at least around the Seattle-Tacoma area, is filled with yuppie, leftist pricks, by and large. They've got an espresso shop on every corner and "NO SMOKING" signs everywhere.
The eastern part of the state might be somewhere I could live. But they don't know how to make grits or iced tea there, either.
Montana is stunningly beautiful. I've never seen such wonderous landscape before in my life. The people are friendly (except for that funny accent they have) and they know how to cook a BIG steak. But they can't make grits or iced tea for shit.
You can lump Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Indiana and Illinois into one bowl. Lots of corn, but not much else. At least ONE hostile policeman we were unfortunate enough to encounter. And THEY don't know how to cook grits or make iced tea, either.
After five days on the road, we stopped in Lexington, Kentucky to spend the night. A Cracker Barrel Restaurant was right across the street from the motel. We went there to eat and ordered iced tea while we perused the menu.
The tea came Southern Style, in a glass big enough to drown a horse and sweet enough to kill a diabetic. Recondo took one sip and said, "GOT-DAM! We're back Down South again!" I echoed his comments.
It felt and tasted good to be back home. The iced tea (and the side order of grits I had with my meal of country-fried steak, okra and tomatoes and collard greens) made the difference. I wouldn't call Lexington a TRULY Southern town, but they know how to make iced tea and grits.
I am convinced that you can't find that stuff worth a damn outside the South.
I'll agree with you a certain point but honey when you travel you gotta soak up the surroundings....it's like I heard someone complaining about no good mexican restaurants here in Germany but you don't come to Germany to eat a taco do ya? :)
I'd sooner spoon puss out of a boil than eat grits, and tea is for...well, tea sippers.
But that being said, most West Coast fare is like eating wax fruit, or that shit they serve at Subway.
I want my fucking grease, assholes! And carbs! And G-darn MSG!
I do miss southron diners, where you can get fresh biscuits and gravy and hash browns and hot links at 3am.
And they'll sneak you a beer.
Sandy, I ate a taco in Germany once...bitch followed me around for days, pesterin me for more.
There is a good book by William Least Heat-Moon called "BLUE HIGHWAYS - A Journey into America" - he did just what you did. He talked about the motorcycles, the little town eateries, the vista of the prairie.
I, unfortunately, gave my copy away, or I'd read it again right now.
There is good strawberry lemonaide, here in Tacoma, at the Southern Kitchen. Awlful sweet, though.
You make me awful homesick for Montana, A-man. Sigh...
come visit me. I know how to cook grits and can make a nice breakfast. Of course, if you want those runny yolk eggs, I may have to turn the stove over to you.
I liked that test. But here is another one...the "catfish" test.
Basing it on what Dr. John Shelton Reed of the U. of NC, the premier Southernologist in country, I do believe) originally did with attempting to find the boundaries of "The South" by comparing the percentage of business listings with "American" in it as corelated to "Southern"...I did the same thing by going thru internet yellow pages by state and comparing "Hamburger" (which I figured would be fairly uniform throughout the country) vis a vis "Catfish" joints.
The idea was to find "The South" by criteria of things generally THOUGHT of as Southern.
Anyway, my map was crude...but as I recall (after moving recently, I dont know exactly where to find it), the top states (that is..greater than 25%) were: Mississippi, Arkansas, Texas, and Alabama.
Geogia, Tennesee, Lousisiana made very strong showings. Florida and Kentucky and Oklahoma ranked good as well. The surprising thing, or so I thought, was that the Carolinas didnt seem to "catfish" much.
My next project is to measure where people eat black-eyed peas on New Years Day. And if THAT aint Southern, I'll sing the Battle Hymn of the Republic on Confederate Memorial Day. LOL
I eat blackeyed peas whenever I can get them. I like them fresh with at least a third snapped with some okra boiled up in them Put the okra in about five minutes before you eat 'em so the okra doesn't get too slimy.
Of course I like that okra fried also.
Oh man...but I am gonna follow host Acidmans warning that his blog comments area not be used for "chat"....although dammit to hell, I got strong opinions about blackeyed peas and okra (fried by default, GOTTA be).
If you cant get it fresh...then dried beats canned nine ways from Sunday. And you got it right, Guy...you gotta time the adding of the okra before the whole things comes out tasting like somebody blew their nose the pot.
Personally, I fry the okra of its own right (and there is an art to that as well, I dare say)..then mix it all up together later on the plate.
Sorry, Rob...I couldnt resist replying (and mostly agreeing) to and with Guy. :-)
Ya GOTTA have "Hoppin' John" on New Years Day. That's blackeyed peas and rice.
I am partial to black-eyed peas and cabbage (although seperately cooked, on New Years. And hells bells, cornbread is a given, we will probably all agree.
Noting the rice thing...and maybe it is only Texas and Louisiana...but red beans ("pinto" some call 'em) and rice...and a soakin' with hotsauce is good eatin!
"Country-fried steak"? WTF
That sounds like some cheapass little cutlet you get at Grandy's.
Here in Texas, we eat Chicken-Fried Steak and it's got be hand-breaded, tender as your momma's heart, and served HOT. It's got to be BIG AS A WAGON WHEEL and come with a tub of homeade gravy and a bucket of ketchup. Along with that comes a mess of deep-fried wedge taters, and a load of blackeyes or fresh cut green beans. And you can damn sure bet that the quart glass of iced tea that comes with it is every bit SOUTHERN SWEET AND COLD.
Now THAT'S how it's done in Texas.
Seattle is full of tofu eating, bean-sprout munching, lily-livered spineless jellyfish who wouldn't know how to properly fuck a woman if they had a manual and an instruction video. On top of that, they're so damn spineless and weak that their prefered mode of confrontation is to run away, wrists flopping, shrieking at an ear-piercing level while formenting plans to stab you in the back at the earliest possible moment.. I've never seen a town filled with such worthless, spineless, ball-less, gutless shit filled sacks in my entire life.
Granted, I haven't spent time in San Francisco, so my opinion could always change.
The style of food from the Seattle area is almost completely forgotten, thanks to the hordes of bean-curd slurping fucknuts who came up from California and demanded that everybody change to suit THEM. Unless you go out of your way to find the real small diners in and around the Puget Sound, you're going to eat nothing but the same homogonized craptastic vegan-inspired sewage that you can find in any place populated by worthless hippies. The art of cooking fresh crab and other seafood from the Puget Sound is relegated to the people who actually fish there. I was lucky enough to get a few recipies from one of the fishermen who was selling fresh salmon at the Ballard Fisherman's terminal. But I wouldn't eat at 90% of the Seattle restaurants these days. Hell, if I had my way, I'd flatten the entire fucking town and bulldoze it into the ocean, so that I could start over without all the parasites and oxygen thieves getting in my way.
I lived there for four years. I ain't going back. I'd rather be raped by a reved-up chainsaw than live there again.
Dave, that was my impression of the place, too. But I DID enjoy meeting you and your darlin' fiancee.
There is at least one place in Illinois that knows how to cook grits - its a greasy spoon dinner two blocks off the Mississippi River in a bad part of Rock Island, Illinois with a black fellow originally from Mississippi who ended up there through the Army cooking.
Thats probably it, but he does know how to make grits. And he served real tea too.
I'm convinced that whenever I get around to starting my restaurant here in DC, I will make a fortune based on one simple fact alone - I would serve sweet tea. FUcking Georgia Brown's doesn't even serve sweet tea here. WTF?????????
Its a market ripe for exploition.
You dumb cracker you drove past over 50 Cracker Barrel locations starting in Idaho into montana, etc. Every location sell the same sweet Tea and grits you ate by the time you "almost" got south at the cracker Barrel in Lexington. Next time you venture up yonder into yankee territory you should first go to cracker barrels website and look at the map of locations.
Brian, we stayed in places that had signs saying "Population: 760." You don't see many Cracker Barrels there.
We didn't ride the Interstates. We stayed on the back roads.
About 25 years ago, more or less, a book was published called "The Nine Nations of North America". It explained how this continent is more divided up into 9 major regions than it is by states, provinces, and countries. He pretty much defined the South as that area where restaurants serve you grits for breakfast whether you ask for them or not.
The boundaries don't necessarily follow state or country borders. Texas, for example, was split by three regions (IIRC). East Texas was part of Dixie (with the dividing line running right between Dallas and Ft. Worth); South and West Texas were part of MexAmerica, and the prairie farms from central Texas up to the panhandle were part of the Breadbasket.
If you can find a copy of the book, buy it. It's one of the most insightful looks at North America you'll ever find.
Hate to say it, but Denny's has grits. And, they aren't bad.
Roger...read the book and your right. It is one of the best I've read that explains the prevailing point of view of each of the 9 nations. The guy that wrote the book pegged it.