So I was on vacation last week--well, only the parent of a high school senior would call driving ten hours to tour a university campus a vacation. I used to avoid road trips but I find I like them more and more: the scenery rolling by, the aimless chatter. But this time it was pouring rain and mostly chilly the whole time. My idea to wring some amusement from the trip was stopping in every place in Jane and Michael Stern's "Road Food" that we could. I know that nowadays, people look at Chowhound or the Stern's site to find good places on the road, but my husband and I have been lugging around every edition of that book for at least 20 years, and it has helped us find great places. We did a trip in Louisiana's Cajun parishes that I'll never forget.
But what a bust this time! The Sterns are so lyrical in their descriptions that they can't help but get me all worked up: they described luscious pies, delicious chicken and dumplings, must-have burgers. In Knoxville, I had a Thunder Road burger at some famous burger place, and it was good--it was slathered with pimento cheese--crazy. But hte red velvet cake: cake mix! Then Mrs. Rowe's in STaunton Virginia was just boring southern food, nothing special. The Southern Kitchen in Charleston WV seemed great in decor, and the apple dumplings were pretty good, but the chicken and dumpligns with heavy Bisquick dumplings and chicken gravy from a can.
And our exchange student from Italy was with us. He's very easy-going about food, but still, I was sort of embarassed.
Iwonder who really takes the time to do those classics right anymore?