Thursday, January 24, 2008

Driving Down I-95 Hungry

Have any of you ever driven down the east coast of the United States on I-95? I have taken this trip a number of times, most recently today actually to goto St Augustine, Florida. One truly gets to see the degeneration of American cookery when traversing this stretch of highway. Let's just say the word "cuisine" is a hard word to pronounce when taking the trip.

A number of times on my way down I popped in a request for restaurants in my GPS, hoping for some local flavor in different areas on my way down, certainly hoping for something more than fried chicken or hamburgers. I am not a fan of corporate manufactured foods as many of you know. This however, seems to be 99% of the offering within the first few miles of any exit on the trip down the coast.

I swear I saw a sign every ten miles telling me that there is a Cracker Barrel in another ten miles. Southern charm, with none of the charm or flavor, but hey you can buy a rocking chair off their front porch to pretend there is some charm there. The second "restaurant" I saw most often seemed to be Roy Rogers, with Burger King a close second. I always wondered why Burger King seemed to be most popular on the highway, where as McDonald's doesn't even seem to bother with highways or even some malls, but I digress.

Once you make it to the half-way point, Western Sizzler and Denny's seem to be off each exit, and a bit further down Waffle House is another "diner" that seems to have put the local ma and pa diners out of business. I typed in "deli/cafe" into the GPS and all that came up was Subway. I wanted a laugh, so I typed in Italian and got Pizza Hut, is Pizza Hut what we think of as Italian cuisine these days in America? Or is Pizza Hut the pizza equivalent of McD's?

Surely I thought I could get some good barbecue close to the highway. I typed in BBQ in North Carolina and I got a list with Duke's, Duke's and Duke's. Even BBQ is boil in bag now it seems. Luckily I saw on the list a place called Allen's Barbecue which seemed promising.

Allen's BBQ was in South Carolina, it was a 20 minute detour from the highway. I can't tell you the amount of restaurants I was barraged with on my way to find this place though. Lone Star Steak House, Applebees, TGI Friday's, Bob Evans, 99 Steak House, Texas Steakhouse and Salon (A little taste of Texas in NC?) and there were many many many more, doted in the path was obviously a WalMart or two as well.

I was so happy when I got to this place though. It was a little "hole-in-the-wall" place in a strip mall. I missed it on my first pass actually. Lots of locals in there, with one of those old peg boards listing their offerings of just smoked brisket, pork and chicken. They had a number of sides, including baked beans, fried okra, potato salad and the other BBQ usuals. Soda came in a politically incorrect Styrofoam cup and I got myself a Dr. Pibb. Nice southern hospitality, friendly people and the kitchen wasn't spit shined, nor was the dining room and the bathroom left a little to be desired, but ya know what, it wasn't a crappy white washed chain restaurant.

This is what road food used to be. Local people making great food for people on the road. Sharing a bit of love and soul with your fellow man/woman and showing a passion for cooking. Today the highways sell "food", in quotes because there are so many chemicals in the foodstuffs, that they hardly resemble their intended outcome.

So what my pulled pork and brisket have fat in them, yeah there was mayo on my potato salad as well. However, I knew exactly what was in my food and I could pronounce it. This trip really made me think about my thesis a bit and the direction of American cuisine.

No comments:

Free Blog CounterHandelshaus ...