Wednesday, August 23, 2006

New York City? Get a rope!

My second day in Alabama had me still bagless, and Continental wasn’t forthcoming with any information. Very frustrating. But not to be beaten, I hit the road again, exploring Northern Alabama’s culinary treats. Well, it being Sunday, and Jesus being very much in charge, I found most places closed. The few places that were open for business, were obviously ran by heathens even though the after-church crowd didn’t see any hypocrisy in dining out on a Sunday.

I’d always thought bbq was a salt-of-the-earth cuisine, but only one bbq place was open, Greenbrier in Madison. And while it had wood stacked outside most of the menu was devoted to catfish. So I tried the catfish and a pork sandwich. The pork was OK, and I doused it in Greenbrier’s white sauce, a thicker concoction the Big Bob’s that had more in common with tarter sauce than bbq sauce. I also tried the catfish. Both dishes were fine, if not worth a 500-mile trek from New York City.

On my way back to Decatur, I spotted a hole-in-the-wall restaurant with McKinney’s Corner emblazoned on a sign with a Mountain Dew logo (an oddity in these parts where Coca-Cola seems to provide the most signage—anything from food to used tires). The parking lot was full, so I figured it had to be good. I ordered the meat and three (the only thing on the menu) which was Salisbury steak, deviled eggs, boiled potatoes and cole slaw. All the waitstaff were amused with my camera, but then the boss lady came to my table and asked what I was doing. When I explained I was just taking pictures of my food, she said that was weird. When she asked where I lived, and I told her New York City, that really raised a red flag. She could not understand why I was taking photos of food. And when I explained that I traveled all over the world and always took pictures of what I ate, she asked where I got the money to do such a bizarre thing. I said I worked for a magazine that paid allowed me to take vacations and that was the gotcha moment for her. She was convinced I was a New York spy sent to steal her trademark plate. I asked her if when she traveled if she took photos of what she saw, and she said, yes. But she still couldn't understand my motives. So I paid my bill and ran out of there before she broke my camera. And even though I offered to email her the photos, she declined.

The reception at Tony’s Kountry Kitchen was much warmer. The food was great—chicken fried steak, fried green tomatoes, mashed potatoes and Texas toast. I was home again.

For dinner, I decided to have Mexican food again. After 3 lunches (and breakfast of biscuits and gravy at Bojangles), I wasn’t too hungry, but I wanted to talk to the staff about why there were more Mexican restaurants than bbq shacks (I had even seen two taco stands in the middle of nowhere). The owner didn’t know why so many Mexicans were moving to Alabama, but he did concede that the cuisine was usurping traditional Southern cuisine in popularity. Hopefully Alabamans will realize the treasure they have in their native cuisines while still embracing the yummy deliciousness of Mexican food. There's plenty of room for all types of food at the table.

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