Road Trip - Part 3
At last - the furthest East and South I had ever been. Even in the North, Louisiana looked swampy and mysterious. We crossed the Mighty Mississippi, one of many rivers I would have given my eyeteeth to be floating down on a raft or a in a canoe. A short easy drive day with no drama, which is exactly what we needed, and a welcoming reception in Pearl, Mississippi, the new home of Sergio's sister Elena and family. It was great to see them on their home turf and we had the added bonus of the Elder Chavez's being there as well, on their way back home from Chicago. Christian and Gabriel were a hilarious team of brothers and great fun to hang out with. And we were spoiled by everyone, including a much needed and much anticipated book "The Road" by Cormack McCarthy. Thank you all!
All too soon we had to head out. I had read about a restaurant called Niki's West in Birmingham, AL, tucked in amongst the produce warehouses. We pulled in and it was hopping. People in the South are indeed friendly and hospitable but when it comes to food, you better know what you want, no time for questions. Niki's is set up like a cafeteria, you get in line with your tray and a line of servers hustle you along. What do you want? A meat and three veg is a good choice - but then you have to choose the meat. I got baked chicken and Sergio got catfish. Then our vegetables: but there were dozens of dishes, no labels and no time to find out. Collard greens and fried okra seemed like a good choice (they were!) and what do you know, mac n' cheese counts as a vegetable. Black eyed peas taste a little like the English mushy peas. The whole thing was delicious. Waitresses circulated with pitchers of sweet tea, refilling when needed. My only regret was not snagging a piece of chocolate silk pie on the way out.
One of the reasons Sergio got me the digital camera is because I take so many pictures of food and he was getting a little tired of developing whole rolls of film taken of a bowl of strawberries. So of course the next picture is from the next day, when we made our way from Atlanta through South Carolina. Another recommendation from Road Food, Beacon's Drive-In in Spartanburg, SC was another restaurant where you had to hit the ground ordering. Another long line, a man saying "Call it!" and you had to spit out your order and move right along to pick it up as dozens of people in the open kitchen fried burgers, made onion rings, scooped BBQ. They have a car-hop there who has worked at Beacon's since 1957. They still have car hops, even. This is a picture of my Pimento Cheese A-Plenty. I'd been reading about the Southern food pimento cheese, basically a cheese mix with - yes pimentos - and the A-Plenty meant a heap of crispy, slightly sweet onion rings and fries piled on top. Far more than you could eat in one sitting, even washed down with my gallons of sweet tea. And so my Pie Jones remained unfulfilled again.
And suddenly, we were in North Carolina. And the road trip was almost over. And our new life was starting.