But then I did eat lobster. Not one of those big sea-bottom bugs that cleans all the trash off the floor of the ocean. The bug-eyed wavy-feelered gout-creating sea-bottom bug. My lobster came disguised as chowder and seafood filling for a wrap. I finally gave in to the push push push to eat lobster bugs while we traveled in Nova Scotia. I mean, if you are there, you should give it a go, eh?
One of the many aims of our trip was to, while traveling, sample the local fare, especially grits. But as we motored east, the multiple southern US menus I perused and their descriptions of gree-its (as Betty says, in the South, grits is a two-syllable word) didn’t jangle my taste buds. But I ate a lot of other regional stuff.
In Brownwood, Texas, I had a lot of BBQ, Texas style, but the real Texas dining delight was a big platter of Sunday morning chili that lit my nostrils up and made my head sweat. Hot tortillas too, and hot coffee. Outside, it was bumping over one-hundred degrees. Hot.
In Mt. Pleasant, Texas, I ate the worst etouffe I’ve ever had. It wasn’t inedible, just the worst I’ve ever eaten. Etouffe is a crawfish and rice stew, so to speak, and usually is tongue-tingling spicy and delicately nuanced in its seafood and rice paddy flavors. But this etouffe was mindful of mud. Not for nothing do they call crawfish mudbugs.
I ate BBQ from Texas all the way east into Virginia, but the best was at the Blues City Cafe in Memphis, Tennessee. Right across the street sat BB King’s blues club and the sound of delta blues rattled off the old brick facades of the clubs and restaurants that line Beale Street. My BBQ was boisterous and sharp-flavored, redolent of hot things and the sweet melt of brown sugar.
In Bentonville, Arkansas, I took on southern fried chicken in a wanna-be swanky joint, but the spice on the chicken kept revisiting my palate all night long. In gustatory conflict I reckon, with the sweet waffles served as a side to that fried bird.
At Pittsburg Landing on the Tennessee River, just north of Shiloh’s Civil War battlefield and the legacy of that vicious and horrible fray, I dined on fried catfish so light I thought it was some exotic denizen from foreign seas instead of American freshwater bottom feeder.
In Virginia it was finally grits. In an Arlington diner I took on the grits and wasn’t moved either direction, for or against. In Williamsburg, I tried them again and this time they lived up to my expectations. Like fine polenta, (and why not, they are both a form of corn meal mush) the grits were golden and full of cheese and butter and lots of shrimp and red and green peppers. Very delicate and fine. Now I know why southern folk brag about their grits.
Also, while in Williamsburg, I sampled some colonial fare…bangers and mash. In my ken, this English dish has a sorry reputation and when I have eaten it in the past (bangers and mash are mashed potatoes and sausage), they’ve left me swearing I would never do that again. But at the old Williamsburg colonial tavern where the staff dressed in 18th Century garb, the meal was tasty and passed the real test…my bangers and mash didn’t revisit my gullet two or three hours later.
In Boston I ate something that I haven’t really had since we moved to Idaho, unless of course we are traveling. In between film screenings, tours of Boston’s red-bricked and cobblestone-streeted North End, not once, but twice, on successive nights, I dug into a monumental plate of manicotti…cheese and red meat sauce and delicate pasta. Ahh!
And then further north, to Nova Scotia, Cape Breton and seafood. Seafood pasta, chowder, haddock fish and chips, haddock fishcakes and chow chow, fish, fish, fish. I probably eat seafood four or five times a year, but I’ve been eating it every day, sometimes twice a day. Even lobster.